Ring Ring


Polar, 1973


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


You would think that ABBA had always been the “supergroup” we all know and love straight out of the gate. But no, their first album, Ring Ring, barely registered with the listening public when it was released back in 1973. Even now, it ranks as their weakest effort from a critical standpoint. It opens strongly enough with the booming title track, so much so that they would go on to record the similar “Waterloo” as the follow-up. Even though the two songs are carbon- copies of each other, they both deserve to be singled out as high water marks for both albums.

Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson share the lead singing duties equally with Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad on their debut. Keep in mind that this album was released a year before their breakthrough winning performance at the Eurovision song contest, when the two ladies basically stole the show. From that point on, the boys would only sing sparingly on their records (though Bjorn’s “Rock Me” from 1975 is still a favorite of mine). However, Agnetha my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 does have her sole songwriting contribution on Ring Ring, on the glowing ballad “Disillusion.”

As two married couples thrown together in Sweden in their attempt at taking the world by storm (which as history has shown, they have), there seems to be a clear ambivalence toward the subject of love itself on this album. Proponents of the Defense Of Marriage Act will point to “People Need Love” as an anthem, while those heading for divorce court (as both couples would by the end of the ‘70s), will be singing an entirely different tune, namely “Love Isn’t Easy (But It Sure Is Hard Enough).” The latter track is a howler, with its punch line drum beats pushing it WAY over the top. Something tells me they didn’t intend such songs to be so funny…

To hit us over the head with ABBA’s ongoing battle of the sexes they even have corny songs about brothers (“He Is Your Brother” and “Me And Bobby And Bobby’s Brother,” which begs the question, who the hell is Bobby?) and the demure girls they fancy (“She’s My Kind Of Girl” and the feathery whisper that is “I Am Just A Girl”). Such material is so downright syrupy, you can’t help but cry out for something stronger. At least the members of ABBA attempt to have fun on the circus-themed “Nina Pretty Ballerina” and the so-so stab at a real rock tune, “Rock ‘N Roll Band,” but sadly it’s a case of too little, too late. Or in this case, too little, too early. It’s a miracle that Polar didn’t pull the plug entirely after such a dismal first outing.

Thankfully, wiser heads would prevail and ABBA would continue to creatively develop as a unit by leaps and bounds on their subsequent seven releases. They would even reach the #1 position in Billboard with “Dancing Queen,” in 1977. Though ABBA would ultimately break up in 1982, their popularity would grow to mythic proportions in the decades to follow. The greatest hits comp ABBA Gold and the wildly successful musical Mamma Mia, proved to be the one-two punch that would carry the band into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2010. There’s even a rumor that there may be a reunion heading our way sometime soon. It’s just too bad Ring Ring doesn’t live up to all the hype. Their magic formula had yet to be perfected. Fairy dust, stat!

Rating: C+

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© 2014 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 Polar, and is used for informational purposes only.