Saturday, 8 December 2018

Zalman Yanovsky - Alive and Well in Argentina (Rock US 1968)


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Zalman "Zal" Yanovsky (December 19, 1944 – December 13, 2002) was a Canadian rock musician. Born in Toronto, he was the son of political cartoonist Avrom Yanovsky. He played lead guitar and sang for the Lovin' Spoonful, a rock band which he founded with John Sebastian in 1964. According to Sebastian, "He could play like Elmore James, he could play like Floyd Cramer, he could play like Chuck Berry. 


He could play like all these people, yet he still had his own overpowering personality. Out of this we could, I thought, craft something with real flexibility." He was married to actress Jackie Burroughs, with whom he had one daughter, Zoe.

One of the early rock and roll performers to wear a cowboy hat, and fringed "Davy Crockett" style clothing, Zal helped set the trend followed by such 1960s performers as Sonny Bono, Johnny Rivers and David Crosby.

1971 Front Cover

Mostly self-taught, he began his musical career playing folk music coffee houses in Toronto. He lived on a kibbutz in Israel for a short time and was supposedly asked to leave after having driven a tractor through a building. He returned to Canada and teamed with fellow Canadian Denny Doherty in the Halifax Three. The two joined Cass Elliot in the Mugwumps, a group made famous by Doherty's & Cass's later group the Mamas & the Papas, in the song "Creeque Alley". It was at this time he met John Sebastian and they formed the Lovin' Spoonful with Steve Boone and Joe Butler.

In 1967, he was arrested on a marijuana-related charge. In exchange for not being deported, Yanovsky gave the name of his dealer, and as a consequence was ostracised by the music community.[2] Returning to his native Canada, he recorded a solo album Alive and Well in Argentina (and Loving Every Minute of It). Buddah Records released the album in the U.S. in 1968, along with a single that did not appear on the album, "As Long As You're Here". The single (in which the B-side was the same track without vocals and recorded backwards) just missed the Billboard Hot 100, but fared a little better in Cashbox, peaking at #73. Kama Sutra Records reissued the album in 1971 with a completely different cover and inclusion of "As Long As You're Here".

He also appeared in the Off-Broadway show "National Lampoon's Lemmings" at New York's Village Gate. Although not an original cast member, he contributed a musical number "Nirvana Banana", a Donovan parody.

After leaving the music business, he became a restaurateur, alongside his wife Rose Richardson, establishing Chez Piggy restaurant in 1979 and Pan Chancho Bakery in 1994, both in Kingston, Ontario. The success of Chez Piggy prompted the publication of a companion cookbook (The Chez Piggy Cookbook, Firefly Books, 1998) that was collected by fans. 

After Zal's death of congestive heart failure in December 2002, and his wife's death in 2005, his daughter Zoe Yanovsky (with actress Jackie Burroughs) took over the ownership of both eateries. She also completed and launched another cookbook that Zal was working on, The Pan Chancho Cookbook (Bookmakers Press, 2006). Wikipedia

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. (AMG)

01. Raven In A Cage  02:51
02. You Talk Too Much  02:32
03. Last Date  03:01
04. Little Bitty Pretty One  02:52
05. Alive And Well In Argentina  03:25
06. Brown To Blue  02:25
07. Priscilla Millionaira  02:17
08. I Almost Lost My Mind  03:04
09. Hip Toad  02:04
10. Lt. Schtinckhausen  06:03

Bonus Tracks
11. As Long As You're Here  02:19
12. Ereh Er'uoy Sa Gnol Sa  02:18 

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4 comments:

Uncle Babka said...

Thanks for Zalman - great Hanukkah gift

S R Management said...

Never heard of this, thanks from a child of the 50's who came of age in the 70's, but sailed thru the 60's.

mdhjhw said...

Thanks a lot.

juan manuel muñoz said...

many, many thanks, my friend, happy holidays