Reviews of two ’70s hitmakers’ new CD anthologies
Revisionists would have you believe that ABBA was a killer pop band with a gift for constructing three-minute gems on a par with, oh, the Beatles’. From a commercial standpoint, the comparison holds up: The Swedish quartet sold truckloads of records in its ’70s heyday. But in spite of a handful of hooky puffball hits (”Dancing Queen,” ”S.O.S.,” ”Knowing Me, Knowing You”), ABBA was largely a novelty act with one foot in cabaret. Gold — Greatest Hits makes clear that the group’s well-crafted white-bread pop crossed over into pap much too often for comfort. If you’re too young to remember this stuff, don’t worry; you can hear all the ABBA you need in any elevator.
Another ’70s icon, Donna Summer, is best remembered as the Queen of Disco. But that’s only half the story: Summer’s oeuvre is far more diverse than is commonly acknowledged, as The Donna Summer Anthology‘s perhaps overly generous sampling (two CDs’ worth) of her peaks proves. Packed with great pop-rock-techno hybrids (mostly crafted by Summer’s Svengali-producer, Giorgio Moroder), the collection mostly sounds surprisingly up-to-the-minute. If you ever proclaimed ”Disco sucks,” suck on this and you may change your mind. ABBA: C+; Summer: A-