Abba Solo Albums from the Lost and Found (Part 2): Wrap Your Arms Around Me

by Jeff Fiedler

Albums from the Lost & Found is a regular feature on thegreatalbums.com in which contributor Jeff Fiedler reviews and helps us rediscover great pop albums that seem to have been lost to time.

In contrast, Faltskog’s American solo debut – released via the Polydor label and helmed by Mike Chapman (best known in America as the producer behind Blondie’s albums and Get the Knack and the co-writer of such hits as Toni Basil’s “Mickey,” Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield,” Huey Lewis and the News’ “Heart and Soul,” Exile’s “Kiss You All Over,” and Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz”) – is much more pop-oriented but no less hook-heavy.

Interestingly, Chapman stays out of the songwriting entirely here, with the sole exception of the title cut (penned with his “Love Is a Battlefield” co-writer Holly Knight), while Faltskog – whose sole songwriting contributions to the Abba discography consisted of co-writing the song “Disillusion” – surprisingly offers up an entirely self-penned cut, “Man,” which would have fit quite nicely on any Abba album and turns out to be so catchy and sophisticated a piece of writing – a true album highlight, even – to make you think that Abba really dropped the ball by not recording something of hers.

 The playful and sultry pop of Ballard’s “Can’t Shake Loose” – which is most comparable to the kind of sides that Olivia Newton-John was producing around this time, like “Physical” and “Heart Attack” – is pretty irresistible and would deservedly give Agnetha her first – and, unfortunately, only – U.S. Top 40 hit, peaking at #29. [Unlike Frida, however, Agnetha would ultimately score a second Hot 100 entry as a solo artist on these shores, thanks to the 1987 Peter Cetera duet “I Wasn’t the One (Who Said Goodbye).”] Ballard also offers up the buoyant pop of “I Wish Tonight Could Last Forever.”

The other songwriting credits here aren’t nearly as star-studded as those to be found on Frida’s disc, but they’re quality songs all the same. The Chapman-and-Knight penned title cut is a highlight, though the most fun cut of all here is the Abba-like Euro-pop of “The Heat Is On,” featuring an unusual but successful combination of strings, brass, and accordion, and penned by Tony Ashton (formerly of Ashton, Gardner, and Dyke of “Resurrection Shuffle” fame) and Florrie Palmer [the writer behind the massive Sheena Easton hit “Morning Train (Nine to Five).”]

Unusually enough, while Faltskog’s highlights as a vocalist with Abba tended to be heavily dramatic ballads like “The Winner Takes It All” and “One of Us,” there aren’t that many ballads here among the twelve cuts, and even those are upstaged by the strength of the up-tempo material like “Can’t Shake Loose,” “The Heat Is On,” the bouncy “Shame,” the vintage-Motown-like pop of “Mr. Persuasion,” and the mid-tempo rock of “Once Burned Twice Shy.”

Faltskog continues to record intermittently to this day and has made four additional English-language albums, the most recent being 2013’s A. The 1987 outing I Stand Alone – which features the aforementioned Cetera duet and found Agnetha back on Abba’s old home of Atlantic Records – is also noteworthy for having been mentioned by no less than Billy Corgan in an interview with Q magazine as being one of his more obscure favorites.