If there was ever a record that proved that ABBA were much more than pop radio fluff, this is that record. Released in 1977, ‘ABBA: The Album’ showcases the fact that ABBA were perfectly capable of taking a conventional pop format and turning it into art. In many ways, this legendary Swedish pop group is the one most responsible for showing the mainstream market how far the boundaries can be pushed within the pop group format. More specifically, this is the one record that best exemplifies this notion. Mind you, the group doing this record was a pretty bold move in the eyes of music journalists. They had long been criticised up to this point of being lightweights; without any ability to craft a record with a dose of substance. Needless to say, ABBA proved this notion to be dead wrong with this effort.
ABBA take very little time to show this, as the opening track “Eagle” is already outright with its pseudo-prog tendencies. Both the sound and the lyrics of this song are downright dreamlike. The following track is “Take a Chance on Me”, proving that this record isn’t completely abandoning ABBA’s bread and butter style altogether. This track would of course go on to being on the group’s biggest hits. Something about this record that can’t afford to be overlooked is the inclusion of three tracks from the group’s ‘The Girl with the Golden Hair’ musical/tour which preceded this record’s release. It’s this inclusion that helps give the record is more artistic vibe. The song “Thank You for the Music” gives this record a cabaret-esque aspect and gives the listener the feeling that they’re live in the ABBA experience more so than just listening to a record on its own. The culmination of this record’s progressive tendencies is of course the closing track, “I’m a Marionette”. This is the track that is most responsible for cementing ABBA’s place in the history of popular music; the track that showed their full capabilities. This may be the only time that this connection is made, but nonetheless this track is quite eerie and showcases the group in an almost vaudevillian regard. All of this makes it clear that the group were looking through a broader lens this time around. This record definitely has all of the elements of the best rock operas even if it isn’t a full-on rock opera itself.
So, full disclosure: this is without a doubt ABBA’s best record. This is the record where they dared to take on their critics who doubted their abilities to create a product that would hold up and carry some weight. Furthermore, this is the record that listeners who don’t even like the group may find themselves liking. In all honesty though, if you’re someone who doesn’t like this group, you need to lighten up. ABBA are one of the best examples of pop music at the peak of its powers. The group’s catalog is downright irresistible and you should find yourself enjoying them even against your utmost sense of conviction. There is no excuse to not have this record in your collection.