I damn near overlooked Quốc Thiên’s Tình Khúc Một Thời when the album first hit streaming web sites late last year. Quốc Thiên is a new face with a warm baritone and sincere delivery. For his debut, he chooses a rather safe approach: covering standards. The album kicks off with a gentle, Latin-inflected version of “Nếu Xa Nhau,” a Đức Huy’s ballad. The second track, “Chiếc Lá Mùa Đông,” a duet with Uyên Linh, is disappointing. While their vocal chemistry blended well, their Chinese-translated song choice, is such a letdown. I didn’t make it past the third track, “Tình Như Lá Bay Xa,” which is another Chinese ballad.
A few days ago I copped the entire high-quality album and decided to give it another try. Without the Internet streaming interruption, the album comes to life. Standout is the bluesy rendition of Quốc Dũng’s “Em Đã Thấy Mùa Xuân Chưa.” The blues-turn-valse arrangement is hypnotizing. The strip-down version of “Tiếng Mưa Đêm” (Đức Huy) is refreshing. The strumming guitar, the brushing percussion, the thumping bass, and the accenting piano work their magic to accompany the vocals. In addition, Trịnh Nam Sơn’s “Quên Đi Tình Yêu Cũ” gets an elegant bossa nova makeover.
If Quốc Thiên were to focus Tình Khúc Một Thời on the jazz side, he could have created a sensational experience. Too bad the album is wasted with sugary, Chinese-translated ballads. He definitely has potentials. He just needed an executive producer to guide him to the right direction.