Andy takes a Voyage with ABBA

Andy went all “fan-girl” on the ABBA fan page this morning because ABBA Voyage is currently making its way around the planet as midnight strikes in each zone, and he’s lucky enough to live in one of the first for it to arrive, it’s been so well received by ABBA fans, we thought we’d share his in-the-moment review here too….

Despite some people’s opinion of me, I’m quite introverted, and even though we’ve been encouraged to video our reactions to our first listen of Voyage, I like the idea more of recording my thoughts and feelings. I’m more of a writer and voice guy, so here goes…ABBA was the first record I received of my own liking. My brother, David, bought me the Dancing Queen single for my fifth birthday, and I was so excited. I ran straight to the record player and played it, and played it, and played it… you get the idea. I was in love with this group from such a young age.

I’m getting teary as I write this now, listening to “One Man, One Woman”, testing the hi-fi equipment before I play the new album. Voyage. I’m as excited as when I was five. I can hardly believe that after 40 years they came back with this album. I was so disappointed when they split up. I was disappointed when I didn’t get to see them live in 1977. I’m even disappointed my vinyl copy of Voyage has been delayed due to a fire at the printing press, but no disappointment is strong enough with this incredibly talented group of people to overpower the thrill and excitement I have as I prepare to listen to their new album.

The Name of the Game is playing. I love this song. It has all of the classic ABBA harmonisation. Pure magic. I’m nervous to listen to Voyage. I’m nervous that it won’t be as good as I dream and it will disappoint me. Benny talks often about his reluctance to have made a comeback at various stages because fans would naturally be disappointed. I know I won’t be. Don’t Shut Me Down and I Still Have Faith In You are astounding, and I love Just A Notion, too. The thing I really love about the first two is that these are the current voices of Agnetha and Frida, and they sound wonderful. It gives me goose bumps to hear their voices together again. It’s time to embark!

I open the album on iTunes. I get a little bit emotional. The rays on the artwork are moving. This will be the only time I get to hear this album for the first time, and I know it will be on very high repeat for a long time. Other fans are tossing about comments already with their ratings, which I’ve closed so as not to spoil my experience. This is me and ABBA together with new music for the first time since 1982. The first album of new material for me with them since 1986 when they released ABBA Live. This is personal. OK. I’m ready.

I still have faith in you. First track, I’m not skipping it because I love it and want to hear the album presented as ABBA intended, in full. I’ve sung along to it so many times already and love it! The music and the girls’ voices are like a warm hug from my childhood. Are we still referring to them as “the girls?” It kind of feels a bit disrespectful. These women are such accomplished singers. My god those harmonies! That ‘metallic’ sound Benny (or was it Bjorn?) described is so accurate. It’s still there and I’m ten years old again.

The goddamned Onkyo unit switched itself off in the crescendo and is taking a lifetime to pair with the bluetooth. This is why I love vinyl. The only risk of interruption is dancing too hard and making the needle jump. We’re back on. The song is coming to an end and I’m nervously anticipating the next one. Sweet Jesus. No no, that’s not the name of the track. It’s my bubbling excitement.

When you danced with me. OH MY GOD those opening notes made me cry! Why am I crying? It’s such a happy sounding song. I’m not reading the lyrics, but they’re questioning the severing of ties, having left for the city and I know it’s going to be one of those songs that is riddled with sadness, packaged in energetic happiness. “I miss the good old times when you danced with me”. Wow.

Little things. The Christmas song. Sweet. Such a beautiful arrangement, and I’m LOVING the sentimental tune and those little lyrical flourishes that only ABBA can deliver where there’s a word or phrase they sing and you think, “how did they fit all of those syllables in there? I’m going to have to practice that a few times before I can sing along with it properly” yet they do, and I do, and we’re all happy. Sweet!

Don’t shut me down. I was sold on this in September. I burst into tears back then when I heard my favourite group of all time for the first time in so long, just as I was turning fifty. Thank you, ABBA! What a perfect birthday present! Not skipping. I bloody love it and I will sing and dance like the dancing queen I am! “The apartment hasn’t changed at all. I’ve got to say I’m glad… I love you still”… yes, yes and yes!

Just a notion. Due to popular demand, the band recorded a new backing arrangement and produced the song with the original voice recordings from 1978. Just like the ABBAtars will be powered in London. I have to get to the arena and see them. I don’t care if they’re digital versions of them. It’s them. They’ve spent H O U R S on a stage wired up like a goddamned ECG on steroids to produce the experience for us at a time in life when most humans are winding down. They are an inspiration. That was quite the tangent while I enjoyed the song. I’m in heaven!

I can be that woman. “You’re asleep on the couch with Tammy”…. I love how every song has a story, often with references to individuals and, in this case, a dog. “She jerks every time you swear”. It’s a song about fighting. “You’re not the man you should have been, I let you down somehow”. OK. I’m crying. I’m thinking of the relationships I’ve had that have failed, and the relationships I’ve seen fail around me over time. 50-year-old me receives ABBA’s music much differently in some ways to 5, 10 and 15 year old me, as you’d expect. What a beautiful, tender song.

Keep an eye on Dan. When I saw this song title pre-release, I was intrigued by it, and the mention of someone’s name. It’s got some movement to it from the beginning. This is going to be a banger, isn’t it. Here comes the bridge, and there it is. I just love how ABBA’s music breathes. It rises and falls and takes you on a journey with every story. Songs with high energy make you want to dance and sing. Songs with slower pace pull you into their depths and make you want to sing and dance (well sway, maybe). Wow! I can hear Bjorn’s voice in there! Oh my god. The ending. A nod to SOS. Waaahhhhh!

Bumblebee. I’m aware of this song already. I’ve seen people talking about it online. They’ve recorded a new version. Only ABBA can pull off snare drums with a xylophone. Frida and Agnetha’s harmonies are impeccable. Onkyo! Noooooooo! Screw you! You chopped the girls off midstream! OK, we’re back. “Feeling sad for those who never hear the hum of bumblebees”. I’ve only seen a bumblebee once. They’re huge, and very song worthy oh my god the next song is on and it’s an instant banger!!

No doubt about it. Holy cow! That energy just swept me away. I know I’ll be singing this in my lounge room at top volume and dancing around like a teenager again. Sadly I don’t need a hairbrush any more, so I’m going to have to improvise with something else for a microphone. This song is AMAZING! “No doubt about it, this isn’t where it ends,” they sing. I’m as hungry for their music as I’ve ever been and I’m so grateful for this. What a gift!

Ode to freedom. You know, some of those bass rhythms sound a bit Enya-esque, and the harmonics are haunting. There are two things I’ve really missed in pop music: strings and voices unaided by autotune. This song sweeps me along like reeds swaying in the creek bed. The music dips and swells, in ABBA’s own orchestral style and lands me safely home. Wow.

My first listen of ABBA Voyage is everything I hoped it would be. Their music makes me come alive. Over the years there have been hiatuses in my listening because when I listen to them it becomes almost obsessive as I play every track I own and sing along in my car or in my home. I love this band so much and this album, this miraculous creation forty years after their last offering together is just such a wonderful gift to that young boy who always hoped, so hard, that they would come back one day and now they have.

Benny, if you read this, I am in no way disappointed with what you have delivered. I understand your nervousness in releasing new music and potentially wrecking the legacy you built from your rise in the 70’s, but the four of you are such a unique and amazing package. Nothing could tarnish what you have built. Thank you, Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Frida for this magical voyage. The teenager in me is projecting to the next album already, but understands this is probably the last one. Although, you know, now you’ve built that fancy arena in London, which I’m determined to attend, wouldn’t it be fun to take your time and make some new music to share inside it, the way old friends do?

Amazing. ABBA, I love you. Thank you.

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