The Visitors Deluxe Edition - the details

Published January 24, 2012


THE HISTORY OF THE VISITORS

The Visitors was first released in Sweden in November 1981. Sessions for the album began in March 1981 and concluded in mid-November the same year, just a couple of weeks before release. Occupying a unique place in the ABBA catalogue as their most "serious" and downbeat album, it is held in high regard by many diehard ABBA fans - and, indeed, many casual fans - but was also the first of their albums to take a clear down-turn sales-wise. Featuring only one major hit single in 'One Of Us', The Visitors was, in hindsight, the album where ABBA reached the end of the line in what they could accomplish within the group format.


PUTTING TOGETHER THE DELUXE EDITION

The Visitors Deluxe Edition is the fifth release in the series of ABBA Deluxe Editions (the sixth if you count the 30th Anniversary Edition of Waterloo). The format is the same as for previous Deluxe Editions: one disc a CD of the original album plus bonus tracks, one disc a DVD of rare and previously unreleased television material relevant to The Visitors and the 1982 era.

All tracks on the CD have been remastered especially for this release. The version of ‘Should I Laugh Or Cry’ features a brief count-in, originally released on the ‘One Of Us’ single in Great Britain and South Africa. There is also a couple of nice "audio bonuses" on the DVD, which features the first digital release of the original video edit of 'When All Is Said And Done' with a stereo soundtrack. The playback performance of 'Under Attack' in Nöjesmaskinen has also been synchronised with a stereo version of the special "cold ending" edit of this song (it sounds exactly like the record, only the song stops abruptly with an added echo effect instead of fading out) - the 'Under Attack' edit also makes its digital début.

For my liner notes, I interviewed Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus in October 2011. They both offered new details and perspectives on the 1981-1982 era and the songs created during that period.

The Visitors Deluxe Edition project was co-ordinated by Mia Segolsson. The CD was mastered by Masters of Audio, the DVD was put together by Filmtech, Fredrik Hurtig designed the package, Wouter Timmers helped us with the single and album sleeves, and Thomas Nordin contributed memorabilia for the booklet. Ian Cole helped out with additional comments and suggestions, and, along with Paul Carter, was an invaluable sounding-board and proof-reader when I wrote my liner notes.


THE EXTRA BONUS TRACK 'FROM A TWINKLING STAR TO A PASSING ANGEL (DEMOS)'

For long-time ABBA fans, the most sensational inclusion in the package will be the previously unreleased track, ‘From A Twinkling Star To A Passing Angel (demos)’. This is the first time since the Thank You For The Music box set in 1994 that ABBA have opened the doors to the tape vaults to release previously unheard music from the group’s heyday.

‘From A Twinkling Star To A Passing Angel’ traces the evolution of ‘Like An Angel Passing Through My Room’, the closing track on The Visitors. Back in 1981, this particular song was one of the more challenging tunes during original recording sessions for the album. With the first demos and backing tracks being laid down in May 1981, it wasn’t until several different versions later, in November 1981 – only three weeks before the album reached record shops! – that ABBA finally landed on the version heard on the album.

As the Deluxe Edition of The Visitors was put together, ABBA’s Benny Andersson had the idea that it would be interesting to revisit the various recordings of the song and put together a medley. And this he did in October and November of 2011. The nine-minute medley takes us from the very first demo, with vocals by Björn, to a run-through with Benny on electric piano and Frida on lead vocals, similar to the final version. In between are a demo recording by Frida and Benny (on grand piano) with alternate lyrics entitled ‘Another Morning Without You’; a completely different “disco” attempt, played by a full band and with the final lyrics in place; and a ballad interpretation, also with a full band backing, featuring Frida on lead vocals.

At the time of writing, I have only heard this medley twice - this was back in November 2011, just a day or two after Benny had finished it. I don't want to raise expectations, but I have to say that for me it was goose-bump time. I remember back in 2005, when we were putting together the box set The Complete Studio Recordings, and I was listening to the disc of Rarities just to check that all tracks were present and correct. What struck me then was that this was supposed to be a CD of "leftovers" and yet everything sounded absolutely fantastic. I bet there are many bands out there that would die to have recordings like that to throw away. I got the same feeling when I listened to 'From A Twinkling Star To A Passing Angel'. Certainly, you can hear that some of it is "unfinished" or simply early run-throughs, but the "demo" label doesn't really fit each and every track included in the medley. Some of the recordings have progressed far beyond the demo stage, as you can probably tell from the brief descriptions above. And even on the run-throughs Frida and Agnetha are in top form vocally. For what it's worth, then, I really loved hearing this track, and I'm so happy that we're all going to be able to own it, to play and play again.

Note: If you want to know more about the hows, whens and whys of the ABBA Deluxe Editions, please click the "About the Deluxe Editions" link in the More Info menu.