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.
The 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.
The 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.