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Impressive? I am sure I can't find anything you'd like as much as "Good Vibrations" (setting a high bar there), but I think anyone might be impressed with the sheer fertility of melodic ideas and surprising instrumentation on "The Name of the Game". I'd also throw in "Take a Chance on Me", "The Winner Takes It All", "Knowing Me, knowing You", "The Day Before You Came".

 

Well, you drew the comparison to Brian Wilson at his best.

 

Anyway, everybody in America knows those songs, with the exception of "The Day Before You Came." So the issue isn't American unfamiliarity with the "great" ABBA. I just gave "The Name of the Game" a fresh listen, and I like it well enough. It has a great (and rather complicated) structure, good melody, and of course it's an obvious hit. Production-wise, I was a bit surprised and taken aback at the a cappella sections (during the "and you make me..." bits), which are nice. These are somewhat tainted by the rest of the production, which features a synthesized "brass" section that's hopelessly square, even for 1977.

 

I can offer similar run-downs of the other songs. "Take a Chance on Me," for example, offers an interesting initial production idea-- the vocal "take a chance take a chance take a chance" which then moves to an occasional background element of the song. The rest of the production, though, suffers from the usual ABBA sheen, which renders all the instrumental performances so anonymous that they may as well be computerized. The overall oom-pah effect the song produces is again tragically unhip, even, I submit, for its time. It sounds awfully dated now. The whole effort is redeemed, somewhat, by the bridge ("when you go dancing, we can go walking..."), which offers a striking contrasting tone to the rest of the song. It's very seductive. As in "The Name of the Game," this song does show ABBA to be a band full of ideas-- you have to give them credit for that.

 

I think you've succeeded in making me see where you're coming from. Their ambitions were higher than I ever assumed. I think, however, that the complexity and studio touches we're talking about with ABBA are nowhere near as audacious and radical (nor as tasteful) as the innovations of Brian Wilson or Phil Spector. So I do not repudiate my initial negative gut reaction to the comparison.

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It's nice to know I can spend a day in the "real world" and come home to this!

 

1. Omni, I think you are being too hard on them. I don't get it but I can see how someone could like them, very easily, especially if they were under 40 or so or over 68. I think the point of all this is that we were the generation that was too old for it and didn't buy what they were selling.

 

2. Lay your love on me was in fact a disco song. I forgot about that one. I may have even heard it in a club. But not Voulez vous or Dancing queen.

 

3. I'm sure they grew as a group but unfair or not, you tell me they're good but this is all I hear:

 

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At that point I was into Fullfingness First Finale by Stevie Wonder and Joan Baez' Diamonds and Rust. Slumming it for bad dance music would have Donna Summers Once Upon a Time, not Honey Honey.

 

If I were to buy once Abba album, what would it be? A Greatest hits comp?

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But there's no point calling an act which was famously associated with dance music (everywhere else in the world if you like) undanceable. I can't help it if Americans didn't dance to them.

 

Nor can the "B&T" smear be packed up and exported to cover thoroughly hip young Europeans and Australians.

 

ETA: Ironically, in Australia, Abba would have been significantly more hip in Sydney than in Toowoomba.

 

Lots and lots of Americans (straight and gay, square and hip) danced, and still do, to ABBA. The first single I bought as a kid around 1980 was "Take a Chance on Me" (M's "Pop Musik" purchased the same day)... their singles are great, pure pop. (Well, not all of them... but a pretty good batting average.) Dramatic, kitchy of course... but the hooks are undeniable.

 

That said, there's no way in hell I'm going to see Mamma Mia, even though my friend had this to say about it: "It is HORRIBLE. I saw it twice."

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Good to see some reasoned views here. I am inclined to agree with Seth's point that the use of synthesizers instead of live instruments is a drawback - I think the trumpet figure in "The Name of the Game" is quite brilliant, but no - it's not a real trumpet. But synthesizers were all over everything back then: remember Giorgio Moroder?

 

But I have no objection to a fair and reasoned rejection of the work.

 

Rancho: Abba Gold is the one which has been on the Billboard charts for nearly 500 weeks - that's the obvious choice.

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When I returned in '77 to go to college, I spent the next four years in various kinds of clubs in SF, NY and DC, and ABBA, though not nearly AS often, were certainly played in constant rotation in those clubs. There was a PUNK ROCK club in DC called 9:30 (it is still there, but has changed location) where ABBA could be heard multiple times a night between sets.

 

Sure, the punk rock guys were the only "serious" music fans in America who took ABBA seriously.

 

The mainstream rock audience couldn't deal with this type of music.

 

That's what I've been trying to say.

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I don't understand why they still bring up or even mention Bing Crosby. The only thing he is remembered for by anyone under age 50 is "White Christmas." I honestly can't think of another of his hit records.

 

Bing Crosby is (a) fucking great and (b) revolutionized pop singing by being the first major singer to sing for the microphone. He pretty much invented pop singing as we now know it.

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I don't understand why they still bring up or even mention Bing Crosby. The only thing he is remembered for by anyone under age 50 is "White Christmas." I honestly can't think of another of his hit records.

 

Bing Crosby is (a) fucking great and (b) revolutionized pop singing by being the first major singer to sing for the microphone. He pretty much invented pop singing as we now know it.

 

Please explain what "sing for the microphone" means. I understand what karaoke does for people's egos. Better than singing in the shower. And Iglesias can't be heard live five feet away so he can't give an acoustic concert. In high school I competed in a lot of speech tournaments and was told I sound really, really nice on a microphone except my "s's" were slushed and I needed to work on those. Maybe I'm showing a side of me I need to think about because I was born thinking Bing Crosby was an old fuddy-duddy, highly over-rated, and horrible to his children (translation: not a nice person).

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He was the most successful and influential of the generation of singers who - using the microphone - learned to sing in a more intimate style, known then (pejoratively at first) as "crooning". It's the difference between belting from your diaphragm so that the punters in the cheap seats can here, and whispering into someone's ear.

 

Now I don't spend much time listening to Bing, but that's his significance as I understand it.

 

(Is he in Mamma Mia, then?)

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I don't understand why they still bring up or even mention Bing Crosby. The only thing he is remembered for by anyone under age 50 is "White Christmas." I honestly can't think of another of his hit records.

 

Bing Crosby is (a) fucking great and (b) revolutionized pop singing by being the first major singer to sing for the microphone. He pretty much invented pop singing as we now know it.

 

Please explain what "sing for the microphone" means. I understand what karaoke does for people's egos. Better than singing in the shower. And Iglesias can't be heard live five feet away so he can't give an acoustic concert. In high school I competed in a lot of speech tournaments and was told I sound really, really nice on a microphone except my "s's" were slushed and I needed to work on those. Maybe I'm showing a side of me I need to think about because I was born thinking Bing Crosby was an old fuddy-duddy, highly over-rated, and horrible to his children (translation: not a nice person).

 

I think your point that most under 50s don't give a sous about Bing is true. I'd make that 65. And me.

But before the mic, you had to sing to reach the balcony seats.

After the mic, you had to learn or create a more intimate style of singing.

Bing is credited with that although a LOT of other singers influenced him (like Russ Columbo) ore were doing similar experiments. Milded Bailey, Phil Harris, Annette Hanashaw and other contemporaries were all singing with the mic.

It's been argued the Sinatra perfected the technique and almost played the mic like an instrument.

 

I love Bing (after years of not caring). Listen to the Bob Wills/Tommy Duncan version of San Antonio Rose, which is lovely, fun and fine and then listen to Bing's. Tommy was a vocalist and Bing was a singer.

 

I think limiting your choices of performers who are assholes leaves you with some pretty boring singers.

RE-THINK BING!

 

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Rancho and I have already made the point, but there's a neat summary (for once) in the Wiki article on him:

 

He was thus able to take popular singing beyond the kind of "belting" associated with a performer like Ali Schuette, who had to reach the back seats in New York theatres without the aid of the microphone. With Crosby, as Henry Pleasants noted in The Great American Popular Singers, something new had entered American music, something that might be called "singing in American," with conversational ease. The oddity of this new sound led to the epithet "crooner."
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Thanks, fellas,for the insight(s). Never thought of it like that. So the Rudy Vallee megaphone was somewhere in the middle, maybe? Think I have a sound textbook at home somewhere. And so it was probably people like Russ Columbo or more likely someone nobody remembers who discovered the intimacies of the microphone? The nuances obtainable by electronics are amazing. Mama Mia actually uses real singers rather than dubbing, right? I think we've already discussed the difference between classically trained voices and most of pop today.

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