Zal Yanovsky / Zalman Yanovsky

Alive and Well in Argentina

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After parting ways with the Lovin' Spoonful in 1967, co-founder Zalman Yanovsky -- better known to fans and friends simply as "Zally" -- surfaced the following year on his lone solo long-player Alive and Well in Argentina (1968). The effort returned the artist back to the early rock as well as country & western roots that had inspired him. Plus, he was able to modernize, if not counter the weepy and introspective direction the Spoonful was continually drifting toward as John Sebastian scored the easier listening "Darling Be Home Soon" and "Younger Generation." Bearing his trademark sense of humor -- and help from none other than Jerry Yester -- his replacement in the Spoonful -- and former bandmate Joe Butler (drums), the platter has the feel of a Lovin' Spoonful side project. The opening rave-up "Raven in a Cage" is preceded by a surreal composite of farmyard audio effects and "Oh, Canada!" -- the Canadian National Anthem. The song's heavier execution instantly recalls the Spoonful's "There She Is" and "4 Eyes" with just a hint of Yanovsky's jug band roots and overtones. With electric guitars wailing, the lethargic and definitely sardonic update of one-hit wonder Joe Jones' 1960 "You Talk Too Much" is Yanovsky at his irreverent best. Yet he manages to turn it into a commendable performance before the bottom literally falls out of the groove. Continuing with the trip down memory lane are impressive interpretations of the Floyd Cramer instrumental "Last Date" as well as the Bobby Day-penned "Little Bitty Pretty One" -- a hit for Thurston Harris in 1957. Yanovsky's impassioned and slightly out of tune vocal plea inoculates it with a shot of soul, while the thoroughly echoplexed chorus has a gritty lo-fi feel. The banjo-fralin' title track "Alive and Well in Argentina" adopts a rural flavor and melody comparable to Dave Dudley's 18-wheeler ode "Six Days on the Road." The lyrics demonstrate the artist's tweaked funny bone, not to mention a not-so-subtle reply to the question that Spoonful fans and reporters were asking in the wake of Zally's departure. The 1971 reissue of the LP on Kama Sutra added the single "As Long as You're Here" -- which was written by the team of Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon who are perhaps best-known for the Turtles' hits "Happy Together," "She's My Girl," and "Cat in the Window." In due time they would also provide the Joe Butler-led incarnation of the Lovin' Spoonful "('Till I) Run with You" and "Amazing Air" on their Revelation Revolution '69 collection. Equaling if not surpassing the earlier covers are Yanovsky's raw reading of George Jones' divorce ode "Brown to Blue" and a honky tonkin' take of Ivory Joe Hunter's "I Almost Lost My Mind." The upbeat poppish spin of John Sebastian's "Priscilla Millionaira" comes on the heels of the Lovin' Spoonful's version from Everything Playing. An attempt at full-blown (or, perhaps more accurately overblown) psychedelia is heard on the pseudo-heavy "Hip Toad." It stands in contrast to the overt mixture of trippy electric guitars and orchestrated jamming titled "Lt. Schtinkckhausen" -- ultimately sounding more like Frank Zappa than the Spoonful. The colorful jacket artwork collage is credited to Peter Max, while the dimestore novel-esque liner notes are courtesy of Carl Gottlieb -- a writer for the Smothers Brothers TV Show among numerous other credits.

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