Agnetha Faltskog


Band members                             Related acts

  line up

- Agnetha Faltskog -- vocals

 

  supporting musicians (1987)

- David Boruff -- sax

- Robbie Buchanan -- percussion, synthesizers

- Pete Cetera -- backing vocals

- Kenny Cetera -- backing vocals

- Paulinbo Da Costa -- percussion

- Bruce Gaitsch -- guitar

- Linda Harmon -- backing vocals

- Darlene Koldenhoven -- backing vocals

- Tommy Morgan -- harmonica

- John Robinson -- drums

- Randy Waldman -- synthesizers

 

  supporting musicians (2013)

- Gary Barlow -- vocals

- Jorgen Elofsson -- backing vocals

- Jesper Jacobson – keyboards, guitars

- Janet Leon -- backing vocals

- Per Lindvall -- drums, percussion

- Max Lorentz -- organ

- Myrra Malmberg -- backing vocals

- Peter Nordahl -- piano

- Gordon Norden -- bass, guitar

- Jeanette Ohlsson -- backing vocals

- Stefan Ohlsson – guitars

- Simon Petrén – keyboards

- Niklas Sunden – accordion

- Fredrik Thomander – keyboards, guitars, backing vocals

- Mathias Torell -- guitar

- Linda Ulvaeus -- backing vocals

- Per Wästerlund – keyboards, synthesizers

 

 

 

- ABBA

 

 

 


 

Genre: pop

Rating: 2 stars **

Title:  I Stand Alone

Company: Atlantic

Catalog: 81820-1
Year:
 1988

Country/State: Stockholm, Sweden

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: promo stamp on cover; cutout notch on edge original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1722

Price: $15.00

 

I can remember hearing Agnetha Faltstkog was going to team up with Chicago's Pete Cetera for her third album and wondering why.   All I've ever been able to figure out is she must have been a fan of Cetera's seemingly never-ending string of heartbreaking hit ballad.  Never happy to travel, the fact Faltskog had to relocate to Los Angeles to record her third English language album probably didn't bode well for the project.   Faltskog fans will probably send death threats, but to my ears the two principles simply didn't seem to generate much in-studio energy.

 

Released in 1987, "I Stand Alone" was co-produced by Cetera and Bruce Gaitsch (who subsequently seemingly earned the ever-lasting score on Faltskog fans for breaking off a relationship with the singer and having the gall to talk about it to the press).  So here's the good news about the album. Faltskog's voice remained an amazing instrument, even when she was burdened with crappy material.  She looked amazingly cute in her new-wave haircut.  The album sold well throughout the world (including hitting # 72 on the US charts).  The bad news was the album wasn't particularly impressive.  Even though Faltskog had written a lot of her own pre-ABBA material, once again she relied completely on outside material.  That gave Cetera free reign to basically bury her in a seemingly never ending string of  heart breaking ballads.  A good tear jerker has never hurt anyone, but surrounding Faltskog with so many of them ('I Wasn't the One (Who Said Goodbye)', 'Maybe It was Magic', 'Let It Shine', and 'If You Need Somebody Tonight '), didn't do her any favors.  Even when given a chance to stretch out with an up-tempo number, the results weren't particularly impressive.  Her cover of Bucks Fizz' 'Love In a World Gone Mad' was simply plodding and dull.  Adding to the problem, Cetera and Gaitsch insisted on surrounding Faltskog with what was then a cutting-edge '80s sound complete with lots of synthesizers.  To say the album now sounds dated is a gross understatement.   

 

Any other singer and I would have probably given this one two stars, but there's something special about Faltskog so I'll give her an extra star for the cute haircut.

 

"I Stand Alone" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) The Last Time   (Robin Randall - Judithe Randall - Jeff Law) - 4:12

Yeah, it was tapped as a single throughout Europe, but 'The Last Time' was a fairly anonymous mid-tempo ballad burdened by one of those synthesizer-heavy '80s arrangements that hasn't aged particularly well.   The first couple of times the tune did absolutely nothing for me, but compared to the wave of heartbreak ballads scattered throughout the rest of the album, this one started to sound better and better over time.   Easy to see why it was tapped as a single:

- 1987's 'The Last Time' b/w 'Are You Gonna Throw It All Away' (WEA catalog number 248 136-7YouTube has the promotional video clip at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TldM9RsAa88    rating: *** stars

2.) Little White Secrets  (Ellen Schwartz - Roger Bruno - Susan Pomerantz) - 4:04

One of the problems with her voice is on slow material that she wasn't particularly comfortable with her accent came screaming through.   Yeah it was nice to see her taking on a breezy pop tune, but even Cetera's backing vocals couldn't save this one.  The tune was tapped as a German promotional single:

- 1987's 'Little White Secrets' b/w 'Let It Shine' (WEA catalog number AF 1)  rating: ** stars

3.) I Wasn't the One (Who Said Goodbye)   (Mark Mueller - Aaron Zigman) - 4:10

'I Wasn't the One (Who Said Goodbye)' was a duet with Cetera and to my ears sounded more like a Chicago tune that a Faltskog solo performance.   That said, it sounded like a good Chicago ballad with that heartbreak component that Cetera specialized in (even though he didn't pen the tune).   The song was tapped as another single:

- 1987's 'I Wasn't the One (Who Said Goodbye)' b/w 'If You Need Somebody Tonight' (Atlantic catalog number 7-89145)

YouTube has the promotional video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4ckLLSgkvs     rating:*** stars

4.) Love In a World Gone Mad   (Bob Livesey - Pete Sinfield) - 4:08

Nice to hear her taking a break from the heartbreak ballads, but her cover of this Bucks Fizz tune wasn't all that impressive.  In fact, I'd argue the original was far better.   rating: ** stars.  

5.) Maybe It was Magic   (Pete Brown - Pat Hurley) - 4:07

Yes, her  voice remained magnificent and I guess you couldn't blame Cetera and company from wanting to throw one ABBA-styled number on the album.   Sadly 'Maybe It was Magic'  came off as a third-tier slice of melancholic dribble  YouTube has a clip of her lip-synching the tune on some TV show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnduwojodfE     rating: ** stars.

 

(side 2)
1.)  Let It Shine   (Austin Roberts - Bill LaBounty - Beckie Foster) - 3:58

'Let It Shine' was a perfect example of what was wrong with the album.  In spite of the dated arrangement, the tune started out well enough.  Nice melody and Faltskog sounded good, but when the chorus kicked in she was all but drown out by the backing singers and simply never recovered.   The tune was tapped as another single:

- 1987's 'Let It Shine' b/w 'Maybe It Was Magic' (Atlantic catalog number)   Here's the promotional video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mX3cIKrSrNo  rating: ** stars

2.) We Got a Way  (John Robinson - Franne Golde - Martin Walsh) - 3:50

Surprising that this one wasn't tapped as a single - not that it was a particularly good song, but at least 'We Got a Way' wasn't another drab ballad.  Hum, kind of a Pat Benetar vibe going on here.    rating: *** stars

3.) I Stand Alone   (Pete Cetera - Bruce Gaitsch) - 4:48

Curiously the only tune Cetera wrote for the album, the title track was a patented Cetera ballad.  Complete with punchy horns, it could have easily been released as a Chicago single. Again, not a great tune, but better than most of the other tracks.  YouTube as a clip of her lip synching the tune on television: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIUM9o_Z_2Q    rating: *** stars

4.) Are You Gonna Throw It All Away   (Diane Warren - Albert Hammond) - 4:52

Turning to Diane Warren and Albert Hammond for material tends to be a sign of artistic desperation.  Interestingly, 'Are You Gonna Throw It All Away' wasn't half bad.   Yeah, it was way too sappy and David Boruff's cocktail jazz sax solo didn't really help.   That said, this was one where Faltskog's voice managed to rescue the song.   rating: *** stars

5) If You Need Somebody Tonight   (Diane Warren - Albert Hammond) - 3:32

As if one Warren-Hammond tune wasn't enough, Cetera pressed his luck by ending the album with another one. Unfortunately 'If You Need Somebody Tonight' didn't turn out as well.  A big, overblown, patented Warren ballad, the tune was clearly meant to tug at ABBA fan heartstrings, but came across as plodding and sappy.  Give the woman a break.  rating: ** stars

 

Atlantic clearly hoped for a mega seller, but Faltskog's unwillingness to tour behind the album and her reluctance to even do interviews in support of the collection limited overall sales.  None of the singles proved a massive seller.   The album also ended up being the last set she would record for 17 years.

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: pop

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  A

Company: Atlantic

Catalog: 81820-1
Year:
 2013

Country/State: Stockholm, Sweden

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: promo stamp on cover; cutout notch on edge original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1722

Price: $15.00

 

I guess the fact it only took me two years to discover this album existed  served to show that I'm not a mega ABBA fan and also underscored the fact that I'm nowhere near as plugged into the music scene as I thought - big surprise for a guy in his mid-'50s.  Of course judging by the set's lack of  domestic publicity, and the fact the album is surprisingly difficult to find in the States,  I apparently wasn't the only person to miss it.

 

2013's "A" marked Agnetha Faltskog's first collection of new material in 23 years.  From what I've read, the set had a surprising "birth".  Faltskog apparently had no intention of recording anything after the release of 2004's "My Colouring Book".  She'd effectively retired from music, focusing on her personal life, when songwriters/producers Jörgen Elofsson and Peter Nordahl got a series of three demos into her hands through an intermediary. Faltskog's been quoted as saying the songs were so good she couldn't turn down the opportunity to record them.   That in turn led to the sessions resulting in 2014's "A".  Yes, in case you were wondering, the title was a nod to her former band ... 

 

So what to make of the album ?   Well, it's good.  It's very good.  Not prefect, but perhaps the best post-ABBA set any of the former members have released.  In his role as producer and chief songwriter Elofsson brought the right mixture of ABBA fan and Faltskog advocate to the sessions.   The result was an album that managed to underscore Falskog's frequently overlooked vocal skills, surrounding her with a nice contemporary feel, while incorporating an occasional nod to the things that made ABBA such a special band.  As for Faltskog, if anything, after the long break her voice sounded stronger than evher delivery crisper than ever, her accent less prominent.  To my ears, these were simply some of the best things she's ever recorded.  You had to smile when you learned she'd hired a vocal coach to get back into shape.  So where to start in terms of the highlights?  'The One Who Loves You Now' opened the album with a shimmering ballad that was probably the album's most ABBA-esque release. The ballad 'Past Forever' also had an ABBA, though it wasn't nearly as good.  'When You Really Loved Someone' was a stunning ballad than showcased Faltskog's gift for channeling heartbreak without getting  morose and gets my nod for the album's best performance.   You had to wonder how it was missed by radio and the buying public.  Almost as good was 'I Should've Followed You Home' - an up-tempo collaboration with Take That front man/singer Gary Barlow.  The dance track 'Dance Your Pain Away' was reportedly included as a nod to ABBA's large community of gay fans and with it's nod to 'Voluez Vous' it was another highlight.  You wish the album had dropped a couple of ballads in favor of a couple of more up-tempo numbers.   Still, a wonderful return to form. and you can only hope she doesn't wait another decade to release a follow-on.

 

 

"I Stand Alone" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) The One Who Loves You Now  (Jörgen Elofsson - Pär Westerlund) - 3:30

If there was a song that bore a resemblance to the ABBA catalog, then it was probably the lush ballad 'The One Who Loves You Now'.  Yes, in this case that was a good thing.  This one was released as a single in Germany.   rating: **** stars

2-) When You Really Loved Someone   (Jörgen Elofsson) - 3:31

My pick for the album's stand out performance, 'When You Really Loved Someone' had everything going for it -  one of those heartbreak lyrics the she excelled at, goofy '70s  synthesizer burps, an insidiously catchy chorus (months later the damn thing keeps creeping into my head), and one of the finest vocals she'd ever turned in.  For some reason, this one's always reminded me a bit of a Jackie DeShannon tune.   Hard to imagine Faltskog was in her mid-'60s.  God willing we should all age as well.  The tune was released as the leadoff CD single. YouTube has the promotional clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w95WdpE6QAI    rating: ***** stars

3-) Perfume In the Breeze   (Jörgen Elofsson - Fredrik Thomunder) - 3:31

About all i can say is 'Perfume In the Breeze' was one of the album's sleepers ...  The brief autotune segment was a mistake, but the chorus drilled into your head and would not leave.   rating: *** stars
4.) I Was a Flower  (Jörgen Elofsson) - 4:08

The first disappointment  'I Was a Flower' was an overly sappy ballad  with some truly dark lyrics.   rating: *** stars

5-) I Should've Followed You Home   (Jörgen Elofsson - Gary Barlow) - 4:04

I have to admit I didn't have a clue who Gary Barlow was and when I saw the live clip from 2013's Children In Need Rocks benefit concert I was a little under whelmed.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jQF2VUghIw&list=RD1jQF2VUghIw   That said, 'I Should've Followed You Home'  was actually quite catchy.   Their voices didn't blend particularly well; perhaps explained by the fact the two recorded their parts separately, and the young man/older woman set up was a bit strange, but the song's nice melody and Agnetha''s crisp vocals ultimately won be over.   YouTube has the promotional video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1i-U25tts-s   rating: **** stars

 

(side 2)

1.) Past Forever   (Jörgen Elofsson - Carole Bayer-Sager) - 3:30

I'm lukewarm on 'Past Forever'.  Faltskog's vocal was wonderful and the chorus was nice, but the overall song was hit, or miss.  The accordeon gave it a mild ABBA-esque feel.  rating: *** stars
2-) Dance Your Pain Away 

Seriously, try to convince someone this wasn't inspired at least by 'Voulez Vous' .... do I detect a little but of that song's guitar line in here ?    And here's the funny thing, if the thought of Faltskog singing a dance tune seemed a little strange, she somehow managed to pull it off with considerable verve.  I'm at a loss to explain why this one was such a blast, but it was one of the album highlights.  YouTube has the promo video for the song at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBboaz9Jgqo   rating: **** stars
3-) Bubble
   (Jörgen Elofsson) - 4:21

The first outright misstep, 'Bubble' was a plodding, over-orchestrated ballad.  rating: ** stars

4.) Back On Your Radio    (Jörgen Elofsson) - 3:43

Perhaps it had something to do with the auto-tuning touches, but for some reason 'Back On the Radio' has always reminded me of a Corrs tune.  That wasn't necessarily a bad thing, since 'Back On Your Radio' had a nice, breezy, '70s vibe.  In spite of the auto-tuning, Faltskog sound quite good.   rating: **** stars

5-) I Keep Them on the Floor Beside My Bed  (Agnetha Faltskog - Jörgen Elofsson ) - 4:06

Hum, her first original composition in thirty years - kudos to her.   Even more impressive when you consider Faltskog's never felt particularly comfortable with her English.   Pretty pinao-powered ballad with some nice multi-tracked vocals.  rating: *** stars.  

 

 


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