By Michael Osborn
BBC News Online entertainment staff
Thirty years since Abba's memorable Eurovision victory, former group member Agnetha Faltskog has returned to the musical spotlight with a solo album.
My Colouring Book is the former Abba star's first album in 17 years
Blonde vocalist Faltskog was a vital part of the Swedish quartet Abba, who scored a string of memorable global hits. The music ended for the group in 1982.
The enigmatic Faltskog had a brief, less successful spell as a solo artist but then fell silent for 17 years.
This 2004 comeback with My Colouring Book puts further distance between Faltskog and her Abba past, but will none the less be devoured by fans.
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The 53-year-old singer's long-awaited revival is a personal tribute project to her past musical influences.
It is a recreation of existing songs from the likes of Cilla Black, Brian Hyland and Frank Sinatra.
The lack of new material means Faltskog retains her mysterious, elusive air after years of seclusion.
The single If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind is a dramatic, delicately-wrought song that reflects the album's old-fashioned sense of song recording.
The intriguing Faltskog lays down her love of 60s musical melodrama with A Fool Am I - an orchestrally embellished old-style pop anthem.
The mood lightens with Love Me With All Your Heart and the Motown barnstormer When You Walk In The Room.
Abba pictured at the time of their Eurovision victory in 1974
Faltskog's interpretation of Fly Me To The Moon is a flighty piece of bossa nova cabaret - and perhaps a cover too far.
Her vocal tones are at their richest on heartfelt ballad Sometimes When I'm Dreaming, along with lyrics which she could be singing from the heart.
The one-time Abba star has come up with a very safe musical return, which is destined for the more mature musical palate.
It is a well-produced record, but is staunchly old school and sounds far less innovative than Abba did in their day.
Fans of the band will find little reference to that gilded era, except the odd shade of high drama with a nod to The Winner Takes It All.
After shunning the limelight for so many years, this heavily masked return is a failed opportunity for the once loved star to recapture our hearts.
My Colouring Book is on sale in the UK from 19 April.
I think the album is quite moving. Agnetha's voice is spectacular and honest; she is singing from the heart. There will be differences in opinion regarding the material or genre chosen but as she has noted, she needed to return to the music of her youth. I'm glad she did. In today's world of saturated merchandising and marketing this is stand out and refreshing.
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Is Faltskog's long-awaited comeback a disappointment or a welcome return?
Did she have to?
It's an unadventurous album - she's just playing safe and milking fans.
Pity, she is so much better than this.
I have heard a few of Angetha's new songs and I think they are really really good, I like them a lot! Her voice is still like it was 17 years ago! She is even after 17 years still the same gr8 singer like she was in Abba!
Britta Hartmann, Linsengericht, Germany
I am happy and grateful that Agnetha released a new album. We enjoy listening to her new album and hopefully she will continue her career in music and will release more albums in the future.Thank you Agnetha for coming back and thank You for the music.
Roza Peykari, Los Angeles, USA
I am absolutely blown away by the sheer beauty of Agnetha's vocals. They are (in parts) I think, better than some of her finest ABBA moments and backed by stunning orchestral arrangements. Tracks like What Now My Love, Past, Present and Future and When You Walk In The Room show just how good she can be when she takes a risk and really lets herself go. An amazing album and a superb return to form! It's so nice to hear a pure labour of love and feel a shiver go up your spine once again. I haven't felt that since... well, 1982 I guess!
Take a listen to the fully spoken Past, Present and Future; there stands the seductive and isolated "rap" of a mature woman clinging on to some sort of hope. On A fool Am I, she evokes the heartfelt pleas of a teenager. I'll be putting it on when I'm having a classy crisis; crank it up, down the champers and sob.
Martin Calleja, London
I love this album, welcome back Agnetha! The songs are beautifully covered by Agnetha, people should stop expecting it to sound like Abba, none of her other solo albums did. My favourite is past present and Future, it's filled with emotion and the lyrics are perfect for her.
Michelle Powell, Warwickshire
As a 21-year-old I have to say that I'd never heard of most of the songs on this album so the fact that they are all 1960s covers has slightly passed me by. Obviously the sound is very retro, but deservedly so - Agnetha's best solo material by far is her late 60s/early 70s pre-Abba work, rather than her attempts to chase current trends in the 80s (though those LPs have their moments).
The album itself is fantastic. Agnetha may have been away for 17 years, but her singing abilities are still awesome, and her interpretive skills impressive. Sure, the setlist isn't the most exciting that has ever been known, and her career will always be overshadowed by her Abba work but this is a welcome return.
Alistair, London, UK
Never, never, never have I received so much, yet expected so much less. It is an incredible album by an incredible voice! We are all gonna be enjoying this album for ever. Thank you Agnetha!
Jurgen Parys, London
I was pleasantly surprised, how her voiced has matured so elegantly, although she would not make it big in today's UK charts, I wish her the success she deserves where ever her songs are heard. Lovely to see her make a comeback in such style and class.
Gerald Lane, Llandudno
Okay, so it's not the greatest album ever recorded, but just to hear that breathtaking voice again is worth every penny. She still looks and sounds incredible. Congratulations, Agnetha - and welcome back!
Matthew Smart, London, UK
I have just finished listening to this album and have to say it is an exquisite album. Delightful vocals. Heartfelt songs full of emotion. I would recommend anybody to go out and buy this album. It is a very welcome return. Welcome back Agnetha! Have a great time at the release party.
Michael Richardson, Miami, USA
It's so good to have Agnetha back in the charts again, she's been absent for far too long. Her album reflects her maturity and takes the listener on a journey back into her past, before the Abba days. Her voice has lost none of its strength, yet still remains tender with a warmth that could soften the hardest of hearts. Agnetha is a shy and private person, probably largely misunderstood, and this album enables the listener to share an intamcy with her which would otherwise be impossible. A warm and welcome return, I defy anyone not to be moved by it. Take a chance on her and treat yourself, you won't be disappointed!
Ian Messer, Basildon, Essex
The album was released in Dublin on Friday and I heard the songs - it's just great. Agnetha has a great voice and its very beautiful tinged with the Swedish accent. I think she is doing what she does best - singing really heartfelt songs. I recommend this album highly.
Jack McCarthy, Dublin, Ireland
Perhaps not as innovative as Abba were, but although your reviewer calls it "a very safe musical return", I like to think of it as a dignified approach playing to Faltskog's strengths, her voice is still as crisp and clear and the production just as slick. I am glad she didn't feel the need to make a campy disco comeback, and has recorded these mature interpretations in her own style. New material would be welcome if it was of the same high quality.
As Bjorn and Benny have said of Abba, it was the vocals of Abba that was their trademark. Agnetha was especially Abba's lethal pop-weapon. Her voice sounds just as wonderfully lamentful and heartfelt as it did when she was a 17-year-old pop singer in Sweden. The production is alright - not near the genius of Abba - but that wouldn't be fair to compare. This is a clean, fresh pop album with a wonderful vocalist who's voice has touched many over the years.
Pete Ginis, Toronto, Canada
Agnetha's voice dominated Abba's greatest Evergreen and was a main ingredient of the so-called "Abba-magic". So her return to the mike is by all means a welcome one. BUT can an album of 60s cover versions ever be personal? The answer is yes. Agnetha's voice is stronger than ever and the fact that she produced the album herself makes it even more interesting.
Remixes will make the album appealing for clubbers, the songs in the album version guarantee the listener the fun Agnetha must have had recording it. You can "hear" her smile and cry just like she did with Abba. And the choice of songs - new to most young listeners - make it Agnetha's most personal album EVER.
Maybe Björn Ulvaeus was right and new Abba songs might be a disappointment because of the high expectations. Agnetha's solo-album, however, is a huge fanatstic postive surprise because no-one expected it to be released at all and saw it as a more private project.
Jørn Precht, Stutt
I have listened to this album all the way through three times.....each time, it gets better!! Agnetha is in great voice and she can still hit those high notes! When You Walk In the Room, What Now My Love and Sometimes When I'm Dreaming are worth the price of admission by themselves!!
The song My Colouring Book has always been hard for me to sit through whether it was Streisand's or Dusty's, but Agnetha's arrangement gives it a cohesiveness the other versions lack. Some of the vocal performances sound safe and there are some times when I wish Agnetha would just let herself go a little more, but it is stll a great album/CD!! As I said, it get's better after each spin...
David Vall-Lloveras, Los Angeles, California, USA
Musically the album can't be faulted, however Agnetha's vocals seem a bit clumsy on certain tracks. That's not to say her voice doesn't shine, Sometimes When I'm Dreaming and Past, Present and Future are magical. Here's hoping Agnetha will treat us to another album sometime soon.
Tony Wilson, Middlesbrough, UK
Great album. Her strongest solo effort so far, as for the first time Agnetha really shows who she is. Some people may feel the album is too sad and melancholic, yet I feel for the first since Abba we hear the real Agnetha Faltskog. What Now My Love certainly is the most outstanding track considering the original arrangements. Sometimes When I am Dreaming is her best vocal effort ever. Great that Ms. Faltskog had the guts not to be trendy, but that she dared to choose this classical approach. Refreshing!
Jan-Pieter Smits, Amsterdam-The Netherlands
What a wonderful album. It makes a refreshing change to hear true musicianship on an album these days, when drum machines and synthesizers seem to be on every record. It's fantastic to hear a real orchestra, beautiful production and superb vocals. Well done Agnetha.
SIan, Iver, UK
After a 17-year gap Agnetha can be forgiven I think for a conservative approach to her comeback. The album is full of crisp and clear interpretations of standards and together with her new single entering a dance-dominated UK chart at number 11, she will perhaps gain in confidence for more adventure in the future. All her fans will wish her well and hope so.
Jeremy Scholes, Manchester UK
It's great to hear her again after such a long time.
Maxim, Hilversum, The Netherlands
Agnetha Faltskog's long-awaited comeback CD My Colouring Book is, for me, a very welcome return - I just love it.
I can hear it again and again, and I think I will be playing the CD in 10 or 20 years from now. I hope that others will enjoy it as much as I do.
Brian Nielsen, Denmark
The album is fantastic. For Abba/Agnetha fans it was certainly worth the 17-year wait to hear her angelic vocals again.
Angie Nurse, Rutland, Oakham
The question "disappointment or welcome return" is a bit too black and white. From my own personal perspective the album is a bit bland but that neither really surprises nor disappoints me, as I find much of her solo material a little impersonal. That said, My Colouring Book has its moments. The track, If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind and What Now My Love are the strongest tracks. I was pleasantly surprised by the slightly organic feel of the arrangement on Sealed With A Kiss.
My big problem with the album has to do with the high levels of melodrama at play in the gushing lyrics. Faltskog's beautiful voice has always been at its best when delivering a plaintive song but matching that tearful delivery to over-wrought lyrics such as Sometimes When I'm Dreaming makes more a slightly over-egged pudding.
To my ears, this is Agnetha picking up where she left off 17 years ago. Her instrument is still in wonderful shape but I can't help thinking that some slightly more challenging material would properly display this woman's undisputed talent.
Tony, Dublin, Ireland
One of the problems of being such a global success as part of ABBA is that this success overshadows the rest of your work - past and present. The single, If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind has moments, especially in the chorus, that come close to that magical Abba sound. One thing that nobody can deny - Agnetha has one of the most incredible voices, and it is great to hear it once more. But Agnetha's real fame lies as "the blonde one from Abba whose wonderfully luscious, sometimes tender, emotional and inspiring vocals of The Winner Takes It All, Slipping Through My Fingers and The Day Before You Came are a hard act to follow.
Gary McCartney, London