Saturday, August 2, 2014

Ngoc Lan Debut Studio Album Review

Self-titled as Tieng Hat Ngoc Lan, this debut album first released in 1986 available on cassette only would serve as the vehicle much needed to solidify for herself a firm, standing ground in the Vietnamese pop music scene.  Prior to the release of this album, Ngoc Lan had already generated quite a following with her recordings on compilation albums with various other artists on such labels like Da Lan, Asia Productions, and Kim Ngan.  This solo studio album was really what she needed in order to make a name for herself in the Vietnamese music market. 

This was the original cover photo for Ngoc Lan's debut album entitled as Tieng Hat Ngoc Lan that had been self-produced and released in 1986, available only in cassette.

Three years after its original release that was only available on cassette, Ngoc Lan sold the rights of Tieng Hat Ngoc Lan  to the music label, Doi Magazine.  The album was re-released in 1990, and was then available on compact disc.

One of Ngoc Lan's earliest cover photos
 on a compilation cassette featuring various artists
 produced and released by the music label, Da Lan
Tieng Hat Ngoc Lan included an impressive list of songs chosen by Ngoc Lan, herself.  Well aware of the fact that many of her fans had taken a particular liking to her interpretation of French love songs, Ngoc Lan cleverly selected a combination of contemporary French songs and popular Vietnamese songs for the 12 tracks on her debut album.  Among the French songs, I was particularly impressed with Ngoc Lan's cover of American singer Jeanne Manson's biggest hit in the French language, Avant de Nous Dire Adieu and Mimi Hetu's Je Pense Encore à Lui.  I personally prefer her version of Je Pense Encore à Lui a lot more than the original by Mimi Hetu, as I found Ngoc Lan's delivery to be far more heartfelt and poignant.  Another entertaining track on this album was a cover of Princess Stephanie's up tempo hit, Ouragan, titled in English as Irresistible, in which Ngoc Lan had recorded in all three languages; French, English and Vietnamese.

As expected, Ngoc Lan's deliveries of classic Vietnamese love songs would be nothing short of flawless.  I particularly liked her renditions of Trinh Cong Son's Bien Nho, that originally had been made popular by singer Khanh Ly.  Ngoc Lan had a softer and gentler approach to this song, making it more pleasant to the ear than Khanh Ly's husky interpretation.  Pham Duy's penned Tinh Ho was another noteworthy track on this album with a rather interesting updated arrangement.  Only one of the tracks on Tieng Hat Ngoc Lan had never been recorded before by any other artist.  The title of the tune is Song Xuan, written by former Miss Vietnam USA and songwriter, Que Phuong.  Ngoc Lan's soothing voice is the perfect choice to interpret this charming ballad of eloquently written lyrics. 

The only track that I found to be rather amusing was Ngoc Lan's cover of Bertie Higgins' Casablanca, in which she sang in both English and Vietnamese.  It was obvious Ngoc Lan had yet to acquire a command of singing in the English language.  Ironically, this track would become one of Ngoc Lan's most popular recordings among her fans.  I guess one can say that it is forgivable how Ngoc Lan sounded back then when she sang in English, considering that she had just arrived in the United States only a few years prior.  I, too, have learned to appreciate this track and over time, I've found her Vietnamese accent in the English language to be rather charming.

Although it sold quite well, Tieng Hat Ngoc Lan was by far not her most widely received album by Vietnamese audiences throughout her career.  Still, it remains as my personal favorite.  I particularly liked the rawness and natural style in her voice on this album.  Anyone who had never heard of Ngoc Lan before, when first listening to her recordings on this debut album, would clearly see that she was bound for superstardom. 


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