Sublime Frequencies' Saigon Rock & Soul is not only one of the best compilations I've gotten my hands on recently, but also an incredible musicological document. It captures the essence of a talented scene of Vietnamese musicians active during a defining cultural moment in history. Its filled to the brim with wild, loud, gritty tunes that rival even the rawest sounds coming out of west in the late 60s/early 70s.
The impact of the Vietnam War on American society is a large part of our cultural heritage. It's evidence is so integrated into our lives that for younger generations, it is almost impossible to identify. Unfortunately, in our ethno-centric world, it is too easy to overlook the cultural effects the war had on the people of Vietnam. Though western influence had been present in Vietnamese society as early at the 19th century during French colonization, it took on a whole new meaning when American GIs became a fixed presence in the country during the Vietnam War. These soldier's brought not only some of the fundamental equipment to produce popular rock music, but also countless records that young Vietnamese musicians eagerly soaked up. Anthony D'Amico of Brainwashed describes this moment in Vietnamese history as "...a singular cultural nexus: the thrill of discovering rock & roll colliding with the urgency of living in the midst of a war zone." This is what Saigon Rock & Soul brilliantly documents.
The music included in Saigon Rock & Soul has for the most part, been long forgotten. Most of these records, 45's, reels, and cassettes were lost after Saigon fell to the Viet Cong in 1975. During this time, many musicians fled the country to become "rock and roll refugees," while those that stayed behind were forced to destroy any evidence of western culture to avoid reform camps. Compiler Mark Gergis did an excellent job of digging up some of the best tunes from this era. Check out CBC Band's "Tinh Yêu Tuyệt Vời (The Greatest Love)" below. It's not only one of the rawest tracks on the record, but also the comp's opener. Enjoy!