ABBA: Voulez-Vous – (Atlantic SD 16000) Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, producers. Review by Ken Emerson

Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, the B&B in ABBA, are the ultimate mix masters. As usual, Voulez-Vous, their fifth album, throws everything into the blender. On As Good As New it’s a prissy, pseudo-classical string section, a disco-funk combo of bass and guitar, and a clap-along bubble-gum refrain sung by Agnetha and Frida. On Chiquitita, it’s a flamenco guitar, a synthesizer that initially sounds like a flock of French horns, a tinkling piano, a plinking banjo, and practically a polka chorus. On both songs, and on the rest of Voulez-Vous, the disparate ingredients yield a perfect pop puree.

This album is catchy kitsch that dances to a disco beat, but ABBA arrived at its synthesis of old-fashioned girl-group pop and up-to-the-minute disco long before Blondie met producer Mike Chapman. The Eurodisco is leavened here with old-style Eurosong sing-along ballads and even brancing rock. Does Your Mother Know, the first American single from the album, races along with the exuberance of middle-period Elton John.

“You know the rules / You know the game / Master of the scene,” run the lines from the title tune, and ABBA have long been masters of the international musical scene. “The biggest group in the history of recorded music,” as one of their ad campaigns proclaimed, they have taught the world to sing. No wonder the International School of Stockholm Choir, which beefs up the chorus of I Have A Dream, sounds as if it were singing a Coke commercial. And yet their unique combination of ingenuity and inanity and of shrewd commercialism and naïve high spirits continues to fascinate. Music so calculated isn’t supposed to be fun, yet Voulez-Vous puts a barrel full of monkeys to shame.

Photo: ABBA – calculated fun. Transcribed for ABBA World

High Fidelity (USA) · September 1979 (Page 142)

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