Refreshing, relaxing, and simply beautiful.

Benny ANDERSSON, Piano – DG 479 8143, 76:47 [Distr. by Universal] *****:

Anyone who remembers or who is a fan of the pop rock group ABBA from the late 1970s will no doubt have heard, seen, or know who Benny Andersson is. The phenomenal success of the Swedish “fab four” as they were called then, is now legendary, with nearly 400 million records sold worldwide since then. This makes them third in line among the all-time best selling popular bands, just behind the Beatles and Elvis Presley. Though many were critical of them over the years, particularly some very famous rock musicians whose total lifetime sales didn’t add up to a tenth of ABBA’s earnings, the music endured, and successive generations have fallen in love with it.

The group itself, two married couples (Agnetha Fältskog and Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad) put a roadblock on their good times when both divorced in the early eighties, though the band stuck together for a few more years. Since then, the women hit some hard times, especially the most popular, Agnetha, whose life seems one tragedy after another, not the least of which she seems to be the poorest—at around four million pounds according to sources. Andersson on the other hand, is a loaded legend in Sweden, a remarkably talented composer who now assumes senior statemen status in his home country.

So how did a popular composer get hitched onto the historical classical giant yellow label? They probably heard what I hear, miniature reflections of exquisite nuance and beauty based on a lifetime of composing. And these tunes! Never ending, stylistically varied (even Andersson’s ABBA music spanned a gamut of styles), and catchy as hell, few piano albums have given me as much pleasure as this one. The range is from all periods of Andersson’s career (I think only seven are ABBA songs, and not the most noted ones). This is not complicated stuff, but very well thought out and creatively measured. Andersson himself, never a slouch pianistically, has a lovely, soft touch on the ivories, and simply conveys to his audience the essence of his art, which is considerable. DG captures the piano realistically with no harshness at all.

Do try this—you will be pleasantly surprised, an hour well spent and very soothing. And those darned tunes won’t leave you!

 

Benny Andersson, By Nicho Södling

Tracklist:
1. I Let The Music Speak
2. You And I
3. Aldrig
4. Thank You For The Music
5. Stockholm By Night
6. Chess
7. The Day Before You Came
8. Someone Else’s Story
9. Midnattsdans
10. Målarskolan
11. I Wonder (Departure)
12. Embassy Lament
13. Anthem
14. My Love, My Life
15. Mountain Duet
16. Flickornas Rum
17. Efter Regnet
18. Tröstevisa
19. En Skrift I Snön
20. Happy New Year
21. I Gott Bevar

—Steven Ritter