The Visitors (ABBA album)

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The Visitors
Studio album by ABBA
Released November 30, 1981
Recorded March 16, 1981 - November 14, 1981
at Polar Music Studios
Genre Pop, pop rock, synthpop
Length 37:39 (Sweden original release)
Label Polar
Epic (UK)
Atlantic Records (US original release)
Producer Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus
ABBA chronology
Super Trouper
(1980)
The Visitors
(1981)
The Singles: The First Ten Years
(1982)
Singles from The Visitors
  1. "One of Us"
    Released: 7 December 1981
  2. "Head over Heels"
    Released: 19 March 1982
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[1]
Pitchfork Media (8.6/10)[2]

The Visitors is the eighth and final studio album by Swedish pop group ABBA, released on 30 November 1981.

With The Visitors, ABBA took several steps away from the "lighter" pop music they had recorded previously and the album is often regarded as a more complex and mature effort.[3] The opening track, "The Visitors", with its ominous synthesizer sounds and the distinctive lead vocal by Frida, announced a change in musical style. With Benny and Frida going their separate ways, the pain of splitting up was explored yet again in "When All Is Said and Done". The major hit single on the album, "One of Us" also depicted the end of a love story. Elsewhere there were current Cold War themes—highly topical at the time—and further songs of isolation and regret.

The Visitors album was one of the first records to be recorded and mixed digitally, and was the first in history to be manufactured on the new CD format in 1982 on Atlantic.[4] The Visitors has been reissued in digitally remastered form three times—first in 1997, then in 2001 and again in 2005 as part of The Complete Studio Recordings box set.

The Visitors Deluxe Edition was released on 23 April 2012. As with previous releases in the Deluxe Edition series, this version of ABBA’s final album offers a DVD of archive material along with CD bonus tracks – including the demo medley "From a Twinkling Star to a Passing Angel", the first previously-unreleased ABBA recordings since 1994.[5]

Recording and release[edit]

Following the upcoming divorce of Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, recording began on what was to become ABBA's final studio album on 16 March 1981.[6] Only one month had passed since the announcement of their separation when the group entered the studio.

The members of ABBA and their personnel have memories of the recording sessions for this album being rather difficult. To begin with, their sound engineer Michael Tretow had to become accustomed to using the new 32-track digital recorder that had been purchased for Polar Music Studios. He said, "Digital recording...cut out all the hiss, but it also meant that sounds were sharply cut off below a certain level. The sound simply became too clean, so I had to find ways of compensating for that." The first three tracks for the album had already been recorded using analogue tape and therefore Tretow had to transfer all subsequent tracks from digital to analogue and back again to avoid a difference in quality.[7]

Ulvaeus also mentioned in retrospect that the recording sessions were troubled. "It could be frosty sometimes," he acknowledged in an interview. Lyngstad also commented that they were beginning to tire of working together.[8]

On its release, The Visitors reached the top of the charts in a number of territories but was not as successful as their previous albums.[9]

Contemporary reviews of the original 1981 release[edit]

Billboard: "The inevitable culmination of introspection, experience and fantasy into a marriage of music and words that is Abba's first true masterpiece – song after song... Abba and pop music at its endearing best."

Trouser Press: "Its high points must be the sort of thing you hear in heaven..."

New Musical Express: "The Visitors" provokes...thoughts after you drift away with those exquisite harmonies..."

Los Angeles Times: "Biggest departure to date from the bubbly, sprightly pop sound which first brought [them] fame in the mid-70s...While rich, sophisticated music isn't as instantly accessible as Abba's past hits, in the end it's just as rewarding....Abba's thoughtful treatment of mature themes here shows impressive growth..."

Creem: "Abba feel. Abba are socially concerned. In fact, Abba take things so seriously and react to life and love with such overwhelming intensity that Ingmar Bergman would do well to sign them on for a soundtrack."

Melody Maker: "Music like this is a juke box dream, golden sparkle and inspiration that's instantly singable yet lasts a virtual lifetime..."

A negative review came from Rolling Stone magazine's reviewer who sorely missed ABBA's upbeat tunes: "The boys and girls of Abba are in a slump. Synth-drenched, melodramatic balladeering seems to have supplanted almost entirely the perky pop."

Even more intriguing, however, was that the reviews of The Visitors now freely included references to "[The] Beatles' psychedelic harmonies, moods and textures", "George Harrison's beguiling eastern charms", and "Steven Sondheim's dark melodies". It reflected further shifting of critical attitudes towards the essence of ABBA's music.

Album cover[edit]

The studio of Julius Kronberg at Skansen in Stockholm.

Rune Söderqvist designed the cover and photographed the group in a room containing Julius Kronberg's painting of Eros. The room is the Atelje Studio in Skansen Park, Stockholm. The group are positioned apart and appear to be waiting solemnly in the shadows.[10][11]

Track listing[12][edit]

All songs written and composed by Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus.

Side One
No. Title Length
1. "The Visitors"   5:49
2. "Head over Heels"   3:45
3. "When All Is Said and Done"   3:20
4. "Soldiers"   4:38
Side Two
No. Title Length
1. "I Let the Music Speak"   5:20
2. "One of Us"   3:55
3. "Two for the Price of One"   3:36
4. "Slipping Through My Fingers"   3:51
5. "Like an Angel Passing Through My Room"   3:25
B sides
No. Title Length
6. "Should I Laugh or Cry"   4:29
Total length:
42:06

"Should I Laugh or Cry" was recorded on 4 September 1981 for The Visitors, but was ultimately not included on the album. It was, however, released as the B-side for the singles "One of Us" and "When All Is Said and Done".

CD version[edit]

No. Title Length
1. "The Visitors (Crackin' Up)"   5:49
2. "Head over Heels"   3:45
3. "When All Is Said and Done"   3:20
4. "Soldiers"   4:38
5. "I Let the Music Speak"   5:20
6. "One of Us"   3:55
7. "Two for the Price of One"   3:36
8. "Slipping Through My Fingers"   3:51
9. "Like an Angel Passing Through My Room"   3:25
10. "Should I Laugh or Cry"   4:29
Total length:
42:06

CD re-issues, bonus tracks[edit]

The Visitors album was remastered in 1997 and released with four bonus tracks:

  1. "Should I Laugh or Cry"
  2. "The Day Before You Came"
  3. "Under Attack"
  4. "You Owe Me One"
    • B-side to "Under Attack" single

In 2001, a new remastered edition with four different bonus tracks:

  1. "Should I Laugh or Cry"
  2. "The Day Before You Came"
  3. "Under Attack"
  4. "Cassandra"
    • B-side to "The Day Before You Came" single

In 2005, a third remastered version of The Complete Studio Recordings box set, with bonus tracks

  1. "Should I Laugh or Cry"
    • Version with a brief count-in
  2. "No hay a quien culpar"
  3. "Se me está escapando"
  4. "The Day Before You Came",
  5. "Cassandra"
  6. "Under Attack"
  7. "You Owe Me One"

The Visitors was reissued once again in 2008 as part of the The Albums box set but without any bonus tracks.

The Visitors Deluxe Edition was released on 23 April 2012. As with previous releases in the Deluxe Edition series, this version of ABBA’s final album offered a DVD of archive material along with CD bonus tracks – including the demo medley ‘From A Twinkling Star To A Passing Angel’, the first previously unreleased ABBA recordings since 1994.[13]

The Visitors - Deluxe Edition (CD + DVD) [2012]
All songs written and composed by Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus.

DISC 01: CD
No. Title Length
1. "The Visitors (Crackin' Up)"    
2. "Head over Heels" (Alternate Mix)  
3. "When All Is Said and Done"    
4. "Soldiers"    
5. "I Let The Music Speak"    
6. "One of Us"    
7. "Two For the Price of One"    
8. "Slipping Through My Fingers"    
9. "Like An Angel Passing Through My Room"    
Bonus Tracks:
No. Title Length
10. "Should I Laugh Or Cry" (Version with a brief count-in)  
11. "I Am the City"    
12. "You Owe Me One"    
13. "Cassandra"    
14. "Under Attack"    
15. "The Day Before You Came"    
Extra Bonus Track:
No. Title Length
16. "From a Twinkling Star to a Passing Angel" (Demos)  
DISC 02: DVD
No. Title Length
1. "Two for the Price of One" (Dick Cavett Meets ABBA)  
2. "Slipping Through My Fingers" (Dick Cavett Meets ABBA)  
3. "When All Is Said and Done" (Original Promo Clip)  
4. "ABBA in London, November 1982" (The Late Breakfast Show, BBC)  
5. "ABBA in Stockholm, November 1982" (Nöjesmaskinen, SVT)  
6. "The Visitors" (TV Commercial I, UK)  
7. "The Visitors" (TV Commerical II, Australia)  
8. "The Singles: The First Ten Years" (TV Commerical I, UK)  
9. "The Singles: The First Ten Years" (TV Commerical II, Australia)  
10. "International Sleeve Gallery"    


Songs 1–10, 16 digitally recorded and mixed 16 March – 14 November 1981 at Polar Music Studios, Stockholm, Sweden.
Songs 11–15 digitally recorded and mixed 3 May – 26 August 1982 at Polar Music Studios, Stockholm, Sweden; scheduled for ninth studio album, which was ultimately not completed.

Reviews of 2012 deluxe edition

Pitchfork Media gave it a 8.6 grade, saying "even as the band's commercial star faded and its professional relationships quietly unravelled, they were perfectionists. ABBA's music on The Visitors is more pristine and ambitious than it had ever been, its themes darker, its personal politics more tangled."[14]

The Arts Desk: "The Visitors is not their best, but it is their most interesting [album], pointing to where Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson would go next."[15]

Singles[edit]

  1. "One of Us"/"Should I Laugh or Cry" (December 1981)
  2. "When All is Said and Done"/"Soldiers" (December 1981)
  3. "Head over Heels"/"The Visitors" (February 1982)
  4. "The Visitors" (single edit)/"Head Over Heels" (March 1982)

Personnel[edit]

ABBA

Additional personnel

  • Ola Brunkert – drums
  • Rutger Gunnarsson – bass, mandolin
  • Janne Kling – flute and clarinet
  • Per Lindvall – drums (on "Soldiers" and "The Visitors")
  • Åke Sundqvist – percussion
  • Lasse Wellander – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin

Production[edit]

  • Producers: Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus
  • Arrangers: Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus
  • Engineer: Michael B. Tretow
  • Design: Rune Söderqvist
  • Remastered for the 1997 Remasters by Jon Astley and Tim Young with Michael B. Tretow
  • Remastered for the 2001 Remasters by Jon Astley with Michael B. Tretow
  • Remastered for the 2005 Complete Studio Recordings Box Set by Henrik Jonsson

Non album tracks[edit]

  • "Hovas vittne"

A song sung in Swedish, recorded as a tribute to Stig Anderson's 50th birthday in 1981, and released on a limited number of singles for the guests attending the party only. The title is a play on words; Hova is the small village in Västergötland in which Anderson was born, and Vittne is a reference to Jehovah's Witnesses. The song includes a four bar passage that was later used in the Chess musical ouverture "Merano". "Tivedshambo" is an instrumental recording of Stig Anderson's first published song, recorded in 1981. It is the B-side of "Hovas vittne".

  • "When All Is Said and Done" (Demo version and various mixes)

An instrumental track recorded in 1981 with a different bridge. A version with vocals featured a more emotional repetition of the first verse after the third, making the track 4:20 instead of 3:15. When the video was released in 1981 it featured another alternate version with a different ending.

  • "Nationalsång"

An instrumental track that later was used in "Anthem" from the musical Chess. The song is well known as "Opus 10" among ABBA fans due a misunderstanding made by a journalist.

  • "I Am a Musician"

An instrumental demo track recorded in 1981. Later the song was included in the musical ABBAcadabra and recorded by B. A. Robertson with the slightly altered title '(I Am) The Seeker'. The melody to the chorus was later used by Benny Andersson in the song 'Upp Till Dig' from his 2007 album, BAO 3.

  • "Fanfare for Icehockey World Championships '81"

A short instrumental track written for the Ice Hockey World Championship hosted by Sweden in 1981. Used as the jingle/opening theme for the television special Dick Cavett Meets ABBA aired later in 1981.

  • "Two for the Price of One" (Early demo version)

This early version has slightly different lyrics, and is sung from a first person perspective (I have what you might call a simple occupation/I clean the toilets of the local railway station/With no romance in my life/Sometimes I wish I had a knife).[40][42]

  • "Givin’ a Little Bit More" is a demo recorded in 1981 with lead vocals by Ulvaeus. On this song they didn't make a drummer play, but used a Linn LM-1 drum machine. An excerpt of this track was released in the box set Thank You for the Music.
  • "An Angel's Passing Through My Room" is an early demo version of "Like an Angel Passing Through My Room" with both Frida and Agnetha on lead vocals. The track was at some point arranged and mixed in the disco-style of "Lay All Your Love On Me" and later heavily reworked. An excerpt from the track was released as a part of the demo-medley "From a Twinkling Star to a Passing Angel" (from the Deluxe Edition released in 2012).
  • "Another Morning Without You"

Another early demo version of "Like an Angel Passing Through My Room". The song had an operatic feel to it, with shared lead vocals by Agnetha & Frida. Also, the song had a full backing band instead of the synth only backing that eventually became "Like an Angel Passing Through My Room". An excerpt from the track was released as a part of the demo-medley "From a Twinkling Star to a Passing Angel" (from the Deluxe Edition released in 2012).

Charts[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Visitors". Allmusic. Retrieved 8 January 2012. 
  2. ^ Pitchfork Media review
  3. ^ allmusic ((( The Visitors > Overview )))
  4. ^ "Philips celebrates 25th anniversary of the Compact Disc". Newscenter.philips.com. 16 August 2007. Retrieved 8 January 2012. 
  5. ^ ABBA – The Official Site
  6. ^ Magnus Palm, C: "ABBA The Complete Recording sessions", page 106. Century 22 Ltd, 1994
  7. ^ Magnus Palm, C: "ABBA The Complete Recording sessions", page 109. Century 22 Ltd, 1994
  8. ^ Magnus Palm, C: "Bright Lights, Dark shadows", page 444. Omnibus Press, 2001
  9. ^ Magnus Palm, C: "Bright Lights, Dark shadows", page 446. Omnibus Press, 2001
  10. ^ Magnus Palm, C: "Bright Lights, Dark shadows", page 445. Omnibus Press, 2001
  11. ^ 1981 ABBA-THE VISITORS
  12. ^ http://www.abbasite.com/discography/album/the-visitors/
  13. ^ ABBA – The Official Site
  14. ^ ABBA The Visitors [Deluxe Edition]
  15. ^ Reissue CDs Weekly: Carole King, Abba, Sheena Easton
  16. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  17. ^ a b "austriancharts.at ABBA - The Visitors" (ASP). Hung Medien (in German). Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  18. ^ "RPM: Top Albums/CDs". RPM Canada. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  19. ^ a b "dutchcharts.nl ABBA - The Visitors" (ASP). Hung Medien (in Dutch). MegaCharts. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  20. ^ "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste : ABBA". infodisc.fr. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  21. ^ a b "Hit Parade Italia - Gli album più venduti del 1982" (in Italian). hitparadeitalia.it. Retrieved March 1, 2013. 
  22. ^ a b Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970-2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9. 
  23. ^ "charts.org.nz ABBA - The Visitors" (ASP). Hung Medien. Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  24. ^ "norwegiancharts.com ABBA - The Visitors" (ASP). Hung Medien. VG-lista. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  25. ^ a b "swedishcharts.com ABBA - The Visitors" (ASP). Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  26. ^ "Number 1 Albums – 1980s". Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on February 9, 2008. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  27. ^ "allmusic ((( The Visitors > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". allmusic.com. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  28. ^ a b "Album Search: ABBA - The Visitors" (in German). Media Control. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  29. ^ "ultratop.be Scatman John – ABBA – The Visitors" (ASP). Hung Medien (in Dutch). Ultratop. Retrieved March 12, 2013. 
  30. ^ "ABBA – The Visitors – hitparade.ch" (ASP). Hung Medien (in German). Swiss Music Charts. Retrieved March 12, 2013. 
  31. ^ "Chart Stats – ABBA – The Visitors" (PHP). UK Albums Chart. Retrieved February 20, 2013. 
  32. ^ a b "Complete UK Year-End Album Charts". Retrieved 2012-01-10. 
  33. ^ "Les Albums (CD) de 1982 par InfoDisc" (PHP) (in French). infodisc.fr. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  34. ^ "Top 100 Albums '82". RPM. 25 December 1982. Retrieved 2012-01-29. 
  35. ^ "Austriancharts.st - Jahreshitparade 1982" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  36. ^ a b The first web page presents the sales figures, the second presents the certification limits:
  37. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (ABBA; 'The Visitors')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  38. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
  39. ^ "British album certifications – ABBA – The Visitors". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 3 March 2013.  Enter The Visitors in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Click Go

External links[edit]