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Sarolta Zalatnay - Sarolta Zalatnay

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Artist: Sarolta Zalatnay

Album: Sarolta Zalatnay

Label: Finders Keepers

Review date: Jul. 26, 2007

In the mid-’60s, 19-year-old Sarolta Zalatnay (better known to her fans as Cini) started singing with the Hungarian jazz combo Burgundy, who quickly capitalized on her sultry good looks and smokey vocals by adapting their style to a more hard rock sound and moving Cini to center stage. The group became wildly successful, and Zalatnay accrued massive stardom in her native Hungary. Bolstered by her success at home, Zalatnay caught wind of the French Ye-Ye craze and came to work with three siblings known as the Bee Gees. Through this association, Zalatnay recorded a few English language tracks, penned by the Gibbs brothers, but crossover appeal still remained elusive, and few if any of Zalatnay's tracks made it onto the American radar despite massive appeal throughout Europe (by the early ’70s, she had sold over 400,000 records in Hungary alone).

This self-titled anthology, put together by Andy Votel and the folks at Finders Keepers, hopes to expose unfamiliar listeners to her top notch blend of husky psychedelia, ’60s British garage rock and American hard-rock swamp-funk. Zalatnay belts out tracks, backed by the bands Locomotiv GT, Metro and Skorpio and the oft-made comparisons of Janis Joplin and Betty Davis become readily apparent. The hard breaks and funky grooves on tracks like “Ne Hidd El (Don't Believe),” “Fekete Beat” and the burning Hungarian boogie of “Keso Esti Oran” are the stuff of crate-diggin’ DJs dreams, the drum break intro on “Hadd Mondjam El” being worth the price of admission by itself.

Hungarian pop fans sought more guitar, more volume, and thicker bass lines in response to American & British hard rock bands like Cream, the Yardbirds, and Blue Cheer. Jimi Hendrix held a huge influence on Hungarian rock through the ’70s, and if the Janis Joplin influence weren't obvious enough, Zalatnay's recording of “Move Over” is tacked on at the end of this compilation. Her voice never quite captures the full roaring range of Joplin, but the ferocity is still there, and the grooves still hit hard.

A larger part of what makes this release fascinating is the private life of Zalatnay herself. By the early ’70s, she was already an established touring act and had starred in two feature films (one by famed Hungarian New Wave director Marta Meszaros). In the mid-’80s, she regained the public spotlight by publishing a best selling expose of her rise to fame. At age 54, she was persuaded by her porn director husband to get a boob job and pose naked for Hungarian Playboy. A few years later, she was convicted to a three-year prison sentence for fraud in relation to her CiNN TV station, and ironically spent a week in front of the camera chronicling her last days of freedom while five million Hungarians sat glued to their television. Yet still, most of us in North America have no idea who this salacious pop starlet is.

Hard-rock and psychedelic fans should count themselves lucky that this compilation was put together. The larger than life Zalatnay is indeed a character, but her music transcends the circus of her life and kicks out some great freak beats, cosmic riffs and prog-jazz grooves, cementing the theory that Cini really is the queen of European Psychedelia.

By Dustin Drase

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