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Saturday, 4 October 2014

Mamma Mia! Son of Abba remasters pop beat in Live at Wembley Arena

Ludvig Andersson was born too late to hear his dad's band, Abba, perform live.
The son of Abba member Benny Andersson and his second wife, Mona Norklit, the younger Andersson was born in January, 1982, just a few months ahead of the Swedish pop group drifting apart at the end of 1982.
So, when the chance came up to select and remaster live recordings from Abba's 1979 tour of Europe, Japan and North America for a new album, the 32-year-old didn't hesitate.

A son of Benny Andersson and his second wife, Mona Norklit, has remastered some of Abba's best live tracks.A son of Benny Andersson and his second wife, Mona Norklit, has remastered some of Abba's best live tracks. Photo: Reuters
"I think I did it for me, because I wasn't born at the time, so I never really got to hear this," says Andersson, who performs in his own band, Atlas, and works as a music producer.
The result of Andersson's efforts is Abba – Live at Wembley Arena, a collection of 25 tracks recorded on November 10, 1979, at the last of Abba's seven sold-out concerts at the British venue.
Unlike the band's previous live album, Abba Live, for which the original recordings were extensively reworked before release in 1986, the recordings for the Wembley album have been digitalised but left more or less untouched.

Bjorn Ulvaeus, left, Agnetha Faltskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson are reborn again in a new album.Bjorn Ulvaeus, left, Agnetha Faltskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson are reborn again in a new album. Photo: AP
The album captures the frenzied excitement and energy that surrounded the band on the tour; something that fans who caught their 1977 Australian tour concerts will be familiar with. Its solid performances also help put paid to the myth that Abba's members were somehow stilted when playing live.
Along with standards, such as Dancing Queen, Waterloo, SOS and Fernando, is a previously unreleased song, I'm Still Alive, written and performed by band member Agnetha Faltskog.
While each of Abba's members approved the album, Benny Andersson was most closely involved in its production.

Toni Collette stars in the popular <em>Muriel's Wedding</em>, which features Abba's music.Toni Collette stars in the popular Muriel's Wedding, which features Abba's music.
Now 67, avuncular and friendly, he says he is pleased the performances have aged so well.
"This is just exactly how it was," he says. "And I'm surprised that we sing so well. The playing is OK. I'm very brave. I don't remember me being brave."
While it is easy to understand why Ludvig Andersson should be interested in his father's band days – it is, after all, family history – a more intriguing question is why so much of the wider world should share his interest.

Anne Wood, Jennifer Vuletic and Lara Mulcahy star in the stage production of <i>Mamma Mia</i> in Australia.Anne Wood, Jennifer Vuletic and Lara Mulcahy star in the stage production of Mamma Mia in Australia. Photo: John Woudstra
Despite 2014 marking 40 years since Abba made their international breakthrough, singing Waterloo at the 1974 Eurovision song contest, there is no shortage of evidence that we remain enamoured with Andersson, Faltskog and bandmates Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Bjorn Ulvaeus.
In Stockholm, Abba: The Museum, a permanent collection of band memorabilia and interactive exhibits, has overshot projected visitor numbers by 30 per cent since opening in 2013 and is expecting its 500,000th guest this year. Mamma Mia, the stage musical Andersson and Ulvaeus wrote around Abba songs continues to draw strong crowds worldwide. Earlier this year, it became the ninth longest-running Broadway musical of all time.
Benny Andersson attributes Abba's ongoing popularity to a mix of good luck and good management.
After a slow period in the middle 1980s, recording label Polygram united the licences for Abba's songs, allowing the release of Abba Gold in 1992, an album that would go on to sell more than 28 million copies. British band Erasure's popular covers of Abba songs in 1992 also helped things along.
"Then [in 1994] there was a movie made called Muriel's Wedding, a really good film that was actually based on a girl being really into Abba music," Benny Andersson says, referring to the Australian hit, starring Toni Collette. "And then somebody had this idea of making a musical with the songs as the core. So it all started to roll.
"I would [also] like to think that in the original recordings there is a certain quality, sound-wise and also in the songs and lyrics, everything put together. I would like to think because it's good enough."
Carl Magnus Palm, a respected Abba biographer, believes the band's often talked about attention to detail is a big part of the durability of their sound.
"The reason the music is around today is that they put such attention into recording each and every song," he says.
Palm says Andersson and Ulvaeus would spend weeks writing a single song, only to discard some 90 per cent of their efforts as not good enough.
Songs that made the grade were painstakingly reworked as the backing track and vocals were laid down and throughout the mixing. Even then, the finished product could be rejected by the band.
Mattias Hansson, chief executive of Abba: The Museum, says while the institution's marketing target audience is "43-year-old mums", visitors come from a wide demographic and younger people are continually discovering the band.
"I think we've come to the conclusion that the quality of the songs is eternal," he says. "People keep on rediscovering Abba the same way that they continue to discover Mozart, Beethoven – and Elvis Presley for that matter."

Abba – Live at Wembley Arena is available as a 25-track album set and on 180gm triple vinyl.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/mamma-mia-son-of-abba-remasters-pop-beat-in-live-at-wembley-arena-20140930-10nvy3.html#ixzz3F8DznzNl

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