It is hard to believe that after nearly forty years the pop group that dominated the ’70’s and early ’80s, at least in Europe and the UK and to a lesser degree the US, is back with a new 10-song album.
Today ABBA released their brand new album “Voyage” which is both a comeback as well as a finale goodbye as the group has been quoted this week as saying that this is it for the Swedish pop superstars. The end, goodbye, slutet (I couldn’t resist a little Swedish even though I can’t speak it at all).
Of course if you’re at all familiar with pop radio or pop culture of the past forty odd years or so you are surely familiar with ABBA already. “Dancing Queen”, “Mamma Mia”, “SOS”, “Fernando” and “Waterloo” are just a few of the many hits that have graced not only radio airwaves around the world but movie screens and stage productions as well.
So after all this time what can we expect from a collection of ten new songs by such well-known and beloved performers as ABBA? After all it’s been a long time since they last recorded and they as well as the rest of the world have changed dramatically especially after nearly two years of the raging Covid-19 pandemic that has wrecked havoc around the globe.
Well let me say that after listening to this new album that landed in my mailbox just a few hours ago that thankfully it sounds as if nothing has really changed all that much and to me that’s quite a good thing!
Speaking strictly for me I can only view the group and these voices and these arrangements through the lenses of the child and teen that I was in the ’70s and early 1980s.
I loved ABBA then and I still do now. Yeah they might not have been my favorite group and they sometimes were a bit cheesy but oh those voices and those melodies carried me through some the finest as well as many of the roughest times from the most impressionable years of my life. They are forever linked to my musical psyche.
There is no mistaking an ABBA song. The sound of their voices, especially the voices of the two ladies in the group Agnetha and Anni-Frid, and their catchy melodies and arrangements clearly make ABBA stand apart from practically any other group of the era.
Their continued popularity to the present though the mega success of their records as well as their “Mamma Mia” movies has helped them to transcend time. And after listening to the new “Voyage” album transcending time to me is the perfect way to describe this record.
Let’s go point by point. How does ABBA sound today?
The voices sound great, they sound like ABBA. Check.
The melodies are strong, the songs are catchy. Check.
There are pop songs, light disco songs, a bit of cheese and bit of grandeur. Check.
The album is good and I want to play it again – that checks every box on my list.
What can I tell you this sounds like an ABBA album and after a nearly forty year layoff that’s quite a pleasant and welcome surprise. And while the group’s vocals are lower than they were forty years ago they are still quite strong and lovely and every bit as capable of expressing a wide range of emotions and textures as they always have been.
“Voyage” sounds like ABBA wants to be nothing more then what they are – a superb pop group making music in their seventies. Good pop music I might add. And what else sound they be? I for one wouldn’t want them pandering to current tastes just to sell a record or just to be current.
The whole album sounds like that they reunited because they wanted to make music. It can’t be for the money because God knows they could have cashed in years ago as fans have been after them for ages to reunite.
This album sounds like ABBA wanted to send one last postcard to fans just to keep in touch. They reunited because they reconnected musically and had a lot of fun doing it. Of course there are threads of their younger selves throughout the album yet “Voyage” somehow manages to sound modern without losing themselves in the process.
This is ABBA reuniting on their own terms doing it themselves for themselves. They wrote, produced and performed everything on the album and have left their fans with a final postscript which is touching as well as entertaining. They miraculously have also managed to do what eludes most reunited groups – they sound damn good and that’s quite a feat.
Out of the ten tracks on “Voyage” I didn’t find a stinker among the bunch, I enjoyed all ten from the first listen. Everything is melodic, well arranged and performed and nothing overstays its welcome.
While not everything on the album has stuck in my mind as of yet I have to say that “When You Danced With Me”, one of the first singles “Don’t Shut Me Down”, “Keep An Eye on Dan”, “No Doubt About It” (God this would have been a smash hit single back in the day around 1979!) and “Ode to Freedom” are just superb and well worth the price of the album for sure.
As I said the rest are fine as well but the five songs above had me heading for the repeat button right away as they are so damn ABBA and so damn good.
It’s really rare for such a high profile reunion such as this to generate one really good song but a whole album of good material after all this time is such a welcome relief. What a pleasant tonic for the weirdness that is the year 2021. It’s like riding back into the 70’s and grabbing all that was good about ABBA and yanking it back into the present.
I can’t say how any younger person may or may not feel about the “Voyage” album. Will they like it? Will they relate to it? I have no idea. But for me it’s just been the most pleasant and welcome surprise and the prefect way to send ABBA off into the ether with a classy, well-performed album that makes me smile.
And after the crappiness of the past two years it’s such a joy to be reacquainted with old friends who are just as lovely and warm and fun as you had remembered them.
And that my friend’s is all that I ask from music – pleasure and joy.
As usual take a gander above at some pictures of the CD version of “Voyage” that I received today.
Until next time be well and see you soon!