WORTH A LOOK?: ****1/2
TRACKLIST: I Still Have Faith In You; When You Danced With Me; Little Things; Don’t Shut Me Down; Just A Notion; I Can Be That Woman; Keep An Eye On Dan; Bumble Bee; No Doubt About It; Ode To Freedom
November has seen big album releases by Adele, Little Mix and Diana Ross but it is this 1st studio album in 40 years by the Swedish super group that has grown and grown on us since its early November release.
- Read on for reasons including how ABBA Voyage is ABBA silver rather than ABBA Gold
It’s far from perfect, more Abba silver than Abba Gold in fact, but we’d always be holding them to an impossibly high standard because Abba Gold is the only other ABBA album that we’ve played in its entirety.
Now we understand a little more the band’s penchant for the quirky and twee alongside the killer disco tracks and melodic melancholy for which they are most known, loved and revered.
While ABBA Gold was all killer, no filler, ABBA Voyage is a mix of catchy tunes with grown-up lyrics sitting alongside a bagpipe-infused, seemingly Irish folk song (When You Danced With Me), the saccharine, seasonal-themed Little Things with children’s choir musing on ‘tiny elves with wings’ and eco-aware, garden-set Bumble Bee.
Debut singles I Still Have Faith In You and Don’t Shut Me Down were songs of the month for us in September. Lyrically Faith is about the doubt accompanying age although the overriding theme is of renewed confidence. We said: ‘‘We do have it in us,’ they conclude, ‘New spirit has arrived, the joy and the sorrow, We have a story and it survived.’ A perfect return.’
Don’t Shut Me Down has really grown on us since its bow in September and we’re delighted by the modern nature of Björn Ulvaeus’ lyrics and that Benny Andersson’s music sounds, if not contemporary, upbeat and reflective of former glories. ‘I have learned to cope and love and hope is why I am here now,’ is probably 2021’s best lyric.
Singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad may now be in their 70s but their voices still have the power to touch and remain evocative of the 70s classics for which the band are best known.
The biggest surprise is the strength of the similarly uptempo, joyous hoedown that is No Doubt About It which is so strong it deserves to be a single perhaps immediately ahead of the ABBA Voyage shows in east London in 2022. Tickets
We’re also intrigued by I Can Be That Woman which offers a maturity not often found in pop lyrics: ‘You’re confused when you turn to face me, Is it true or is she drunk? But it’s clear that I’ve hit my rock bottom, I’m aware of how far I’ve sunk’ and: ‘You’re not the man you should have been, I let you down somehow (not the one I could have been), I’m not the woman I could have been (I can be that woman) But I can be that woman now.’
Just A Notion was released shortly before the album and is very reflective of the uptempo schlager and piano-based boogie of Eurovision winner Waterloo in 1974 with which they made their name.
Keep An Eye On Dan is a take on parenthood and marriage breakup which is similarly unusual: ‘My little boy looks so happy, He throws me his “go mummy” kiss, And he loves his dad And I loved him too. Maybe I still do But it’s over.’
ABBA Voyage may not be the band at their very best but, like a warm hug, it’s a reminder of how good they were and a fitting end to a recording career that was cut dramatically short in the early 80s.
The jury’s out for us on the live shows although we’re excited by Little Boots’ participation as her new album probably called Tomorrow’s Yesterdays is shaping up to be 1 of 2022’s most eagerly awaited.
Our final impression is of just how good those new lyrics are and that the theme of hope so well explored is 1 that couldn’t be needed more as we emerge blinking from the shock and grief of the last few years.