The titles of hits compilations always deal in superlatives: "Greatest," "Best," "Very Best" -- but the compilers of this ABBA collection have a special problem justifying the release of yet another such album after the multi-platinum success of 1992's ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits and its 1993 follow-up, More ABBA Gold: More ABBA Hits. (Indeed, the band was never shy about repackaging, issuing a Greatest Hits LP in 1976 as only its third U.S. album, followed by Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 in 1979 and The Singles [The First Ten Years] in 1982.) They have settled on The Definitive Collection and done their best to live up to the name. The 37-track double CD contains "for the first time exclusively collected in one package, each and every single as conceived and released by ABBA and their record company Polar Music between 1972 and 1982," writes annotator Carl Magnus Palm. That accounts for 30 tracks, with another five consisting of songs individual countries released as singles, notably "When All Is Said and Done" and "The Visitors," which Atlantic in the U.S. put out for chart entries. The remaining two tracks are a single remix of "Ring Ring," being given its first American release, and an extended dance remix of "Voulez-Vous," not previously released commercially. The remastered sound is excellent, and the nearly chronological order of the sequencing allows an appreciation of the band's development from light Europop to a disco-influenced sound and onto a more energetic, new wave-influenced approach, all with compelling melodies and dense arrangements in a Phil Spector Wall of Sound production style. Palm's informative liner notes tell the ABBA story single by single. (Who knew that "The Visitors" is about "the fears of dissidents in the Soviet Union"?) If this doesn't satisfy you, go ahead and buy the group's entire catalog.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2