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CD Editions:
PolyGram 1984 (821 319-2)*; Polydor 1997 (533 981-2)**; Polar 2001 (549 961-2/953-2); Polar 2005 (part of CSR boxset)***

* Polar 1984 (POLCD 272) is a clone of this disc
** US Polydor 1999 is a clone of this disc
*** Polar 'Deluxe Edition' 2006 (985 836-2) is a clone of this disc plus Fernando from the remastered version of Frida Ensam (Polar 2005)

The most famous Abba album of them all, Arrival debuted on CD in 1984 at the same time as The Album and Voulez-Vous. Like Voulez-Vous, this initial transfer has an excellent reputation among audiophiles.

Like all previous Abba CDs, it was a straight transfer of PolyGram's LP master with no additional noise reduction or adjustments. Arrival was the earliest album issued by PolyGram as part of its initial batch of Abba CDs and, in general, it sounds slightly inferior to Voulez-Vous, Super Trouper and The Visitors but far superior to The Album.

The overall sound has plenty of punch, very little noise and a solid, if slightly dull, high-end.

Like Voulez-Vous, the main issue with the initial transfer is a number of bad edits and mixing errors. These are less distracting that on that album, but notable examples include Money Money Money [if I got me a wealthy man (click)], just before the final solo in Knowing Me, Knowing You and just before the vocals start in Arrival.

One reason for all these audible errors may be the fact that Arrival was the first Abba album to be recorded entirely on 24-track tape.

Strangely, however, most subsequent remasters have focused their attention on a single, barely noticeable bad edit in Dancing Queen at around the 2:07 mark.

Although it has often been claimed that this is a tape dropout, in actual fact, it marks the point where the so-called 'extra' verse in the song was edited out. This verse is available on the DVD disc of the 2006 'Deluxe Edition' as part of the Dancing Queen Recording Session film.

The most notorious attempt to correct this edit came with the first CD remaster of Arrival in 1997, when Jon Astley very obviously edited a section from another part of the song over the edit. The end result was much more noticeable than the bad edit as Agnetha and Frida appeared to abruptly change key as though they couldn't keep in tune.

In 1999, for the Complete Singles Collection boxset, Astley revisited this alteration and made it slightly more subtle by shortening the pasted in section and fading it out quicker. This version was used again for the 2001 remaster of Arrival.

In 2005, Henrik Jonsson in his remaster for the Complete Studio Recordings boxset followed Astley's lead with a carbon copy of the latter's dreadful 1997 'repair'.

This obsessive tampering of Dancing Queen is surprising given the lack of attention paid to another of the album's other key tracks, Knowing Me, Knowing You, which in Astley's revised remasters of 1999 and 2001 featured a massive digital skip at 1:48. Later, for the Definitive Collection DVD, numerous frames of its video were removed to make the visuals fit to Astley's erroneous master.

In general terms, the 1997 and 2001 remasters, which were carried out by Jon Astley and Michael B Tretow at Abbey Road in London, should be avoided due to the overly heavy noise reduction used on them.

The 1997 remaster also features strange equalisation changes, which deemphasise the album's bass frequencies. Both remasters are also very heavily compressed, which is particularly noticeable on Dancing Queen and Tiger. Due to these major changes to the sound, it is impossible to tell whether the tapes used by Astley were the LP masters used in 1984 or some other source.

Meanwhile Jonsson's 2005 remaster is essentially a louder, more compressed and slightly less clear version of the original 1984 CD, which is hardly surprising given that he used the same source tapes. Unlike Astley, however, Jonsson employed mercifully little noise reduction and left the original equalisation alone.

Neither Astley nor Jonsson tackled the majority of the bad edits and mixing errors littered throughout the album.

Given the album's popularity and reputation, you would be hard pressed to find any major Abba compilation without at least one Arrival track. Again, the compilation most worth seeking out is Greatest Hits Vol 2 (PolyGram and Atlantic 1983), which features excellent versions of the album's three international hits sourced from an exceptional source tape.

The Singles: The First Ten Years (PolyGram 1983) is also interesting, mainly because it contains a much brighter than usual version of Dancing Queen, which seems to have been a side effect of an early attempt to transfer the track to digital tape, using an early generation source tape with some equalisation adjustments.

Between 1992 and 1994, Tretow remastered most of the album for Abba Gold, More Abba Gold and Thank You For The Music. The results are slightly too bright but are notable for featuring the only unbutchered remastered version of Dancing Queen.

The verdict
The best sounding versions on CD are:
1. 1984 PolyGram
2. 2005 CSR
3. 2001 Astley [but only if you're desperate]

Surprisingly, you only need two CDs to get the best CD versions of all the tracks.

When I Kissed The Teacher: 1984 PolyGram
Dancing Queen: Greatest Hits Vol 2 (PolyGram and Atlantic 1983)
My Love, My Life: 1984 PolyGram
Dum Dum Diddle: 1984 PolyGram
Knowing Me, Knowing You: Greatest Hits Vol 2 (PolyGram and Atlantic 1983)
Money, Money, Money: Greatest Hits Vol 2 (PolyGram and Atlantic 1983)
That's Me: 1984 PolyGram
Why Did It Have To Be Me: 1984 PolyGram
Tiger: 1984 PolyGram
Arrival: 1984 PolyGram

This text was written by Ken Griffin from Dublin, Ireland as part of a series of audiophile posts to mailing list ABBAMAIL and is reprinted here with kind permission by Ken.


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