With Pho (small town not the well-known noodle soup), Tan Son has come up a clever concept. He covers 10 of Trinh Cong Son’s songs in which listeners will get to hear the songwriter’s love, memory and passion, compassion for the small town. Tan Son also recruited Dang Khoa, Thien Quoc and Hong Dieu to craft some modern-pop productions and electric arrangements to back up his gentle vocals.
The issue is that Tan Son is being way too modest with Trinh’s compositions. He stays faithful to the written melody. His flow is rigid and he delivers each tune dead on. “Roi Nhu Da Ngay Ngo” clocks at 7 minutes with gorgeous, spacious arrangement but his singing is so static that the tune sounds like the ending never comes. He doesn’t shift keys, accent on a weak beat or get inside the harmony, which make me think of Tung Duong and what he can do to this arrangement.
With that said, Pho is a decent cover of Trinh’s well-worn standards including “Trong Noi Dau Tinh Co,” “Chieu Mot Minh Qua Pho” and “Yeu Dau Tan Theo.” The quality surpasses big, mechanical productions like Thuy Nga’s and Asia’s. The problem is that Trinh’s music has been covered this way so much already years after years. There are rooms to move beyond. In one of Trinh’s interviews, he pointed out that he liked both Khanh Ly’s and Hong Nhung’s rendition of his songs. They brings different colors and tones to his songs; therefore, his music continues to live on. So yes, he did encourage singers to take his music to a new level.