4.5 out of 5 Stars!
Yes, a forgotten gem. What I like most about Three Dog Night’s debut album is its “live feel” (the actual unpolished quality). I mean, come on, Chuck Negron briefly goes flat on a single ad-libbed note near the end of the track “One” and it actually remained in the final/released mix, not to mention the song became a huge mega-hit. What recordings of today (even live recordings) haven’t been overdubbed, and re-re-re-recorded, with vocal lines painstakingly corrected line by line so as to remove what might have once been a semblance of a brilliant vocal performance, flaws and all?
Yep, you can’t get a better “live in the studio/one take and we’re done since our budget is tight” feel than this album.
This is a riveting trip back in history where record companies gave next to nothing to artists to “do their thing ASAP or else get dumped from your contract.” Yet despite this slight “flaw,” the album has a magical charm that remains even to this day.
The album contains some enduring classics. Aside from the aforementioned “One” (written by Harry Nilsson), there’s Traffic’s “Heaven Is In Your Mind,” a cover of The Beatles “It’s For You,” a cover of The Band’s “Chest Fever,” Neil Young’s “The Loner,” and the Cory Wells-sung “slammer” track “Try A Little Tenderness,” originally released by Otis Redding, and Cory actually ended up making it his very own “classic.”
Basically, the resulting release was a whopping “Hot Damn!” These guys delivered a harmonic debut, a rock-solid rendering of the music scene back in 1968, which prefaced many years of nearly constant Number One hits on the band’s part. Unfortunately, were it not for the damned drugs that hijacked the personal lives of the musicians by the mid-’70s, the band might have lasted much longer, since the guys were always apt-chameleons to shifting styles and musical trends.
Granted, the band did not write the majority of its own material (barely a fraction of its output, truthfully), but the members sure had a gifted “golden ear” for “hearing hits,” and the group subsequently tackled some excellent material from outside songwriters and usually altered the songs to fit the overall band style and—often—bettering every one of them. The “Dogs” also sensed how to improve when it came to production and presentation, and quickly perfected the “rough-edge” style by the second album Suitable For Framing (the tracks “Feelin’ Alright” and Eli’s Coming” anyone?). And with three gifted singers at the helm, each adopting songs that miraculously fit their own personal vocal style (lyrics and melodies that matched their unique vocal nuances to perfection), they mastered the art of harmonic rock-‘n’-roll. And when the singers couldn’t agree on exactly which vocalist should actually tackle the lead, they incorporated the “swapping lead vocal” technique that brought them equal success.
Therefore, this album is basically the genesis of what would become a brilliant strategy for fame, harmony, and hits. And with that in mind, I happily give it high ratings.