Sublime FrequenciesV.A. : Rock & Soul -Vietnamese classic tracks 1968-1974 (VIE,re.2012)***'
This compilation so far is still the only compilation of its kind that could/can be found about the pre ’75 pop/rock/soul music from Vietnam. It was first released as a double LP, which was as quickly sold out as it was released. Luckily the label decided just now to rerelease the album on CD. This Saigon scene was nearly forgotten also because of the political changes in the country most people tried to forget the American connections in the past, and simply threw away the music. Strangely enough that despite all the way associations, it had been the US army facilities that made it possible to record these westernised forms of music. It must be said that Vietnam had already had its evolution and share of crossover thoughts after having been confronted with the previous French colonists. ‘Tan Nhac’ or ‘modern music’ already combined domestic and international sounds. During the 60s and 70s pulp ballads and crooners were mixed with regional and modern music. You could also find amongst these more westernised songs and bands that had a more direct influence from surf-rock, beat, twist, and a bit less, Motown and a share of funk. What really happened musically during this evolution and its most creative moments, this is not something this compilation reveals, because there were much more westernised bands too, here the compilation nearly focuses on this thin barrier between the crooner singing, the rock association with the influence of acid rock with a touch of psychedelia behind it, and a little funk influence.
They mostly took out the most popular singers of the time, which explains the mixed area, the accompanying bands themselves succeed to add something groovy and unusual. Most of the time these chosen tracks can easily be compared to what happened in Cambodia, even a bit more than to how the approach was in Thailand for instance.
While these bands at times can play rather wild and fuzzy acid rock, -mostly they just play their groovy acid core in a more relaxed manner. The singers, especially the female, with their higher voices haven’t got that much down ground body towards rock or funk compared to for instance black American singers and sound a bit more fragile than the heavier band approach, in that way the link between crooner ballad singing and rock becomes more thin. In that way and with a song focus in mind they often preferred the term soul to rock. A few times these singers succeeded to add emotion to the songs well (like Phurong Dong on the last soulful track for instance). It is also nice to hear the funky influences of the bands' approaches. One track being added has responding female harmony singers (the track from Minh Xuan & Phuong Hoang). Here and there are some brass or sax solos, so that the style becomes more go-go than rock. Elvis Phuong’s second track (track 13) shows also some Beatles harmonies songwriter ballad singing.
Sadly not more of the Beatles influenced bands are in the compilation.
Mostly we hear tracks with that psych/acid rock touch, the accompanying band, being combined with what are more stage singing styles. Significant influences being mentioned in the booklet for the Vietnamese scene were Shadows, Ventures, Beatles, Rolling Stones, but also Santana, Deep Purple, Blind Faith, Jimi Hendrix, and Blue Cheer, the heavier influences are only up for some of the bands to be heard here.