SUPER TROUPER > AUDIOPHILE
Major CD Editions: Polydor 1983 (800 023-2)*, Atlantic 1985? (16023-2) Polydor 1997 (533 979-2)**, Polar 2001 (549 956-2/964-2), Polar 2005 (Part of CSR boxset)
* Polar 1983 (POLCD322) is a clone of this disc. Other local Polydor
pre-1997 editions should also be clones.
** 1999 US Polydor is a clone of this disc.
Following on from the release of The Visitors on CD in 1982, Super Trouper and Greatest Hits Volume 2 debuted on the format in 1983, starting PolyGram and Polar's policy of issuing the Abba back catalogue on the new format in reverse order.
When assessing the various CD versions of Super Trouper, it is important to note that there have been several different master tapes have been used at different times to produce them.
The most striking variation is that some versions are missing the segue between Lay All Your Love On Me and The Way All Friends Do, which was present on original vinyl versions of the album.
Another variation, which isn't due to differing tapes, is that the first note of The Winner Takes It All (TWTIA) is off key on some remasters.
And, finally, some masterings artifically brightened the intro to On and On and On so it better matched the rest of the song. On the original vinyl and other masterings, the first notes of the song are dull with the full frequency range only kicking in with the drums.
Anyway, the inital CD version of Super Trouper (as with The Visitors) was produced with minimal input from Polar. Indeed, PolyGram actually blanked out a particularly problematic piece of text on the back sleeve with a black box when adapting the artwork for CD rather than request a clean copy from Polar.
At this stage, the rush to issue albums on CD hadn't really begun and, as the format was still in its infancy, it is likely that a reasonable amount of effort was put into PolyGram's CD version.
Although Super Trouper was recorded on analogue tape, which gets slightly noiser with each successive copy, the copy used by PolyGram is crisp and clear, if a slightly bass heavy in places.
Remastering didn't exist in 1983 in its current form (or indeed any form) so the CD is a straightforward reproduction of the contents of PolyGram's tapes.
As a result, it has the segue, the right key for the first note of TWTIA and a dull intro to On and On and On. The only glitch is a very noticable drop-out towards the end of the title track.
Atlantic also belatedly issued their own version of Super Trouper at some unknown date in the mid-1980s. Analysis of the CD printing by collectors suggests that it couldn't have been issued before 1984 and it is believed to have been deleted by 1987.
Anyway, like Atlantic's issue of Greatest Hits Vol 2, Atlantic opted to use PolyGram's source tapes instead of shipping its own from America.
The one sonic difference with the resulting CD is that it doesn't feature the dropout in Super Trouper.
The PolyGram version remained in print worldwide until 1997 when the album was remastered by Jon Astley and Michael B Tretow at Abbey Road Studios in London.
Unfortunately, it is far from clear what tapes Astley used when remastering Super Trouper. All the publicity photos taken from the time of the remastering seem to show that copies of the album master tapes were used, with Polar single masters used for non-album tracks.
But, Astley's remaster of Super Trouper contains two songs that clearly cannot have come from either of these sources: Lay All Your Love On Me and The Way Old Friends Do do not segue as they would do on the album master.
It appears that Astley may have used original mixdown tapes for these two tracks, which would have resulted in a marginal improvement in sound quality as unlike the other tapes used in the remasters, (i) they wouldn't have been Eq-ed for vinyl release and (ii) they would have slightly less noise.
That said, it's very strange then that Astley didn't crossfade the two tracks as Bjorn and Benny did in 1980 and also used the same noise reduction on them as he did on the other tracks. [You could also add to this catalogue of strange decisions the fact that Astley didn't just simply use the mixdown tapes for all the albums, not just on a few isolated occasions].
Meanwhile, TWTIA may have come from a single master judging by the first note, which is out of key because the tape used hadn't been given enough time to get up to speed by the start of the song. [This wouldn't have happened if the album master was just played through].
The intro to On and On and On is also artifically brightened too.
In general, Astley compressed the sound, reducing its dynamic range, hence allowing him to make it louder.
Despite there being practically no noise audible on the unremastered version of the album, he applied heavy noise reduction to all tracks. The equalisation of all tracks was also altered.
When the remasters were reissued in 2001, Astley fixed TWTIA, didn't put the segue back in, brightened On and On and On again, added more noise reduction and altered the equalisation again.
In 2005, the album was revisited again as part of the Complete Recordings Boxset by Henrik Jonsson of Masters of Audio, Stockholm.
Jonsson's remaster was louder than previous editions but didn't compromise the dynamic range as much as Astley's two remasters. He didn't use any noise reduction or alter the equalisation.
Jonsson used a copy of the album master tape, which judging by the slightly excessive bass, could well be the same one as PolyGram used in 1983. This means that none of the issues that affected Astley's remasters are present.
The overall result is good for casual listening but does not fare well in close comparison with the original, particularly if you are prepared to crank up the volume on your player.
A note on selected compilations:
Numerous tracks from Super Trouper have appeared on many compilations over the years.
The Singles: The First Ten Years [CD version, 1983] is worth highlighting as it features an unremastered version of Super Trouper without the dropout that spoils it on the original 1983 mastering. It is also much more common than the rare Atlantic CD, which also doesn't have this fault.
The Winner Takes It All also sounds stunning on The Singles too.
In the early 1990s, Michael B Tretow remastered some tracks on the album for Abba Gold (1992), More Abba Gold (1993) and Thank You For The Music (1994).
These tracks all sound inferior to the original 1983 mastering but Thank You For The Music is the best source available for the version of Lay All Your Love On Me without the audience applause from The Way Old Friends Do at the end and The Way Old Friends Do with a clean introduction.
Best sounding: 1985? Atlantic
2nd: 1983 Polar/Polydor
3rd: 2005 CSR
Track by track:
The 1985 Atlantic and 1983 Polydor/Polar both feature the best versions of all tracks, with the exception of Super Trouper, where the Atlantic version lacks a massive dropout.
Lay All Your Love On Me [clean ending] and The Way Old Friends Do [clean intro]: Thank You For The Music (1994)
This text was written by Ken Griffin
Ireland as part of a series of audiophile posts to mailing list ABBAMAIL and is reprinted here with kind permission by Ken.