One of the world's most famous voices, although her name may not be familiar. It's hard to imagine anyone alive who hasn't heard Agnetha Faltskog singing lead on "Dancing Queen" and most of the other 20 ABBA hits from 1974-82. After a long hiatus, she returns with "My Colouring Book," her first solo album in 17 years, a collection of cover songs that influenced her as a child.
"The early impressions in life are etched with a particular strength and clarity. This applies especially to music," she says in the liner notes. "This is a soundtrack of a time lost to which I return to with the mighty forces of music."
The first single, "If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind," is sentimental and reflective with a 1960's aesthetic, which pervades the album. Although this track works much better as a dance re-mix. The second single, "When You Walk In The Room," is the only uptempo song on the disc and is a welcomed break from the overall melancholy mood.
The most interesting selection is "Past, Present and Future," a dark, eerie recitation that's so ominous you fear she'll throw herself off a bridge before the final verse. Her subdued vocals also work well on the Skeeter Davis classic, "The End Of The World," although she doesn't come close to capturing the heartache of the original.
The overall message seems to be: 'Don't touch me. I'm still healing from the ABBA experience.' If she would write some of her own songs, we might gain some insight into her sadness; but covers don't allow much revelation.
Faltskog produced and arranged the album herself, and that's part of the problem. An outside producer could have brought some fresh ideas to revive these lame productions, but she deliberately made a personal album with no thought to demographics or commercial viability. By default, the target audience seems to be aging ABBA fans; but even the most ardent of the devoted will find this collection a little too dreary. Without ABBA's infectious melodies, sugary lyrics and sophisticated productions, Faltskog just isn't very interesting. She doesn't seem to realize that it often takes a collaborative team to make relevant recordings, even for the most talented.
Maybe the fundamental problem is that we think of her as the impossibly blonde "Dancing Queen" and we don't want to think of her as a sad 54-year-old. That ruins our fantasy of her and the cheery ABBA years. Sure, she is entitled to a life after ABBA; but after achieving phenomenal global success, she has to expect a bit of typecasting.
For Agnetha fans only. A curiosity at best.
Writer: Dominic Darrah