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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Singing Sirens: ABBA's 'The Day Before You Came'

© 2009-2013 (original portions). Slightly updated, 2013.

(Original text:) It wasn't always easy to tell with some ABBA songs how adept, how talented the two ABBA front singers were. (Agnetha (äng-EH-tä) Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad.) However, not with the pensive "jewel" that follows. (Embedded video is below.)

To me, the last minute-plus of "The Day Before You Came" perhaps comes close to what Odysseus (Ulysses) might have heard, lashed to the mast, his rowers' ears covered with beeswax. Well; fairly close, I imagine.... Here we have Anni-Frid Lyngstad's finest* single moment with ABBA: Her haunting solo vocal line, backing this song. (Termed "operatic" here.) It seems to emanate straight from the fjords of her birthplace. Combined with Benny Andersson's skillfully accompanying instrumental: The striking voice line and the synth finally "resolved" together at the very end. (FWIW: Some listeners contend that part of "Frida's" backing solo is actually Benny's synth. I believe that the instrument may 'take over' for just a very short portion (of it)...)
Incongruous and relentless snare drum/synth percussion steps us through the entire, dreary proceedings. (Page 97. The same author has noted that Åke Sundqvist played snare drum on this recording.)

(*A worthwhile aside, briefly: Frida's rich lead vocal in ABBA's "Knowing Me, Knowing You": Another "best". Also; nice lead in "One Man, One Woman".  "Super Trouper", as well. A bit difficult to pick out, but magnificent Frida at moments on "If It Wasn't For the Nights". Most stellar Frida: "Our Last Summer" and the lovely "Gonna Sing You My Love Song". Absolute velvet (-voiced) Frida: Her lead in "The King Has Lost His Crown" (must-see video linked). Tiny comment: Might have featured her even more .. Though her sonorous harmony contributions in "The King..." are...."awesome" . Please enjoy music expert Christopher Patrick's (much) more sophisticated observations about this "understated treasure" (ABBA song)... here (link). And one more worthwhile suggestion while we're here: Learn much about Frida and ABBA in general via this outstanding "101 videos" (ABBA) list. Excellent, comprehensive work by a very knowledgeable fan. (Link to list.))
(One more for Frida: Not ABBA's top song but Frida's clear, bright lead on catchy "You Owe Me One" - very enjoyable. (Along with Agnetha's intertwined, high harmonies...) Can't stop: Nice, quick YT birthday tribute (for Frida) by aficionado '2Shaymcn'; link, new window. Please enjoy a bit more of "prime" Frida via the embedded video at the end of the post...))

(Continuing previous text:) And, of course, gloomily mundane "The Day Before..." is a match for Ms. Fältskog's interpretive abilities. Her perfect, feminine voice appealingly smooths the hour-by-hour drag.

(And more, re video: Lip-synched by Agnetha in beautiful close-up, below; issuing a few of the saddest gazes possible....Lips that "say it all"....Dressed in stand-out red, but with black gradations (etc.); a good color scheme. (W/appropriately dark suits for the others.) Plus, (more) incredible looks (from Agnetha) on the train, etc. in the brief, included"official" video segment (at the end; excellent. Sorry about the "crawl", though..). A good actress...almost too alluring.)

(Resuming:) ABBA's finest complete song...it's beyond "pop", and its writers/producers deserve much credit. But siren singing/presenting, as well. (I.e., beguiling.)

All grown up now (although grown apart); we witness the 'super-group''s last recorded song. Amazing: Right from the "snow globe-opening" start, there's that big, old, slightly kitschy 'ABBA' sign sparkling behind the group....      as a somber masterpiece is doled out: 
("Wait...where's ABBA?")

"Dancing Queen"
we are no longer....

A decent-quality video follows. Thank you to "ABBADiego" for producing, and for allowing embedding. (Headphones suggested.)

(Link to this YT video if needed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GAPAvev-os&fmt=22)

(Plus: A link to the full, official video for this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HnOFwqpLRQ  )

(screen cap; link/video are below)
Bonus: The ABBA song described above
has a more-than-decent 'B' side.  
(Also happens to continue a mythic 'theme' touched upon above (independently, of course). (Cassandra of Troy...)) 
This song is yet more ABBA "vocal magic" on display. A brilliantly arranged song, beautiful harmonies; but where listeners can at times (also) "compare and contrast" the two singers' voices. Frida has the wonderful lead, of course, but Agnetha's "crying voice" high harmonies/melody take-overs comprise some vintage Ms. Fältskog (of ABBA). Typically (i.e., remarkably) skillful in harmony through much of the song... but her final two chorus melody-appropriations (refrains beginning: "Sorry Cassandra I misunderstood..."): Prime, "Agnetha in a 'nutshell'" (vocally) from her ABBA days.... at least to this listener. It's a distinguishing "sample": (Current YT link)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Os_bSwg02J4
(Further credit to ABBA's producers and especially engineer Michael Tretow for vocal-enhancing work on Cassandra. Also, FWIW: To this listener, Agnetha's voice seems just slightly "pinched" or tense within the first chorus of this recording. (I realize that she is 'holding back' a bit, early in the song.) That seems to diminish the 'next time(s) around' (for the chorus)....)

2013 update: An excellent current YT production of 'Cassandra' (1982) followed by 'Under Attack'. Thank you to 'Fafner888' for producing and permitting embedding. Both singers are wonderful (recorded), but Frida's lead in 'Cassandra' comes through beautifully (in this production), as her intricate harmonies also do in 'Under Attack': 

(video link)

  For this post also ref.:  Bright Lights, Dark Shadows: The Real Story of ABBA, 2008 edition,
Carl Magnus Palm, author, pp. 456-58.
If interested also please ref. pages 93-95 in Christopher Patrick's ABBA: Let the Music Speak for more complete (and learned) analysis of Cassandra.and Under Attack


(Blog note: This post entry is backdated to better fit within the order of posts as displayed here. It's actual creation date is 6/29/09. Updated, 2010. - Mr. D. Tails)

Link to full blog: http://star4abba.blogspot.com/

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