Entertainment :: Music

ABBA for Orchestra

by Steven Bergman
Contributor
Wednesday Jul 2, 2014
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Over the past 30 years, several conductor / composer have attempted to bridge the gap between classical arrangements and popular music. The "Hooked On Classics" series under Louis Clark and the various thematic records under Lorin Maazel led the way during the 1970s and 1980s, and now "ABBA for Orchestra" represents the third collection under the baton of Carl Davis, following his instrumental tributes to The Beatles and James Bond.

Davis has culled 16 songs from the Swedish supergroup, and taken us back to the years 1974-1982, when the quartet frequently topped the charts with their blend of tight harmonies and pop-infused background tracks. After that period of hits the band split up, but has remained in the public consciousness thanks to the musical "Chess," written by the two lead writers for the group, Benny Andersson and Bjrn Ulvaeus, and the Broadway / film sensation "Mamma Mia." Now Davis seeks to capitalize on the bands’ success with generic takes on these songs, several of which are plucked from the obscurity of the group’s catalogue, and for good reason.

Some of the more predictable tunes included here are "Dancing Queen," "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)," "Fernando" and "Waterloo." Then Davis takes several songs that are mellow ballads to start, and by taking away their vocals turns them into Muzak variations that need not be purchased. These include the schmaltzy, "Voulez-Vous," and the literal sleeper, "I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do." There were reasons these tunes weren’t among the more engaging in the ABBA song list, and Davis’ arrangements can’t save them.

Several omissions from this album make us miss the potential this album may have yielded. Without "Knowing Me, Knowing You," "S.O.S.," and "Take a Chance On Me," three uptempo selections that would have complemented songs such as "Mamma Mia" and "Waterloo," we never hear more than four minutes of musical encouragement before sinking into the maudlin.

Clearly, the 78-year old Davis dedicated the time into the construction of this record. However, this 24th selection in the "Carl Davis Collection" doesn’t give us much ABBA to either dance or reminiscence.


"ABBA for Orchestra
Carl Davis
CD and digital formats
Threefold Records

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

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