Gold: Greatest Hits
While Sweden’s ABBA became exemplary pop artisans in the second half of their career, it certainly took them a while to get to the level of ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’, ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘The Name Of The Game’. I have the Australasian version of Gold, which exacerbates the difference in quality between their early and late careers (1976’s Arrival was essentially their artistic breakthrough) by including three extra early tracks, ‘Ring Ring’, ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’, and ‘Rock Me’, at the expense of their more accomplished later work. When Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus started to write more sophisticated arrangements and lovely harmonies, they produced some of the most enduring pop music of the 1970s. There’s a trajectory from the unmitigated ecstasy of ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Waterloo’, through the bittersweet nature of ‘The Name of the Game’ and ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, to the post-relationship analysis of ‘One of Us’ and ‘The Winner Takes It All.’
There are lots of spectacular highlights: the beautiful ‘The Name Of The Game’, with a nice subtle horn part, has a stripped down arrangement that never becomes overbearing, ‘Take A Chance On Me’ has a wonderfully creative a capella introduction, ‘Dancing Queen’ is infectiously fun, while ‘The Winner Takes It All’ is a heart rending ballad. Unfortunately, for every gem there’s a song that’s eminently skippable; ‘Money, Money, Money’, ‘Ring Ring’ and ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’ are all repetitive and grating, while the Benny fronted ‘Rock Me’ and ‘Does Your Mother Know’ are ultimately disposable. I’m sure there’s more than one album’s worth of terrific ABBA songs waiting to be compiled, and I should check out some of their later records some time. As it stands, the Australasian edition of Gold is extremely uneven, with some of the best pop music ever made and some of the most irritating.
Here’s an ABBA classic that isn’t included: