Two versions of a special product
Despite Atlantic’s well-documented refusal to issue more than a handful of Abba’s original albums and compilations in North America, it created its own CD compilation of Abba hits, The Best of Abba, in 1986.
This release didn’t come via Atlantic proper but through Warner Special Products, which licenced out recordings to other small labels.
The special products route is generally used to issue titles that a major label doesn’t believe there is sufficient demand to include in their own catalogue.
By licencing to a smaller label, it does have to take on the risk of producing the title plus it gets licencing payments and often also gets paid to manufacture the discs.
In the case of The Best of Abba, Californian label Silver Eagle Records licenced the tracks from Warners in a move which had the blessing of Polar Music, judging by its ‘Thanks to Gorel Hanser’ booklet credit.
The back of the original Best of Abba CD
This release marked the only occasion this attractive livery was used for an Abba CD
As Warners had yet to open its own CD manufacturing facility in the US, most discs were produced in Japan on its behalf by Sanyo. Some later pressings were manufactured in the US. The compilation itself is unremarkable apart from the inclusion of short edits of Voulez-Vous and Chiquitita.
Unusually, however, when Atlantic lost its Abba licence in 1988, PolyGram continued to produce the compilation, albeit with a few major differences. For a start, it was now only available in Canada and was distributed via PolyGram’s PolyTel label rather than Silver Eagle Records.
Although the front cover remained roughly the same, the compilation lost its attractive colour booklet in favour of a significantly more basic affair. The number of tracks was also reduced from 18 to 16 through the omission of When All Is Said and Done and On and On and On.
The front cover of Polytel’s Best of Abba may have been almost identical to the Warners one…
…but the label omitted two tracks and opted for cheaper presentation.
This alteration could have been for either technical or financial reasons – either the Cineram plant in Canada which now pressed the CDs was uncomfortable with long CDs or PolyGram wanted to pay less royalties on the CD.
Otherwise, the source tape used by PolyGram seems to be identical to the one used by Warner Special Products, right down to the unusually short versions of Voulez-Vous and Chiquitita.
In any case, both versions of the compilation are equally rare although the Warner version would probably fetch a premium because it’s more attractive and earlier than the PolyTel one. In value terms, they are probably worth between €25 and €50.
Thanks to Abba4therecord and Pepe
First issued: 1986 [Warner]. Reissue: 1988 [PolyTel]. Deleted: c1990.