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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Agnetha Fältskog: Eyes Of A Woman

AGNETHA FÄLTSKOG: EYES OF A WOMAN (1985)

1) One Way Love; 2) Eyes Of A Woman; 3) Just One Heart; 4) I Won't Let You Go; 5) The Angels Cry; 6) Click Track; 7) We Should Be Together; 8) I Won't Be Leaving You; 9) Save Me (Why Don't Ya); 10) I Keep Turning Off Lights; 11) We Move As One.

The proper way to go about reviewing this album is sifting through the list of people who con­tributed to the songwriting. This time around, perhaps spurred on by Agnetha's proven potential for commercial success on her own, the array of contenders was really impressive: Elvis Costello (a self-proclaimed ABBA fan — ʽOliver's Armyʼ, remember?), Jeff Lynne, Eric Stewart of 10cc (who also produced the album), Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, jazz guitarist Phil Palmer, and even the songwriting core of the classic Asia team (Wetton and Downes). Understandably, who could resist the charms of that hot blonde ABBA chick? All she needed to do was leave a recording of ʽI've Been Waiting For Youʼ on their answering machine.

So far, so good. Now for the inauspicious news. First, the contribution by Costello — pretty much the only artist of the lot to have anything to do with «cutting edge» in contemporary music — was not used. (Instead, it ended up recorded by Billy Bremner of Rockpile, and, sure enough, it failed to chart — guess those music industry advisor people know their stuff after all). I have no idea whether poor Elvis ended up shredding all of his bedroom and bathroom ABBA posters, but in any case, the decision was a little symbolic: even if the song was not all that great, the fact that Hayward and Stewart got the preference over Costello meant that the lady did not feel comfor­table about overstepping the boundaries of «suave romance».

Second, by 1985 Eric Stewart had pretty much squandered away his reputation, having made the transition from smartass musical innovation to generic adult contemporary troubadouring (and in a year from then, he would go on to produce one of the worst albums of Paul McCartney's solo career — certainly not a coincidence). Of the two songs that he contributes, ʽI Won't Be Leaving Youʼ is a predictably late 10cc-ish corny ballad, more fit for a Disney cartoon than a respectable pop album, and ʽSave Meʼ is a predictably late 10cc-ish corny dance rocker, more fit for a Weird Al satirical cover (if he could only find a hook to latch onto, that is) than a... oh well, you'd have to have an original in order to do a cover anyway, I guess.

Fortunately, we still have old Jeff to count upon for salvation: his ʽOne Way Loveʼ is at least written with a nod to the old Motown and the old ABBA, and has a fun, catchy melody, sup­ported with guitar jangle (in addition to pesky synths) and a sax outro. Hayward's ʽAngels Cryʼ, like any song written by Hayward, is also written with a complex vocal melody in mind, although I certainly wish they'd mixed Agnetha in a better way, with the vocals more upfront and less personality-effacing echo on them. On the other hand, the Asia song (ʽWe Move As Oneʼ) is one of those big fat Asia anthems that has a lot of pomp, but not a lot of interesting substance, and Agnetha lacks the big Wetton voice to make you fall under the illusion that this whole grandio­sity shenanigan really deserves its poise.

Recapitulating, I conclude that out of all suitors, Jeff Lynne is the most easily adaptable to take the lady's hand, but if dark glasses and big beards put her off, Justin Hayward is the second best candidate, whereas Wetton, Downes, and Eric Stewart should have been given the boot right away — certainly they would at least deserve to catch the same train as Costello. But actually, the best track on the entire album is probably ʽClick Trackʼ (co-written by Jack Ince and Phil Palmer), an unassuming pop rocker with sarcastic lyrics and a light, fun, not-give-a-damn attitude, like a slightly more musically conservative Tom Tom Club or something.

Bottomline is, the album's not awful, which is already quite an achievement, given that the record could have been easily filled up with run-of-the-mill power ballads and all sorts of «adult con­temporary» crap. Well, it does have a bit of each, but the general idea — to gather contributions from different established songwriters with different styles — was right, I think, because it at least gives Eyes Of A Woman a flair of unpredictability, so very important for a mainstream pop album. Too bad she didn't get Prince to produce it instead of Eric Stewart, but then, Prince pro­bably likes to accept his royalties in flesh rather than in cash, and Agnetha Fältskog is, above all, a proper, well-behaved lady, not accustomed to grinding with strangers.

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