Three Dog Night
Greatest Hits Live
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2008, Volume 15, #9
Written by John Metzger
Wed September 3, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT
Right from the start, Three Dog Night was a pop band that found a way to appeal to a rock ’n‘ roll audience. Instead of writing its own material, the outfit followed an old-fashioned approach of co-opting songs that were written (and frequently made famous) by others. Its albums were streamlined, too. Despite entering the music scene in the late 1960s, there were no extended guitar solos or mind-boggling jams. The emphasis, at least in the studio, was almost entirely placed upon Three Dog Night’s founding front men: Chuck Negron, Danny Hutton, and Cory Wells. Likewise, the group’s endeavors, more often than not, were prepped for mass consumption, and they adhered to proven formulas that only a record executive could love.
At the same time, though, there remains something ridiculously infectious about Three Dog Night’s work. Its singles in particular are strangely compelling and alluring, and as hard as one might try to fight the urge, it is nearly impossible not to want to sing along with tunes like Joy to the World, Black and White, and An Old Fashioned Love Song. With the exception of Try a Little Tenderness, no rendition of which came close to those that Otis Redding had unleashed a few years earlier, Three Dog Night had an almost impeccable ability to choose material that was well suited to its style of performing. More than most outfits trying to play the same game, Three Dog Night knew its strengths and its weakness, and it confidently managed to walk the line between them, while always giving fans precisely what they wanted to hear. As a result, it reaped the benefits as bodies were packed into stadiums, and recordings consistently were certified gold.
Even so, there always has been a bit of a disconnected wire that ran between the raw, unbridled energy of Three Dog Night’s stage persona and the slickness of its studio pursuits. Its concerts were designed to be gigantic celebrations, while its albums were crafted for the sole purpose of feeding the mainstream radio market. The group released a pair of concert sets in the early 1970s — Around the World with Three Dog Night and Captured Live at the Forum — each of which was a solid, if somewhat flawed affair. Greatest Hits Live, its latest endeavor, was compiled from recordings that were made during its extended world tour in 1972 and 1973. Although the collection makes an attempt to overcome the obstacles that undermined Three Dog Night’s earlier live efforts, it too, falls short of its mark.
In terms of song selection, Greatest Hits Live does touch upon most of the right bases. It leaves behind some of the lesser tracks that filled Around the World with Three Dog Night, while also picking up some of the better-known tunes that appeared on Captured Live at the Forum. Most notably, though, Black and White is absent from the collection, as is Three Dog Night’s expansive rendition of The Band’s Chest Fever. The outing, however, does showcase the outfit’s full range by illuminating Three Dog Night’s tight harmonies as well as the electrifying lead guitar playing of Michael Allsup and the shimmering organ accompaniments of Jimmy Greenspoon. In hindsight, some selections, like the explosive Liar, are tied too closely to the bombastic arena rock of the 1970s, but overall, if Greatest Hits Live is taken at face value, it does demonstrate Three Dog Night’s knack for interpreting material in a way that was highly entertaining.
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box