Waterloo

ABBA

Polydor/Polar, 1974

http://www.abbasite.com/

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/03/2008

Say what you will about ABBA putting out their best work in the eighties, because their 1974 breakthrough album Waterloo is also right up there. Like the Eurythmics, ABBA managed to avoid a sophomore slump and proved that things would indeed improve the second time around. To the trained ear, it may sound a little roughshod around the edges, but that is part of Waterloo’s charm. Actually, most of the ballads are crystal clear, particularly “Hasta Manana” and “Gonna Sing You My Love Song.” The one exception to the rule is “Dance (While The Music Still Goes On),” which is a little on the schmaltzy, Lawrence Welk side. The purpose of this song is to kiss the past ABBA goodbye, because their overall sound was about to take a drastic turn: Billboard charts and American listeners, here they come.

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The men of ABBA actually have nearly as many opportunities to sing lead as the ladies on this album. Early on, we are treated to the perfect tune for lazing on a Sunday afternoon, “Sitting In A Palm Tree.” Then later, we have a pair of faux metal tracks that are pure, unadulterated fun.  The first of these is “King Kong Song,” which is ABBA’s clever take on the preponderance of dark heavy metal music that was being released at the time. As producers, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus undoubtedly felt that classic rock groups were taking themselves far too seriously. So, with a set of nonsensical lyrics and their own silly attempt at bombast, they came up with “King Kong Song” and “Watch Out,” which is another one of my earlier favorites, though it sounds somewhat dated now.

To balance things out, the ladies of ABBA also have a pair of frothy pop tunes that would have made great singles. The sophisticated “My Mama Said” has an indefinable sexy vibe to it that causes it to be more about the atmosphere it creates than anything else. Then there’s “What About Livingstone,” which I used to call “The Jump Rope Song” because it has such a fun, bouncy melody and sing-along quality. Isn’t fun what pop music should be all about? ABBA was always one of those groups that seemed to really get it. They understood that the best pop songs should be both catchy and fun.

The two songs that were chosen as singles from Waterloo are “Honey Honey” and the big burst of energy that is the title track. Their instincts to really rock it out on “Waterloo” paid off for the quartet fairly handsomely, since it was the entry that helped them to win the Eurovision Song Contest in Europe and was the breakthrough in England that they had been looking for. On “Honey Honey,” Agnetha and Frida purr their way through the song in full-on sex kitten mode and show just how far they’ve come since their lackluster debut single, “People Need Love.” If you want to hear the earliest example of ABBA getting it right, then Waterloo is the perfect place for you to start.

Rating: A

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© 2008 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Polydor/Polar, and is used for informational purposes only.