Seven Separate Fools
Three Dog Night
Released: July 1972
Chart Peak: #6
Weeks Charted: 40
Certified Gold: 7/28/72
According to an ever-increasing pile of Levinson-Ross press releases at my right elbow, this has been quite a summer for Three Dog Night. Their heralded Tour of Tours is nearing the five million gross mark, with an unoffical $125,000 record set at the Pocono Speedway Festival for roughly an hour's work. The group's recorded material, of course, continues to sell like there's no tomorrow (all seven of their previous LPs were certified gold), and Seven Separate Fools is likely to ease into that exalted company with merely the slightest effort. It is all capped, as if the foregoing hasn't been enough to glitter every band's eye from here to Reno, by a late August television special, in honor of which a higher-up in the Dogs' management firm has said "It's pleasant to find that patience is still rewarded."
But patience notwithstanding, rewards have to work both ways, and it's apparently become a longstanding principle with Three Dog Night that as much as they've reaped, so have they sown. Their live performances are to-the-point professional, entertaining, and if they happen to have a fixation on ball park attendance, at least they make sure that nobody leaves without fully getting their money's worth. The same might be said of their records. There is never the sense that the group is biting off more than they can chew, or trying to impress with an ill-fitting masterwork. They simply pick their songs well, arrange sharply and competently (with a good ear for AM hooks), deliver the package to your local record store and wait -- patiently -- for those bullets to roll in. If it's a formula, then it's one honed by confidence and good sense, worthy virtures no matter what you might have thought of Jeremiah and his bullfrog.
Seven Separate Fools continues this tradition in excellent fashion. It's an album of incredible variety, partly due to each cut being the product of a different songwriter, partly because when you have three lead voices of such dissimilar shape as those possessed by the Dogs, there's no way you can overlap except perhaps metaphysically. The band here, as on the rest of the group's output, is generally content to work in the background, though every once in a while they manage a flashy lick which lets you know just how good they could be if they wanted, Richard Podolor's production, at this point probably not consisting of much more than plugging in the basic Three Dog Night sound, is uniformly attractive, though the mixing problems that this album reputedly suffered before final release still appear to crop up now and again.
Yet none of these songs, along with other excellents ("Midnight Runaway") not yet mentioned, are able to rise to the Golden Track award for Seven separate Fools, an honor reserved -- and what else did you expect? -- for the group's latest single, "Black and White." I must admit that I didn't care much for this seductive little devil on first hearing: I hate children's choruses, for one thing, as well as the usual run of socially-acceptable lyrics, and that opening cowbell sounded as if it had the exquisite potential of driving me up any handy wall the moment it would start batting. But lo and behold, by the fifth or sixth time around, I had become an inexplicable junkie to the tune, all set to plunk down my seventy-nine cents on a moment's notice, just for the sheer pleasure of hearing it again. Even now, as I type this very paragraph, it continues its echo through ever-deeper levels of my subconscious, making me work to the rhythm of a sing-song nursery rhyme, telling me that "The world is black, the world is white/It turns by day, and then by night," over and over, driving it in, making me stop people on the street, grab them by the throat, shake them up and down while screaming "A child is white, A child is black."..
Hey, do you think these guys might be dangerous?
- Lenny Kaye, Rolling Stone, 9-28-72.
Highest marks to all concerned: as a sophisticated and tasty straight-ahead pop-rock group, Three Dog Night is at the moment unbeatable. Boy, are they thorough! When they do a tune, it stays done. Production, vocal and instrumental performance, and selection of songs are all first-rate. Randy Newman's adaptation of "My Old Kentucky Home" is a killer. "Prelude to Morning" is a lovely and evocative instrumental. "Tulsa Turnaround" opens with a parody of Leon Russell's vocal style and accent. That remarkable writer Allen Toussaint is represented by a fine tune, "Freedom for the Stallion." There isn't a bum cut on the whole album.
- Joel Vance, Stereo Review, 1/73.
Three Dog Night has amassed a following so large that at this time in their ascension they could release an album of Gregorian chants and have it certified gold one week after its release. Never fear, though, this album will not win disfavor with any of their fans. Their choice of material is a little more sophisticated but nonetheless brimming with commerciality. Winners are "Pieces of April," and "Black & White."
- Billboard, 1972.
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