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1986-7 releases

The dregs

After a succession of solid CD conversions of Abba original albums over the preceding four years, the 1986/7 period represented the nadir of PolyGram and Polar’s original European CD issuing programme.

Although only two albums were newly issued on European CD during this period, both efforts were so poor that even now they colour perceptions of the entire 1980s Abba CD release programme.

The first title was Abba Live, a new album which was billed by some as the group’s ninth original album but was subsequently disowned by the band and its record company.

Compiled by engineer Michael B Tretow on Polar’s orders with no input from the band, the album suffered from attempts to modernise the original recordings for the mid-1980s. These steps included adding a now hideously dated eighties snare drum sound to the tracks, overdubbing fake applause and drowning the recordings in huge amounts of reverb.

 abbalivebackThe Swedish version of Abba Live omitted the customary back cover tracklisting

The album’s packaging was poor and incredibly didn’t feature a single picture of the group on its front or back covers. Meanwhile, Polar’s Swedish CD pressing somehow omitted to include the customary tracklisting on the back, meaning that buyers essentially had to purchase it blind. The otherwise identical Polydor issue sold in continental Europe did, however, include a tracklisting.

While PolyGram was essentially blameless in the Abba Live fiasco, it was solely to blame for the following year’s botched 1987 European CD debut of Abba.

This release, which was produced independently of Polar, was rooted in the increasing numbers of pressing plants opened up, offering more capacity for record labels. This led Polar to opt to produce its own local CD versions of the three original albums yet to appear on European CD – Ring Ring, Waterloo and Abba.

PolyGram had been reluctant to issue these three early albums on CD and eventually decided to release just Abba in 1987. To mop up the highlights of the other two albums, it decided to add five tracks representing their highlights.

As a result, this release saw major changes being made to the album’s tracklisting and its packaging, including the controversial decision to modify the album’s logo to a rough approximation of Abba’s “reversed B” logo, which first appeared in 1976.

 polyabba1The 1987 CD version of Abba featured some of the worst packaging of any Polydor CD

The sound quality, particularly on the added tracks, was somewhat poorer than the previous Polydor CDs and the overall impression was cheap and nasty.

First issued: 1986 (Abba Live); March 23, 1987 (Abba). Reissue: None. Deleted: 1997.
Titles: Abba Live (POLCD 412/ 829 951-2); Abba (831 596-2)

Discussion

2 thoughts on “1986-7 releases

  1. ABBA is considered to be the worst of all the Polydor CD’s but I thought it had one advantage over the vinyl editon. It at least showed the photo that appeared on the back of the LP without any text (other than the Catalogue number). Compare that to the Polydor CD of The Visitors which did not use all of the photo that appeared on the LP back cover.

    Posted by Mark | February 21, 2013, 2:36 am
  2. I have a strong feeling that all the songs on ABBA live are running too fast; they key is wrong and the tempo too fast. That also goes for the LP version I have.

    Posted by Filip Jensen | March 24, 2012, 1:09 pm

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