Benny Andersson pages at BBC Music

A biography and album review back up the BBC’s decision to make the Story Of A Heart album the record of the week on Ken Bruce’s Radio 2 show.

To the majority of UK residents Göran Bror Benny Andersson , one of the ‘B’s in ABBA has been a man whose reputation as a music maker ended somewhere around the era of Chess, although of course his role as co-ecutive producer (along with his most famous wrtiting partner Bjorn Ulvaeus) of the musical Mama Mia! has kept his biggest legacy alive and well. But to fans and Swedes he’s a busy man, not least with his 16-piece Benny Andersson Orkester wherein he’s been combining a love of Swedish ( and European) folk, big bands, early jazz and Bach to spectacular, if idiosyncratic, effect. Story Of A Heart, with its combination of older BOA material and new compositions is designed to bring his CV up to date for non-Scandinavians.

To those not aware of Benny’s folk roots this album may come as a bit of a surprise (his first major success was with The Hep Stars, a huge pop act in Sweden who combined his love of traditional music and rock ‘n’ roll). Songs from his back catalogue like Glasgow Boogie, Jehu or Tyrolean Schottische combine celtic forms with jolly brass and wheezing accordions and Trolska demonstrates his love of his nation’s native music. It’s life-affirming, purely instrumental fare, and a far cry from his more famous material. Elsewhere we’re offered Debussy-like cinematic beauty in the piano meditation of Song From The Second Floor.

But Story Of A Heart’s USP is undoubtedly the title track; the first song he’s written with Bjorn in 15 years and sung by Swedish star, Helen Sjöholm. It’s a slice of pure B&B magic, albeit a little too slick and sweet for some palates. But it was ever thus with ABBA, who often navigated the grey area betwixt cheese and chart perfection. Elsewhere both Helen and former Chess star Tommy Körberg deliver more pop tunes which mainly fall into the style of 20s blues or 50s rock ‘n’ roll ballads (You Are My Man, Fait Accompli and (If This IS) Our Last Dance), delivered confidently with musical theatre at their heart.

It’s an odd mixture of styles that will neither appeal to hardcore musicologists or ABBA fans, but it does showcase a man whose talents are both eclectic and accomplished.

4 thoughts on “Benny Andersson pages at BBC Music”

  1. So far, the signs are that the Album will be
    a medium sized UK Hit. Although the UK Weekly
    Charts come out on a Sunday, there are Daily ones
    – called ‘Mid Weeks’ – which show how Records
    are selling as the Week progresses. The BAB
    Album, was a New Entry at No.28, in the Tuesday
    Mid Weeks – for Sales on Monday. It has climbed
    to No.26, in the Wednesday Mid Weeks – for Sales
    on Monday & Tuesday.

    It would have helped had the Title Track been
    a Single, but it hasn’t been – so that has held
    the Album back. At its current pace, it may or
    may not reach the UK Top 20 – we will see.
    I suspect that it won’t be in the UK Top 75
    for very long – so, it hasn’t got much time
    to make a bigger impact. (In the meantime, ‘Gold’
    is at No.56 in the UK Album Chart – its 413th
    Week in the Top 75).

    In the UK Air Play Chart, the Title Track has
    done this – so far – 61 – 37 – 31 – 33.
    So, UK DJ’s are now starting to lose interest
    in it. Again, this will be because it isn’t a
    Single. They tend to see no point in playing
    Tracks that are not even going to be released
    as Singles…..

  2. If I read that "Story of a Heart" is " The first song he’s written with Bjorn in 15 years" one more time I am going to scream.

    "Story of a Heart" is the first totally new English language pop song of theirs to be released outside of Scandinavia in fifteen years, but as readers of this site know it only one of many songs that B&B have written and released in Sweden in the past fifteen years.

  3. While the comment "odd mixture of styles" is condescending, I also feel that it’s a sad and amazing comment in this day and age of musical interests, as most people these days seem to like more than one type of ‘style’ of music. Furthermore, the world has long enjoyed ABBA’s successful use of mixed styles. The Beatles also succeeded in using mixed styles. That comment just sounds short-sighted or of someone trying to fashion a populist view.
    "Yay" to Benny for when he stands up for his views. I think that A, B, B, and A must be congratulated for how they keep their cool when they hear the same old predictable comments and get asked the same old inane questions. Cheers.

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