Album Review

Saigon Rock and Soul: Vietnamese Classic Tracks 1968-1974 [coll] – [Sublime Frequencies]

Thurston Hunger   7/30/2010   12-inch, International

No reason for Saigon’s to be bygones, not with the Sublime Freq empire of sound around. As usual stellar liner notes to match the sounds, lots of fuzz flying rock as caught on the first two tracks, but when the Viet vocalizing takes center stage, with its fragile flutter and soft break, that’s when this collection soars. To my ears, the language itself has a heartbroken beauty to it. Check out the strange angel with “Long, Uneven Hair” or Phuong Dung’s closing “Riddles” with its sort of English blues infusion that gains a burst of energy. The other tracks on that last side all bump some trumpet. Throughout the instrumentation is tighter than an ao dai. Dig the heartful of soul backing vox on “Magical Night.” Thai Thanh’s titanic “Dawn” is a pretty amazing exercise in composition and engineering, the song almost splits in two in parts, has a regal grand piano strut through. Often the slower songs really get me, the notes choked in the throat and heart like on “Starfish.” Even when love does lovers wrong, the Vietnamese do it right as on Giao Linh’s track (which may have a Dan Bau rattling in the bamboo with the village birds gossiping). I bet there are some other amazing tracks on cassettes in San Jose, hope those folks connect to Porest and more volumes follow. My oh Mai this is Viet Damn good!

-Thurston Hunger

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