In Focus: SHINE at 35

On 11 September 1984, Frida released her second English-language solo album. Entitled Shine, and now celebrating its 35th Anniversary, it continued the daring exploration of cutting-edge 1980s sounds begun on her previous album, the Phil Collins-helmed Something’s Going On. On this new album, her producer was Steve Lillywhite; as an engineer and producer, he had helped shape a new sound for the decade on recordings with acts such as Peter Gabriel, U2, Simple Minds and Big Country. As Frida said at the time of Shine’s original release, “The sound is bolder than on the last album. Steve opened me up as a musician. All of a sudden I have reached sounds and a way of working musically that I had no outlet for before – but now I have discovered it.”

Recorded in the spring of 1984, sessions took place at Studios de la Grande Armée in Paris, France. Among the musicians were Big Country drummer Mark Brzezicki and bassist Tony Levin, one of the most well-respected and in-demand session musicians at the time. Two tracks, recorded after the main sessions, featured trusted ABBA bassist Rutger Gunnarsson, the musician who contributed to more of the group recordings than anyone outside the four members. On backing vocals was Kirsty MacColl, Steve Lillywhite’s fiancée at the time and a successful singer and songwriter in her own right.

This stellar cast put together an album that provided an intriguing meeting between Frida’s melodic pop background and Lillywhite’s innovative approach to production. This was exactly what Frida wanted, as she was determined that her new music should be completely different from ABBA. She was keen to explore a new musical path and see what was waiting there. That said, Benny and Björn contributed a new song for her, entitled ‘Slowly’, which, for many years, marked the last time either of ABBA’s female members recorded a new Andersson/Ulvaeus tune.

As part of her eagerness to challenge herself, Frida had even ventured into songwriting for the first time. Encouraged by Phil Collins to develop this side of herself, by the time album sessions started she had ten completed songs. Two of those tunes were recorded during the Shine sessions. The attractive, contemplative ballad ‘Don’t Do It’ was featured on the album, while the more edgy ‘That’s Tough’ (a co-write with Frida’s son Hans Fredriksson and Kirsty MacColl) became the B-side of the first single released from the album, the title track ‘Shine’.

Upon release, Frida was rewarded with a Top 10 hit for the album in a number of countries. However, not long afterwards, her priorities in life changed dramatically and she decided to withdraw from being a full-time artist and performer. It would take 12 years before she issued another album, the Swedish-language release Djupa andetag, which remains her last solo album to date.

But Shine is still out there to explore and to rediscover. Frida herself said that in hindsight she felt maybe the album was before its time. It certainly hasn’t lost its shine over the years, and 35 years on, like Frida suggests, maybe it sparkles even brighter today than it did when it was first made available to record buyers. Take a chance on Shine and find out for yourself.

Stockholm September 2019

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