Five stars for ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions

Published May 28, 2015

A while ago I posted some British reviews of my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, the revised and expanded edition of which can be pre-ordered here: igg.me/at/abbatcrs

If you read that blog, you may recall that there wasn't much love for the book among reviewers back in 1994, although, of course, many ABBA fans loved it. I don't know to what extent the book was reviewed outside the UK, but there was at least one very positive review in the Dutch music magazine Oor. I was completely unaware of it until ABBA fan Marleen Janssens translated it and sent it to me in the late 1990s. The reviewer actually gave the book five stars out of five - wow!

Here's the review in its entirety:

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OOR No. 24; 3 December 1994

* = for the shredder!   ** = filler for fanatics   *** = not bad   *** = good ***** = excellent

ABBA, THE COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS - Carl Magnus Palm, Century 22 Limited,
ISBN 0-90738-10-8,  44,05 *****

Everybody has always had ABBA records at home, still it was ”not done”‚ to proclaim such a thing in progressive circles for years. It was a fact though that the Swedish quartet produced compelling and likeable tunes for a decade, which after having been played became firmly fixed in the memory: an achievement that at present, two decades later, is finally rated at its true value. Artists of repute include ABBA songs in their repertoire, Björn Again was a resounding success, a box with old and new material was released and now the history of the ABBA recordings has been thoroughly set down too.

From this it is quite clear that author Palm patterned on Mark Lewisohn, who wrote a similar book about The Beatles, and employs the same approach: a chronological outline of ABBA’s complete studio recordings, stating place and date and an extended discourse, from People Need Love from 1972 till the album The Visitors from 1981. Between the two the pop group developed from bubblegum pop (Ring Ring) into polyphonic choral parts with multiple melody lines and instrumentation (The Name Of The Game), and this development is followed by means of studio documentation and interviews with the musicians involved, among them the ABBA members themselves.

Interesting for those who love details are furthermore the facts about the solo projects of the four members before ABBA existed, although the selection criteria remain unsatisfactory: the first recordings of the Hootenanny Singers are lacking and even all Hep Stars records. A small irregularity in a most valuable standard work which is also very readable thanks to numerous old documents and single sleeves.

EVERT VERMEER

(translation Marleen Janssens)