Album review: ZEBRAS DON’T SMOKE – Don’t Mention The Swedes (ABBA Tribute)

ZEBRAS DON'T SMOKE - Don't Mention The Swedes

Singsong Music [Release date 20.11.20]

ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus said what he thought of streaming live music during Lockdown.  He wasn’t impressed and thought kitchen gigs will never be a substitute.  I wonder what he would have thought of the latest tribute album “in a progressive idiom”?

Lynden Williams has been involved with various prog-rock related projects including Deckchair Poets.  There’s an element of humour and “not taking ourselves too seriously’ throughout his endeavours which do occasionally turn up something quite cool and compelling.

Which brings us to ‘Don’t Mention The Swedes’ (perhaps not the best title, ‘SmorgABBAsbord, anyone?) which enlists the help of previous collaborators Geoff Downes (Asia) and Nick D’Virgilio and Dave Meros (Spock’s Beard).

The true merit of a really great cover version is to bring new life and a different angle.  Jeff Scott Soto’s take on Seal’s  ‘Crazy’ (when in Talisman) is a good example.  The version of Chris Rea’s ‘Stone’ by The Law (Paul Rodgers) another.

This ABBA album plays it pretty straight, and to be honest it is like a rocked up version of the James Last Orchestra in the 1970s.  My Dad used to have James Last on his radiogram fairly regularly.

It might be stretching it too far to call it prog rock but what Williams has done is capture the essence of ABBA’s songs and to his credit has used some really excellent female vocals (Rachael Hawnt).

The choice of songs is varied too, not the most obvious so we get ‘Elaine’ and ‘I’m A Marionette’ which were originally B-sides.  And ‘Get On The Carousel’  was never recorded by ABBA although featured in their live set.

With some selections there is a real opportunity to heavy things up in a prog sort of way such as ‘Summer Night City’, ‘The Name Of The Game’ and perhaps the most obvious ‘Hole In Your Soul’ – even with a wailing guitar solo – but sadly this opportunity is never taken.  Only on ‘I’m A Marionette’ does guitarist Ollie Hannifan let rip.  He spent two years playing with the Mamma Mia’s touring company so adding some street cred (along with Downes who has composed and recorded with Agnetha Faltstrog).

This album, available in digital format only, is the perfect addition to a festive/party blow-out and on the latest reckoning we might have four or five family days to enjoy it before going back to kitchen streaming.  ****

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 1 August 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week and an interview with “metal queen” Lee Aaron.

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One Response to Album review: ZEBRAS DON’T SMOKE – Don’t Mention The Swedes (ABBA Tribute)

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