IT’D BE REAL easy to make fun of this one. But think about it: It was ABBA, after all, that most successfully turned postrock pop into an Old World proposition, roping in ancient melodies not just from its native Scandinavia but from Spain’s bullfight rings and Germany’s Oktoberfests and Italy’s organ-grinder conventions.
And the Munich Philharmonic seems aware of this: The orchestra ignores ABBA’s ragtime, countrypolitan and heavy-rock moves and goes straight for the real Euroschlock. Lacking a singer, it lets a violin do Agnetha’s high parts and a cello do Anni-Frid’s low parts — a noble idea. The rhythm section’s got more fizz than Nirvana’s, thanks to Peter Sadlo’s timpani and perhaps a synth wizard the orchestra doesn’t want us to know about.
Dancey flamenco landmarks like ‘Fernando’ and ‘Chiquitita’ and cabaret junkets like ‘Money, Money, Money’ work best, and ‘S.O.S.’ is still fairly suicidal — a real Wagnerian Black Forest bummer. But the ballads come off less pretty than Muzak, and bubblegum rockers like ‘Waterloo’ (with a bassoon doing the singing!) make no sense at all. ‘Voulez-Vous’ (very Gothic cha-cha, that one) should’ve been done instead.
The inevitable follow-up, The Munich Philharmonic Orchestra Plays Boney M Classic, might be worth waiting for.
© Chuck Eddy, Rolling Stone, 16 April 1992