1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die
I want to start this one with a note that will apply to several of the entries in the Moon book: I’m not a big fan of entering an artist’s greatest hits compilation as an “album” you must hear. Plenty of artists can compile great greatest hits packages. But that’s enough on that.
My first reaction to the prospect of listening to this was the same as yours: I rolled my eyes. But there were a couple of points I thought about as I listened to these 19 tracks.
1) ABBA is a big deal for East-European music. Yes, I would consider Sweden East-European in the grand scheme of things, especially considering the American love of Great British exports. Is there anything that’s particularly foreign about ABBA’s music, aside from some non-English titles? No. They certainly didn’t break any language barriers. But they were the first group to really break through from an East-European nation. And they did so in the midst of the Cold War. Sweden was firmly on the U.S.’s “side,” but its neighbor Finland was a Soviet territory. It was music from the brink. Again, nothing ethnic about the music, but it certainly opened doors for Sweden’s current, diverse music scene. Robyn can be seen as an edgier, more modern take on ABBA.
2) ABBA’s status as a disco band is terribly exaggerated. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, yeah, it jumped on that bandwagon. But its best work is centered around 1976 (“Dancing Queen,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and “Take a Chance on Me”). These tracks are just fine for dancing, but disco? Heck no.
3) ABBA can throw down some hard-hitting hooks. The group is best known for melodic numbers like “Dancing Queen,” but tracks like “Knowing Me, Knowing You” have choruses that make the head rock more than the hips shake.
This album starts to trail off after about ten songs, but the first five are a great sample of the band at its best, and worth a listen to even the most masculine of music fans.
INTERESTING FACT: "ABBA Gold" is the third best-selling album ever in both the U.K. and Germany.