Life at 33 1/3: ABBA’s bittersweet masterpiece

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ABBA, “Super Trouper” (Polar)

*From the vaults of Carl Meyer, an original album review written in November 1980.*

A Christmas without ABBA is like Mickey Mouse without his gloves.  But no worries, ABBA is here, and Christmas is saved.  Once again the Andersson/Ulvaeus-team impresses both as arrangers and producers.  The modern day magicians swing their wands, and presto! …even the lesser tunes are transformed into something larger than life.  They are in a league of their own right now.

“Super Trouper” is Christmas hymns for the disco.  Anni-Frid and Agnetha’s angelic lead voices and harmony singing pour through the speakers like joyous blessings from the heavens.  The towering layers of instruments create a Nordic wall of sound.

And Benny Andersson’s command of the synthesizers and keyboards is awesome: A diversity of timbres, he can do anything, flutes, funfair hurdy-gurdies, deep resounding organ chords, silvery piano notes dripping from stalactites in a cave, there’s so much going on it’s a symphonic brew, tender, melancholic with quite a nostalgic touch to it, and seasoned with glimpses of traditional folk tunes, but never forgetting the main mission, pop music that’s both easy on the ear and tailored for dance floor addicts.

The reverb gives the music an almost sacred quality. “Super Trouper” is a bittersweet masterpiece that puts ABBA among the titans of pop.  Its ultimate moment is of course “The Winner Takes It All”, a song and vocal performance so beautifully sad you feel like going down on your knees.  Thank you Agnetha.  I love you.

Released: November 3, 1980

Produced by: Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus

(All songs written and composed by Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus)

Numbers in brackets indicate highest position on the British singles chart.

Contents: Super Trouper (1)/The Winner Takes It All (1)/On and On and On/Andante, Andante/Me and I/Happy New Year/Our Last Summer/The Piper/Lay All Your Love on Me (7)/The Way Old Friends Do (Live)

ABBA:

Benny Andersson – synthesizer, keyboards, Vocals

Agnetha Fältskog – vocals

Anni-Frid Lyngstad – vocals

Björn Ulvaeus – acoustic guitar, vocals

Additional Personnel:

Ola Brunkert – drums

Lars Carlsson – horn

Rutger Gunnarsson – bass, guitar

Janne Kling – flute, saxophone

Per Lindvall – drums

Janne Schaffer – guitar

Åke Sundqvist – percussion

Mike Watson – bass

Lasse Wellander – guitar

Kajtek Wojciechowski – saxophone