The newly released ABBA: The Studio Albums is an 8-LP box set containing all eight of ABBA’s proper albums. This superlative collection includes each of the Swedish pop supergroup's full-length releases on colored vinyl for the first time. This 8-LP assortment of colorful vinyl is the perfect way to revisit one of pop music’s most iconic bodies of work, as well as hearing the progression and growth within each album throughout ABBA's historic career.
1) Ring Ring – The fabulous foursome’s 1973 debut that started it all was originally a Scandinavian release, which wouldn’t be available domestically until 1995. Thus, I actually thought the title track was part of the Waterloo album, which caused me great confusion for many years. Essential tracks include: “Disillusion,” “Another Town, Another Train” and “He Is Your Brother.”
2) Waterloo - All throughout my formative years, I believed this was ABBA’s first album. The U.S. version (released on Atlantic Records) had a different track list, which featured “Ring Ring,” consequently explaining my aforementioned confusion. Essential tracks: “Dance (While the Music Still Goes On),” “Honey, Honey” and “Hasta Mañana.”
3) ABBA – This is when things really began to start happening. ABBA’s third studio effort was a major step towards the sound for which ABBA would become most famous. This can especially be heard in the hit singles “SOS,” “Mamma Mia” and “Hey, Hey Helen.” This album also features “Bang-A-Boomerang” and hit single “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do.”
4) Arrival – This album’s title couldn’t have been more prophetic. Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Anni-Frid truly arrived with this full-length set which contains the worldwide mega-smash and their sole number one hit in America, “Dancing Queen,” plus “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” as well as “My Love, My Life” and “Money, Money, Money.” ABBA was the best-selling album of 1977 in the UK and West Germany.
5) ABBA: The Album – The quartet’s fifth studio album was another leap forward loaded with hits and classics including “Eagle” and “One Man, One Woman,” alongside the smash “Take a Chance on Me.” The Album is also a predictive hint as to where Benny and Bjorn desired to and would eventually go, as demonstrated in the album’s final three tracks: The Girl with the Golden Hair: Three Scenes From a Mini-Musical; 1. “Thank You for the Music,” 2. “I Wonder (Departure)” and 3. “I'm a Marionette.”
6) Voulez-Vous - ABBA’s sixth set finds the foursome venturing into Eurodance, which is instantly revealed in the one-two punch of the album’s opener “As Good as New” and title track. Although the majority of Voulez-Vous is upbeat dance tunes, it also contains shining examples of masterclass balladry on “I Have a Dream” and “Chiquitita.” While I respect any artist’s musical vision, I must confess I prefer my 'perfected' track list’s running order over the proper album, which adds “Summer Night City,” “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” and “Lovelight,” while deleting my least favorite ABBA song of all time: “Lovers (Live a Little Longer).” It truly boggles my mind how the group wasn’t completely happy with “Summer Night City,” yet chose to include the dreadful “Lovers” instead on the proper album’s track list.
7) Super Trouper – The seventh album is ABBA’s holy grail to me, as I consider it pure perfection from beginning to end. There is no filler anywhere to be found. Super Trouper not only includes the stunning title track and hit single “The Winner Takes It All,” but it also contains the superlative "Me and I," "Our Last Summer" and “Andante, Andante.” Simply put, this album is quintessential ABBA. One listen and you will easily hear why Super Trouper was the group's sixth chart-topping album.
8) The Visitors – ABBA’s eighth and final studio effort is a bittersweet affair. It is obvious in songs such as “When All Is Said and Done,” “One of Us” and “Slipping Through My Fingers” that all is not well within the ABBA camp. The Visitors continues what was only hinted at on ABBA: The Album and ventures full steam ahead into musical theatre territory, a dream Benny and Bjorn would bring to fruition with the musical Chess after ABBA’s demise. This album steps away from focusing on pop singles and adds new colors to ABBA’s musical pallet. The only major flaw here is that the B-side “Should I Laugh or Cry” should’ve replaced the unremarkable and instantly forgettable “Two for the Price of One.” However, ABBA’s swansong could serve as a musical case study for elevating all expectations of what a mere pop album is capable of accomplishing.
My one and only grievance with ABBA: The Studio Albums is the baffling decision not to include a bonus disc with the essential non-album tracks: “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight),” “Cassandra,” “Should I Laugh or Cry,” “Under Attack” and “Voulez-Vous (Extended Remix).” However, that’s a minor complaint in a box rife with such iconic musical treasures. Besides, the title succinctly sums up the focal point here, leaving no room for any ambiguous expectations.