ABBA

The Visitors

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ABBA's final album was recorded during a period of major personal shakeups, principally in the decision by Benny Andersson and Frida to follow the same route to divorce that had already been taken by Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Faltskog. Both male members of the group would soon remarry, but at the time, despite all of these changes in their circumstances, The Visitors was never intended as ABBA's swan song -- they were to go on recording together. That may explain why, rather than a threadbare, thrown-together feel, The Visitors is a beautifully made, very sophisticated album, filled with serious but never downbeat songs, all beautifully sung and showing off some of the bold songwriting efforts. The title track is a topical song about Soviet dissidents that also manages to be very catchy, while "I Let the Music Speak" sounds like a Broadway number (and a very good one, at that) in search of a musical to be part of, and "When All Is Said and Done" is a serious, achingly beautiful ballad with a lot to say about their personal situations -- even "Two for the Price of One," a lighthearted song sung by Björn Ulvaeus about answering a personal advertisement, offered several catchy hooks and beautiful backup singing. "Like an Angel Passing Through My Room" ended the original album on a hauntingly ethereal note, but not as any kind of larger statement about the quartet's fate. The intention was to keep working together, but Andersson and Ulvaeus' growing involvement with their stage project, Chess, prevented any further work together by the group beyond three songs, "The Day Before You Came," "Cassandra," and "Under Attack" -- they're all present as bonus tracks on the 2001 remastered edition (in gatefold packaging), along with the orphaned B-side "Should I Laugh or Cry" from the same sessions as The Visitors, and only add to the appeal of the original album.

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