Atlantic Records, 1977

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's weird here in the world of "The Daily Vault," now that JB is on sabbatical. God help us, I actually have to take some musical chances on my own.

For example, I was walking through the halls of the Pierce Memorial Archives this evening, when my eyes darted towards Arrival, the 1976 release from Swedish popsters Abba. Normally, this review would be right up JB's alley - he has never been known to shy away from the power of pop or the dazzle of disco/dance/whatever the hell they're calling it this month. Ah, but JB's nowhere near an Internet connection... so, I took a deep breath, and attacked the album myself.

And... well, it's kind of embarrassing to admit, but Arrival isn't a bad album at all. As much a guilty pleasure as a dated portrait of adult contemporary music in 1976, Abba knows how to take a good hook and milk it for all it's worth.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

First, let's get one misconception cleared up right off the bat: If Abba is disco, then I'm Babe Ruth. Even calling their smash hit "Dancing Queen" disco is a stretch - a simple syncopated beat doesn't a disco track make. Sure, you could dance to some of the songs on Arrival, but it's nowhere near the bass-driven dreck that made up disco. I don't give a damn what movies like Muriel's Wedding say - c'mon, who are you going to believe, a movie producer or me? (Don't answer that...)

Two other early hits are contained within the ten tracks of this album - "Money Money Money" (a song I've never warmed up to) and "Knowing Me, Knowing You" - which proves its mettle well, even 22 years after it came out. The harmonized vocals of Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Agnatha Faltskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad are surprisingly addictive. If you were growing up when Arrival comes out, you're going to be surprised how much of this music you'll enjoy.

However, some cuts on Arrival fall flat. I'm sure at one time "When I Kissed The Teacher" was a harmless, cute song. But after that idiot teacher who was impregnated - twice , for Crissake - by her student, this one doesn't seem so funny anymore. "That's Me" has to be a crusher to any girl with a certain name: "I'm Carrie / not-the-kind-of-girl-you'd-marry / That's me." (I once dated a girl named Carrie - and trust me, she proved the song wrong in every way. That's why I made her my wife.) Others, like "Dum Dum Diddle," are just damned stupidly written.

But there are more strong moments on Arrival than weak ones. "My Love, My Life" is a decent song which hasn't gotten recognition, while Ulvaeus gets a chance to be a lead vocalist on "Why Did It Have To Be Me". The title track is a beautiful way to close the album, with an instrumental that reminds me a lot of Mike Oldfield.

Honestly, I wanted to hate this album. But Arrival thwarts even the most cynical critic at the pass. How can you not enjoy the vocal harmonies and most of the songwriting? The fact is that this album has held up better than some of its counterparts of this genre - there's a reason why Abba still maintains a large fan base.

Arrival is a surprisingly good album that will please first-time listeners and provide great memories for those re-discovering its hits. Maybe JB was onto something all this time.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen 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 Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.