Inspired by shopping music in Manhattan, my man Don Ho, in collaboration with Lam Thuy Van and Thanh Ha, released Hen Ho, covers of old ballads dressed in new, computer-generated sounds. Is this another one of those electronica shits? Upon several spins, the album is absorbable.
What makes Hen Ho worked is the minimal approach to the arrangements. Unlike Ha Tran’s Communication ’06, in which she had to fight against the beats, the electric grooves are kept to the minimum so they don’t overpower the vocals. The title track, Pham Duy’s “Hen Ho,” is a juicy duet between Don Ho and Thanh Ha. While their sensual vocals weaved together to take you on a trip of nostalgia, the music pulls you to a space-out territory. Mr. Don Ho sure has his way with the ladies. Not only with Thanh Ha’s, but his slightly raspy voice is also a perfect foil to Lam Thuy Van’s high and soulful quality. Their rendition of Pham Dinh Chuong’s “Nua Hon Thuong Dau” is both fresh and doleful. Unfortunately when three get on the same track, the hypnotic spell breaks. Their Vietnamese interpretation of “Killing Me Softly With His Song” should not have made it on the album.
The clean, subtle production works, but not on every track. Don Ho’s solo tracks in particular are way too slow. From Pham Dinh Chuong’s “Nguoi Di Qua Doi Toi” to Ngo Thuy Mien’s “Tu Giong Hat Em” to Thong Dai’s “Ai Ve Song Tuong,” the snore-worthy flossing in his delivery is perfect for lulling listeners into submission. Normally I would prefer Don Ho’s solo album, but the ladies have saved his ass this time.