ABBA’s Gold is without a doubt one of the greatest compilations ever released. I can listen to it continuously without necessarily wanting more as there isn’t a lacklustre song to be heard on this exceptional release. However, that hasn’t stopped the Swedish juggernaut from reissuing the Gold collection countless times and adding to it with More ABBA Gold and a 40th Anniversary Edition that also includes additional B-sides not previously released on the aforementioned titles.
This review, however, will focus on the original ABBA Gold; specifically the 2014 vinyl reissue. However, as a lifelong ABBA fan, I’ll most likely review the additional releases, in the future, so check back regularly.
When originally released in 1992, I was in awe. I swear I wore that cassette tape out as I played it that much. For me, it was new and fresh as I was only a teenager at the time and Abba Gold would ultimately cement my interest in the band following my admiration of Arrival. It was, therefore, a triumphant moment the reissue was announced and released. Although, something was not quite right. Looking up the history of the album, I was able to find out that he edition of Abba Gold that I had become smitten with was in-fact the Australian release, with three different songs that were hugely popular down under. The 2014 vinyl re-issue was in-fact the International edition of Abba Gold and I would lament the fact that I sold the cassette so many years ago when MP3s were taking the world by storm. Nevertheless, it only took a few spins on the turntable for me to connect with the International tracking of the album and since then I have been content with the varied song selection.
The records themselves are presented in a slide-out design that I appreciate for its simplicity. A gatefold would have been nice, but I’m sure I’m not alone when I lament the challenges of getting records in and out of gatefolds at times. No, they aren’t a deal-breaker, but they do require a little more fiddling. Nevertheless, the inner sleeves are adorned with photographs and a thoroughly enjoyable essay, penned by British rock music journalist John Tobler.
The records feature the stunning red Polydor label and are pressed and mastered well, with consistent quality. While I wouldn’t say this or any ABBA release is necessarily audiophile-grade, many of the included songs sound significantly better than they do on ABBA’s other vinyl reissues. That said, this release isn’t perfect and as much as it pains me to admit it, the Apple Music/iTunes (Apple Digital Master) edition of Abba Gold and ABBA’s broader back catalogue, sound remarkably good and arguably better than any ABBA vinyl or CD release I have in my collection.
Nevertheless, while the records are flat, there is a little more surface noise than I would generally like. It isn’t necessarily distracting unless you find yourself listening to your record collection via headphones. Also, and this is an obvious pressing error, when Dancing Queen starts, you hear the song softly through the left channel before the stereo tracking comes in. It isn’t that the tracks are offset from each other, just that when it was pressed, the left channel was prematurely pressed. Thankfully, once the stereo track kicks in, Dancing Queen plays perfectly with no audible distortion or apparent timing issues. It is a surprising error, given the status and cultural importance of ABBA, but it hasn’t been the first, or last time, that their vinyl pressings have raised eyebrows amongst music lovers. Overall, however, ABBA’s Gold 2014 vinyl reissue sounds very good and is thoroughly enjoyable to listen to.
Dancing Queen, as mentioned earlier, has a dual-ghosting introduction that, while initially distracting, fades into the song perfectly allowing one to turn up the volume, sing along, and dance to one of ABBA’s very best tunes.
Knowing Me, Knowing You is sonically beautiful. I’ve always enjoyed audio panning and Knowing Me, Knowing You uses this technique perfectly. Perhaps the most enjoyable element of this song is the tempo. Have you ever noticed how it is a slow song, yet also a fast song? This dichotomy is intriguing and I feel it’s part of the reason why the song is so good as it has an organic sound that is neither perfect or erroneous, but equally both. Sensational!
Take A Chance On Me is another ABBA classic that encourages the body to move to the groove. Seriously, try and sit still when listening to this song, it is almost impossible.
Mamma Mia is an absolute masterpiece and the karaoke song for the budding amateur singer. Yes, this middle-aged man thoroughly enjoys singing along to Mamma Mia. It is simply, that good!
Lay All Your Love On Me has quite a bit of noise and a little inner groove distortion, despite the record being cleaned and run on a well balanced Pro-ject Debut Carbon turntable with an Ortofon OM20 needle. A shame considering just how good this song is. Nevertheless, it is a perfect song to close out Side One.
Super Trouper is one of my all-time favourite ABBA songs. The harmonious intertwining of the vocals is pure gold and the musicality is delivered at just the perfect tempo. Pure perfection!
I Have A Dream is a great song, but I’ve never been convinced that it follows on well from Super Trouper. It is, of course, a slower song and I think I would have preferred it to be presented at the beginning of side three. Nevertheless, it is placed where it is and once I get over my objection to its placement, I can thoroughly enjoy this ballad/folk tune that is pure ABBA.
The Winner Takes It All is a beautiful story-driven song. Agnetha‘s vocal is absolutely beautiful but my only criticism is the shrillness of the vocal and piano in the high end as it can be a little jarring if the volume is turned up too loud.
Money, Money, Money is a killer ABBA tune.
S.O.S is simply magnificent!
Chiquitita is beautiful, although when the song enters it’s upbeat tempo, with a substantial volume boost, it can be a little jarring on the senses.
Fernando is superb and while I don’t have a favourite ABBA song, Fernando for me is only bested by Eagle. Both are so relaxing and sonically pleasing that I could listen to either on repeat for an eternity.
Voulez-Vous removes me from my relaxed state and wants to get me on the dance floor, singing along, as if it’s the most natural thing to do. The chorus is exceptional as is the rhythm and the vocal harmony. It’s such a great song!
Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) is one of my favourite ABBA songs and yes, this heterosexual man sings this song loud and proud. The orchestral introduction is epic and it is arguably the pinnacle of disco-based music, although there are so many sensational examples to choose from. Regardless, Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) is one of the greatest disco-based songs of the era and has remained timeless, still feeling fresh in the modern era.
Does Your Mother Know has one of the best intros for any ABBA song, doesn’t it? Does Your Mother Know is a killer pop/rock tune that you can sing along to, dance to, and turn the volume up to so that you’ll irritate your neighbours. Surely, ticking all those boxes is the sign of a good song, yes?
One Of Us is an earworm waiting to happen. You’ve been warned! However, I would still recommend it as One Of Us is magnificent; much like most of ABBA’s final studio album, The Visitors, is.
The Name Of The Game is perhaps the only song on Gold that I question its worthiness for inclusion. Is it a great song? Absolutely. Do I enjoy it when it comes on? You bet. Yet, I still don’t feel it is worthy of this compilation. Instead, if I had selected the tracks to be included on this release, I would have opted for Eagle and would have ensured The Name Of The Game made it to More Abba Gold.
Thank You For The Music is a little campy but every time it comes on, it reminds me of how thankful we should be for the music we know and love and even the music that doesn’t appeal to our subjective selves, for it will give joy to another music lover. And, yes, thank you ABBA for the music!
Waterloo is, as I’ve mentioned before, a fun song. I don’t know about you, but I feel it is the perfect closing song for this compilation as it simultaneously encourages me to listen to the album again as well as setting it aside and allowing Waterloo to be a repetitive earworm for the rest of the day.
Overall, there was no need for More ABBA Gold as this core release covers ABBA’s illustrious career perfectly. I’m certain some may disagree with me, you may be one of them, but I would say that ABBA’s entire catalogue is so strong that it would have been far better for casual or new fans, coming into the ABBA universe post-ABBA Gold, to explore ABBA’s entire back catalogue. I say that because ultimately, ABBA has more gold-worthy songs than any single compilation could ever hope to deliver.
ABBA’s Gold is worth owning for casual and hardcore fans alike. Often, when I just want to listen to ABBA, but I’m not sure what album I’d like to listen to, I’ll put on ABBA Gold and the desire to listen to one of my all-time favourite bands will be met. Compilations may get a bad wrap, but there are times when quality releases, such as this, remind me just how important an artist-based compilation is.