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CD editions: PolyGram 1984 (821 320-2)*; Polydor 1997 (533 982-2)**; Polar 2001 (549 955-2/963-2); Polar 2005 (part of CSR boxset)

* Polar 1984 (POLCD 292) is a clone of this disc
** US Polydor 1999 is a clone of this disc minus the bonus tracks

Voulez-Vous was initially released on CD simultaneously with Arrival and The Album in 1984, in a move that reveals something of the push to increase the number of titles on CD that existed at that time.

In 1982 and 1983, PolyGram had released just four Abba CDs: The Visitors, Greatest Hits Vol 2, Super Trouper and The Singles: The First Ten Years (which was one of the first double CD titles).

By contrast, in 1984, as well as the three simultaneously released titles, PolyGram issued at least three localised Abba compilations on CD (From Abba With Love, The Very Best of Abba and International). This more than doubled the number of Abba titles available in the space of 12 months.

1984 probably also was a watershed in another less pleasant sense for Abba fans as, by this stage, the group's popularity was starting to noticeably wane. This is reflected in the CD release pattern followed by PolyGram from this point.

The next Abba CD to be released internationally would be Abba Live in 1986 with Abba getting a belated release in 1987. The international CD version of Abba had five tracks tacked onto the end of it, seemingly as compensation because neither PolyGram nor Polar had the much confidence in the demand for an international release of Ring Ring or Waterloo.

Anyway, with the increase in PolyGram's release rate in 1984, it was somewhat inevitable that standards would slip. All three of the original Abba albums released in that year reflect this fact to some degree.

In the case of Voulez-Vous, the most noticeable evidence of this is the artwork, the most striking feature of which was a big black box with the catalogue number on the front cover. Meanwhile, Polar's 1982 logo was simply plonked on the back in an equally distracting big white box.

On the inner sleeve, where The Visitors and Super Trouper had full lyrics, Voulez-Vous had an image from 1980 and, most bizarrely, German publishing credits.

Thankfully, this slapdash effort didn't extend to the music on the actual CD itself, which is highly-regarded among audiophiles. As with all the previous Abba CDs, it seems to have been a straight transfer of PolyGram's LP master with no additional tweaking or noise reduction.

The only issue with this is that Voulez-Vous features an unusually high number of bad edits, mixing errors and dropouts for an Abba release. The title track in particular is littered with bad edits, which generally manifest themselves as odd clicks. Some are very noticeable, including one where the children's chorus enters in I Have A Dream.

Perhaps the rushed nature of the album's completion might have something to do with it, although Dreamworld, an outtake from the album sessions that was eventually released in 1994, exhibits many of the same problems, even though it wasn't mixed at the same time as the rest of the album.

Anyway, PolyGram's 1984 issue of the CD doesn't feature any new clicks, although it has very minor dropouts at the start of As Good As New and Does Your Mother Know. The bass level is especially good throughout, which gives the music plenty of punch, and there is little or no noise.

All in all, it's a very good effort and it shouldn't be faulted for featuring all the clicks and oddities it would have been impossible to correct them given the technology available in 1984.

It was, however, possible to tackle them in 1997 when the album was remastered by Jon Astley and Michael B Tretow at Abbey Road Studios in London but they opted not to.

Instead, they opted to compress the sound to make it louder while adding heavy noise reduction to every track, despite the fact that the tapes used [which are believed to tapes made for LP cutting in 1979] were practically noiseless to start off with. On Voulez-Vous, in particular, this resulted in a slightly muffled sound, which sounded on many systems like blankets had been put over the speakers.

As with all the albums, the equalisation was adjusted but this was particularly apparent on Voulez-Vous as Astley and Tretow opted inexplicability to deemphasise the bass frequencies, even though the album was a rhythm-driven disco record.

For the 2001 release of the album, Astley adjusted this remaster slightly, restoring some of bass frequencies removed in 1997 while adding a little more noise reduction. He did not repair any of the bad edits.

In 2005, the album was once again remastered by Henrik Jonsson for the Complete Studio Recordings boxset. The source tapes he used appear to have been the same LP cutting tapes used by Astley.

Although Jonsson's remaster was louder than Astley's, he managed to retain more of the dynamic range. The overall result is louder, more compressed and slightly less clear than the original 1984 CD.

He failed, however, to tackle the numerous dropouts and bad edits contained on the album's master tapes, including a new, very noticeable dropout on Angeleyes.

Voulez-Vous contained more international hit singles than any other Abba album and, as a result, tracks from it have appeared on practically every Abba compilation every released.

There are, however, only a handful worth bothering with. The most notable of these is Greatest Hits Vol 2, which originally just appeared months after Voulez-Vous was originally released.

Both CD versions of the album (PolyGram 1983 and Atlantic 1983) are sourced from the same exceptionally warm-sounding source tapes and are widely held by audiophiles to be the best Abba CDs ever produced. All the Voulez-Vous tracks on this release sound superior to any other one.

Another early compilation, The Singles: The First Ten Years (PolyGram 1983), seems to have been the product of an intriguing experiment involving an early form of digital remastering, where the tracks originally recorded on analogue tape were transferred to digital, using early generation tapes with some equalisation adjustments.

The net result of this is that Voulez-Vous seems to have been transferred from a tape with fewer dropouts than the album 'master' and, as a result, is the best CD version ever available. The rest of tracks sound similar, but not superior, to the Greatest Hits Volume 2 CD.

Then, in 1992, Michael B Tretow remastered a host of tracks from the album for what became Abba Gold (1992), More Abba Gold (1993) and Thank You For The Music (1994). The one notable feature of these remasters was that the version of Voulez-Vous used was an edited, promo version.

Finally, in 1999, Astley remastered a unique, West German single edit of Angeleyes for the Complete Singles Collection, a 29 CD boxset. However, it isn't worth bothering with, because (a) he used overly-heavy noise reduction and (b) it's the same as the standard version except it fades out 45 seconds early.

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

You'll need a mixed bag of CDs to obtain the best CD versions of all the tracks.

As Good As New: 1984 PolyGram
Voulez-Vous: The Singles: The First Ten Years (PolyGram 1983)
I Have A Dream: 1984 PolyGram
Angeleyes: Greatest Hits Vol 2 (PolyGram 1983)
The King Has Lost His Crown: 1984 PolyGram
Does Your Mother Know: Greatest Hits Vol 2 (PolyGram 1983)
If It Wasn't For The Nights: 1984 PolyGram
Chiquitita: Greatest Hits Vol 2 (PolyGram 1983)
Lovers (Live A Little Longer): 1984 PolyGram
Kisses of Fire: 1984 PolyGram

Voulez-Vous (edit): Thank You For The Music (1994)

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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