Abba - Greatest Hits Vol.2
Volume 2? What have you done with Volume 1 Mum and Dad!? Were Waterloo and Fernando not good enough for you hey? To be fair actually, I think one greatest hits record is just about as much Abba as I can listen to without wanting to plug my own ears up for good. You can therefore imagine my disappointment at attending a good friend’s wedding party recently, only to find that the DJ played not one but two Abba tracks – severely eating in to the limited time that he had to entertain this particular pissed tie-round-the-head wearing wedding usher. Still, he made up for it by playing Toto’s Africa – although I don’t quite know who Toto think they are blessing the rains down in Africa – I’m sure Africans couldn’t give two shits whether their rain has been blessed by an 80’s soft rock act or not.
Limited tolerance for their musical output aside, you really can’t fault Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid’s skill at crafting incredibly catchy pop numbers. Phenomenally successful between 1972 and 1982 Abba’s demise proved that it’s probably not wise to pair off in to two couples when you’re in a mixed four piece band… otherwise you’re probably going to end up seriously getting on each other’s tits. Volume 2 contains some of their biggest and best hits. From Gimme Gimme Gimme (successfully sampled by Madonna in her tune Hung Up) to Knowing Me Knowing You (AHA!); and from Take a Chance on Me (nice little Erasure cover that one) to Dancing Queen (You’re terrible Muriel. No seriously, you are you slob) – this record is stuffed full of granny pleasers.
… and Vladimir Putin apparently. If you type Abba fan in to google images, the first thing that shows up is a picture of the Russia’s very own shirtless horse riding, bear slaying macho man himself – apparently a big fan of the Swedes. Hey everyone has to unwind somehow I guess.
You can’t fault Abba’s relentless nose (yes noses can be relentless alright) for commercial success. They even went as far to record a Spanish version of their greatest hits called Gracias Por La Musica. I really think more bands should take a leaf out of Abba’s book. If the likes of Olly Murs were forced to record everything they released in an additional Spanish version, maybe they’d think twice before inflicting such drivel on us.
Despite the inclusion of many better known hits, I’m actually going to stick Angel Eyes on the parent core play list this week, mainly because I’ve never heard it at a wedding. More fingers bashing beats from PJ below, plus if you like that, you’ll probably like this Van Halen Super Trooper mash up too. Enjoy!
Check out PJ’s beats here:
Elkie Brooks - Two Days Away
Elkie Brooks. A strong name. A robust name. A name which brings to mind a powerful moose like creature standing nobly over a fresh babbling mountain stream, braying proudly at any forest animal that cares to listen. And my can Elkie bray. Her husky voice drips through Two Days Away like a big dollop of natural honey – bits of bee and all - doing as much justice to the more pop oriented numbers such as Spiritland and Sunshine After The Rain , as it does to the more soulful numbers - such as the sultry album opener Love Potion No.9 and the surprisingly decent cover of Aretha Franklin’s Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.
Born in Salford, Manchester, Elkie Brooks spent much of 60’s on Britain’s cabaret circuit, introducing the likes of the Small Faces, supporting the Beatles and then touring the US with the Animals. By 1977 she had come to the attention of legendary producers Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller (a duo responsible for much of Elvis’s best recordings) who subsequently produced Two Days Away - her second solo album. I’m a big fan of this album. Her take on Love Potion No.9 which Lieber and Stoller had made a hit for The Coasters over 15 years earlier, is an excellent down key intro to the effective mixture of pop, soul and blues which is to follow, and which culminates in her raucous rendition of Saved – a cracking gospel inflected number about an ex-drinker, smoker, cusser and fusser.
Elkie Brooks spent much of the 70’s in her sparsely furnished New York apartment, sitting around in her underwear, racking up enormous phone bills by calling Donna Summer and plotting to convene twenty years hence with the aim of combining two of their most successful hits and unleashing 90’s pop sensation Berri on the world along with her irritating top ten hit Sunshine After The Rain (a tune helpfully reviewed by youtube user chandlerbingbong with the concise “I’d slip her one.” Classy chap that bingbong.) Well I’m afraid you didn’t succeed with your nefarious plan ladies. Not quite – it only reached number 4. So there. Good 90’s pop foresight from the parent core collection though!
The parent core playlist is getting a new addition in the form of Saved this week, while PJ has had a veritable goldmine of breaks and beats to play with, which I’m sure you’ll enjoy – especially if you take a leaf out of Elkie’s book and listen to them while sitting around with your trousers off.
Check out PJ’s beats here:
Helen Reddy - Free and Easy
Apparently Helen Reddy is massive in the US. Apparently she’s often referred to as the “Queen of 70’s pop.” Apparently she’s had three number one hits including her signature hit ” I Am Woman” (which although grammatically appalling, I suspect is far more technically accurate than the utterly cringe-worthy second track on Free and Easy, Raised on Rock - a bold assertion that she soon completely contradicts by torturing the listener for the remainder of the album with what sounds like the sort of thing Andrew Lloyd Webber would leave in the pan after a heavy session on the Guinness). All this is news to me, but this is hardly surprising given that Australian-American singer songwriters from the 70’s are hardly my forte.
I’m not sure what it is that troubles me about Free and Easy so much. It starts well enough with a kind of low slung pop ballad Angie Baby (another number 1 hit), but deteriorates rapidly after the aforementioned Raised on Rock. If I was my parents, which I am evidently not, I would have had that kind of sinking feeling upon buying this album that you get when you buy a record after hearing just one song you like and soon discover that after opening with that track, the rest is actually complete toss… but you sort of have to go around pretending it’s ok for a bit or otherwise you’d look a bit daft for wasting a tenner of your hard earned cash in front of your mates, until one day a couple of years down the line, you finally break down sobbing, beating your fists against the ground declaring that your merciless friends were right all along and that the album you’ve been torturing yourself with for years is in fact complete shit. Yes, that exact feeling.
Or, maybe what troubles me is that the whole “Free and Easy” thing is tinged with a kind of watered down sexiness that I can’t quite reconcile with the girl guide troupe leader staring out at me from the record sleeve. Or the totally benign ballads that sound like Elaine Page committing suicide. Probably the most exciting thing on this album is the key change pan pipes solo on the album title track. Exactly.
Either way, this was another thumbs down this week I’m afraid. What it has inspired though, is a proper daft retro rave beat session from DJ PJ during the outro to this week’s remix, which can only be a good thing.
Check out PJ’s beats: