The arrival of a new ABBA record back in the 70s and 80s was always a hit and miss affair in Lismore, the country town where I grew up. Though we always knew the date of a new release, there were sometimes delays in it arriving in town. “Has it arrived yet?” I would often ask Jeff from the local branch of Palings, and would be disappointed to discover it was still a few days away.
In contrast, the new ABBA record, “Voyage” was released almost simultaneously around the world. We got it before much of the rest of the world, thanks to timezone differences. I stayed up to midnight a couple of weeks ago, waiting for the release, and at the stroke of midnight it was live on Youtube Music (my preferred streaming service). I listened to it three times before heading off to bed.
The next morning I received a call from one of the ABC Radio stations asking if I could come on air and review. Reluctantly I had to say no, as I had other commitments that morning, but recommended a few other “fans” I knew. But also, I didn’t really know what I thought of the new album. It was “too soon” to make a judgement, I told them.
If you haven’t followed the solo careers of Agnetha and Frida since the ABBA “separation” in the early 80s, the first thing you’ll notice from the album is the slight deepening of their individual voices. Speaking on BBC Radio a few days ago, Frida mentioned that Agnetha was a soprano, and that she was a mezzo-soprano, but that she was probably “a little deeper than that now”.
The solo work which was continued into the last ten years or so (an album for Agnetha, a few collaborative singles for Frida) demonstrates the maturing of the voices of these two women, now aged in their 70s. Remarkably, when they sing together, though, it sounds like classic ABBA.
If you’ve only listened to their pop songs, you might also find the album somewhat surprising (or even disappointing). This is a far more “mature” sounding album, and there’s nothing like a “Waterloo” or a “Ring Ring”.
The album is more reminiscent of their later works, and in particular, it’s like a continuation of their final studio album “The Visitors”, which was always a lot more “dark”. Even though the album still sold well, it’s one of the less well-known ABBA albums. A few of the songs have turned up in the “Mamma Mia” movies. Personally, it’s my favourite ABBA album from the time.
Over the next few years, all four members pursued solo careers, including the musicals “Chess” and “Kristina”. You can definitely hear elements of those solo works in the songs on this album. The first track is a remake of one of Benny’s earlier works, a soundtrack he wrote the music for. One of the tracks even ends with a refrain from “SOS”.
I don’t know how many times I’ve listed to the album since it was released, but it’s the first album I’ve listened to “on repeat” for a number of years.
On repeat listening, I’ve started to notice the musical and vocal flourishes. In particular, the “echos” when a line in the lyrics is repeated or responded to.
There are also lyrics concerned with getting older, having grandchildren and the like.
Overall, it’s a very good album which I have enjoyed listening to very much. All of the tracks are very good in their own way, and they reflect a great body of work for the four members of the group. They haven’t tried to sound like a contemporary pop group. They also haven’t found themselves stuck in nostalgia. This is an album they can look back on and feel quite proud about.