Lovin’ Spoonful’s Zalman Yanovsky – Alive and Well in Argentina (1968): Forgotten series

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Lead guitarist Zalman Yanovsky’s lone solo album, released after his unceremonious and quite unfair firing from the Lovin’ Spoonful in 1967, announces his new sense of freedom with an opening Jerry Yester co-written up-tempo rocker called “Raven in a Cage.” Ironically, the whole album was co-produced by Zal’s replacement in the band, Jerry Yester, along with Zally himself.

Yanovsky’s zaniness comes through frequently, especially on covers like “Little Bitty Pretty One” and the catchy “You Talk Too Much.” Even with the Lovin’ Spoonful, Zalman Yanovsky was always a clown, but here he takes it to Mothers of Invention levels of humorousness. In fact, Frank Zappa was once asked about Alive and Well in Argentina after it was completed, and he apparently loved it.

The country-rock title track and country ballad “Brown to Blue” are supposed to tell the tale of Yanovsky’s drug bust and trial, which directly led to his humiliating exit from the Lovin’ Spoonful. If you really stretch that story, to a certain extent the bluesy Ivory Joe Hunter ballad, “I Almost Lost My Mind” could be included in that, as well.

The slightly off-key lead vocal of “Hip Toad” is little hard to take seriously, as I’m sure it was intended. Zal’s inventive instrumental cover of “Last Date,” the old Floyd Cramer, piano hit is delightful. It’s also interesting to hear Zalman Yanovsky’s superior version of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s 1967 song, “Pricilla Millionaira” which shows how much he would’ve improved his former band’s version.

Another Yanovsky/Yester-penned effort, the orchestrated-with-fanfare instrumental “Lt. Schtinckhausen” closes the original album. Yanovsky’s guitar sound shines throughout, as it did on the best Lovin’ Spoonful moments.

Remastered in 2012 by Rev-Ola Records, with detailed liner notes, Alive and Well in Argentina also now includes both sides of Zalman Yanovsky’s superb should’ve-been-a-big-hit non-album 1967 single, “As Long As You’re Here” (penned by Bonner and Gordon), and its bizarre b-side – the a-side played in reverse as an instrumental.

I think you’ll be surprised how much vocally Zally sounds like John Sebastian on this exciting project. All of those years playing together must have rubbed off on him.

Steve Elliott

Steve Elliott

Steve Elliott has written for Shindig, Twist and Shake, Garage & Beat and Ugly Things. A big fan of all things rock and roll - especially the British Invasion, garage rock, psychedelic, new wave, folk rock, surf and power pop - he was a consultant on Sundazed Music's reissue of 'The Best of Butch Engle & The Styx: No Matter What You Say' in 2000, and has also provided liner notes for Italy's Misty Lane Records. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Steve Elliott
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