In late-70s schooldays, no-one liked Abba, except Graham’s classmate, Guy Gibson

Forty years on: ABBA’s voyage back to the recording studio

NOW, even podcaster Graham Chalmers has bought into ABBA’s return after 40 years, buying comeback album Voyage.

Hear his verdict in Episode 65 of Two Big Egos In A Small Car, under questioning from Charles Hutchinson. Together they then recommend 2022 releases that could just be fabber than Abba.

Under discussion too are next January’s relaunch of bespoke Charm gigs in Harrogate; seeing/not seeing Soft Cell’s home-coming 40th anniversary show in Leeds…and Colin Firth’s hair in Eva Husson’s new upstairs/downstairs film Mothering Sunday.

To listen, head to: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/9570139

Is ABBA’s comeback an aberration or fabber than ever? Here’s Ian Sime’s verdict

ABBA’s artwork for Voyage, the long, long-awaited follow-up to The Visitors

ABBA,  Voyage (Polar) *****

WHAT were you doing 40 years ago?

While Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Leonid Brezhnev ruled the world, we saw the opening of the Humber Bridge, the capture of Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, the running of the first London Marathon, and we all celebrated the nuptials of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.  

Significantly, ABBA’s eighth studio album, The Visitors, was released on November 30 1981. At the time, we had no idea that this was to be their swansong as a collective.

For although both vocalists have sporadically returned to the main stage, and Benny & Bjorn have written for musical theatre and the occasional guest artist, nothing quite matched the glory of the real ABBA.

Only a handful of bands have caught the imagination of multiple generations. Certainly, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Led Zeppelin and Queen are in this category. So too are ABBA.

It is a testament to the power of the Swedes’ music that many a fan of the Mamma Mia! theatre production and movies were not even born when Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anni-Frid first unveiled their music.  

So, 40 years on, Voyage is the album that many a fan never dared would happen, indeed the Holy Grail of Pop. With much fanfare, on September 2, the world was introduced to the opening track I Still Have Faith in You. Anni-Frid’s lead vocal lay down the mission statement in an overtly sentimental song about friendship, faith, doubt and determination.

Welcome back after 40 years: ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus, 76, Agnetha Fältskog, 71, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, 76, and Benny Andersson, 74

At the same press launch, we were introduced to Agnetha’s tour de force, Don’t Shut Me Down, featuring Benny’s heavy piano glissando, rich strings and a harp or two in a huge orchestral arrangement.

Now comes the rest: When You Danced With Me is a Celtic-themed jig that captures the joy of The Piper from Super Trouper, while Bumblebee is pure Fernando.  Meanwhile, Just A Notion sounds like a vintage classic that would not have been out of place on Arrival.

Lyrically, I Can Be That Woman and Keep An Eye On Dan showcase maturing couples in marital disharmony. The latter track embraces the sense of menace and tension Bjorn and Benny used to best effect on their Chess album.

The adult theme is best captured in the simply gorgeous, tender ballad Little Things. An unabashed Christmas song, this is a work of beauty, showcasing the pleasures of the season, as seen through the eyes of a child witnessed by the grandmother, albeit aided with a little inspiration from Mozart.

Likewise, the anthemic Ode To Freedom borrows from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and evokes Like An Angel Passing Through My Room. Both are destined to become classics by any standard. What a glorious return.  

Little surprise then that sales for Voyage in its first week eclipse those of the entire Top 40 combined. This may have been supported by no less than TWENTY physical versions of the album, available in limited quantities.

The best of the bunch are the two beautiful picture discs, but was it really necessary to churn out multiple coloured (green, white, yellow, orange, blue, black) albums, cassettes and CDs in various artwork versions to pump up sales? No wonder there is a global vinyl shortage!

Review by Ian Sime

Abba Mania makes voyage to Grand Opera House with all those superSwedish hits

Abba Mania: Thanking Abba for the music at Grand Opera House, York

ABBA Mania could not be playing the Grand Opera House, York, at a better time in light of Agnetha, Benny, Bjorn and Anni-Frid releasing Voyage, their first album in 39 years, last Friday.

Billed as “the world’s number one touring Abba tribute concert”, Abba Mania returns to York on November 20 in its quest to bring the Swedish supergroup’s songs to fans old and new.

Formed in 1999, Abba Mania has been selling out theatres and concert halls internationally ever since. In 2007, the show grossed more than one million Australian dollars at the box office in Sydney, Australia. 

Abba Mania has ventured to France, Denmark, Belgium, Spain, South Africa, New Zealand, Singapore, the United States, South Korea and Australia, as well as touring the UK extensively.

Hands up who loves Abba. Step forward Abba Mania

Abba dominated the charts from 1974 to 1983, notching up nine UK number ones, from Waterloo to Super Trouper. At their height, they became Sweden’s highest export earners, even outselling Volvo cars. 

Abba Mania promise two hours of uplifting, dance-inducing, sometimes heart-breaking songs, “performed fully live with fantastic staging, lighting and effects, re-creating Abba’s sound not only perfectly but respectfully too”. 

Take a chance on Dancing Queen, Waterloo, SOS, Mamma Mia, The Winner Takes It All, Money, Money, Money, Knowing Me, Knowing You, Super Trouper, Fernando, Name Of The Game, Chiquitita, I Have A Dream, Thank You For The Music and Take A Chance On Me being rolled out once more.

Tickets are on sale on 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/york.

For the official trailer, head to: wetransfer.com/downloads/644cc7b75204d05d6854df6b5f425c4620211110163807/40ceecdb2dce5ecd1984fdfe0ea086b420211110163830/a0d671

Are The Rolling Stones out of time?

Goodnight and farewell Charlie Watts, unbeatable drummer

TWO Big Egos In A Small Car arts podcasters Chalmers & Hutch ponder the impact of Charlie Watts RIP.

What else pops up in Episode 56? Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon on dealing with sexism in the music industry; serious Britishness in Benedict Cumberbatch’s Cold War chiller-thriller The Courier and Sparks’ new music in Leos Carax’s Annette.

Covid passports and ABBAtars at Olympic Park: is this the future for gigs?

To listen, head to: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/9165828

Mamma Mia! Look which show is returning to Leeds Grand Theatre this autumn

Mamma Mia! is on its way to Leeds Grand Theatre on its 20th anniversary tour

MAMMA Mia! will return to Leeds Grand Theatre from November 24 to December 5 on the tour to mark 20 years since the Abba musical’s London premiere.

Tickets will go on general sale on January 29 on 0844 848 2700 or at leedsgrandtheatre.com.

Built around the music and lyrics of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus,Mamma Mia!revels in Judy Craymer’s vision of staging the story-telling magic of Abba’s songs with a sunny, funny tale of a mother, a daughter and three possible dads unfolding on a Greek island idyll. 

To date, Mamma Mia! has been seen by more than 65 million people in 50 productions in 16 languages.  In 2011, it became the first Western musical to be staged in Mandarin in China.  

Mamma Mia!became the eighth longest-running show on Broadway, where it played a record-breaking run for 14 years and it continues to play in London’s West End at the Novello Theatre, where the 20th anniversary fell on April 6 2019.

The first British tour of Mamma Mia! visited Leeds Grand Theatre from May 30 to July 8 in 2017.