Supraphon’s collaboration with partner companies in other countries has recently acquired an exciting new dimension: namely, the practice of releasing joint albums of Czechoslovak performers and their international colleagues. One of pioneering ventures in this trend is represented by this disc, made by Karel Zich together with a Belgian friend, Viktor Lazlo (B young lady, regardless of the name which she assumed f rom the hero of the movie, Casablanca). One should add the „Belgian” label attached to Viktor is not quite accurate either, as she was born in Brittany, France – and to make things still a bit more confused, her mother’s background is Anglo-Grenadian, and her father’s, Franco-lndian. What seems to count, though, is the fact of Viktor’s having been brought up in Belgium where she graduated from Brussels university after studies of art history and archaeology. She speaks (and sings) English, French, Dutch, German and Italian.
Viktor Lazlo (b. 1961) took up violin playing at age six, roughly at the same time as dancing lessons. By sixteen she was firmly under the spell of jazz dance. Before long her striking good looks were spotted by fashion designers, an interest which brought her to Paris, and later on a tour of Europe, as a model. While criss-crossing the continent Viktor got into ever more frequent contacts with modern pop music, at the same time experiencing powerful attraction to the roots of black music; what more, she ceased to be content with staying at the receiving end of the line, eventually giving it a try and setting out to sing, first on a purely amateur basis. Guest-appearing at a Brussels night club she was noticed by Lou Depryk, producer and talent-scout (his assets have included e. g. the all-European hit, ta Plan Pour Moi, the breakthrough number of Plastic Bertrand). This was in 1983, and it was then and there that Viktor was invited for her first recording sessions. The outcome of this invitation – a new version of the 1940s hit, Casanova – immediately proved to have been the right choice. The song hit the Belgian and French best-selling charts where it figured among the top ten entries. Thereupon, Viktor did the theme song for the French film, A Mort L’Arbitre, and scored another major success in Belgium, with Backdoor Man (1984). An equally successful single featuring The Last Call For An Angel followed, a track later included in Viktor Lazlo’s first album, titled simply She.
This debut LP, made by a total newcomer to the pop scene, got Platinum Disc in Belgium, as well as selling over 100,000 copies in the FRG and 60,000 in Japan (!). Viktor Lazlo was now moving into the focus of showbiz attention: her popularity was further asserted by another single success, Sweet, Soft And Lazy, soon a favourite of the European discotheque circuit.
The tracks featured on this Supraphon album are the pick of Viktor’s original collection, She, demonstrating the vocalist’s extraordinary musical feeling, coupled with a perfect skill at expressing the nuances of mood fitting each individual selection. Her singing is of the kind to send the shiver of pleasant thrill down your spine, involving a noticeable dose of inspiration by the black vocal style, something that Viktor admires yet does not carbon-copy.
The mid-1980s have seen Viktor Lazlo busy touring both in Europe and overseas, accompanied by an eight-man backing outfit, and appearing in a series of TV shows. One has every reason to believe that her output, quite unlike the standard short-lived disco music production carried on the fickle waves of fashion, can indeed aspire to ranking her alongside the like of, say, Sade or Alison Moyet. Anyway, you will find an opportunity to make your own judgment here, on tracks recorded in 1985.
What to add about Karel Zich? After a series of five solo albums released on the home market, plus two export LPs, Let Me Sing Some Elvis Presley Songs and My Party, ne is now appearing once again in a set of songs made to his measure, displaying all of his familiar qualities. Karel Zich’s selections on this album were written with a view to achieving a seamless blend with the tracks made by Viktor Lazlo. This was also a crucial consideration in devising the instrumental side of Karel’s part of the project. And as Karel Zich came out of this venture much impressed by the Belgian vocalist’s swing-based nonchalance and spontaneous touch of class, he is currently making plans for recording a duet number with Viktor, and for introducing her in live concert to audiences in Czechoslovakia.