On Second Thought: Three Dog Night – Celebrate: The Three Dog Night Story (1993)

From 1969 to 1975, this Los Angeles, California band spit out an incredible total of 21 Top 40 hit singles. Clearly one of the biggest selling acts of the era, Three Dog Night had everything required to make a winning team. Their chops were well-lubricated, and their songs, flush with sharp production and arrangements, smacked of radio-ready frequencies.

Although Three Dog Night didn’t write their own material, which irked snooty critics to no end, they possessed a sixth sense when it came to choosing the right songs. The band further performed other people’s tunes as if they were their own, resulting in a signature sound that was practical, precise and pleasing to the public.

A double-disc collection, Celebrate: The Three Dog Night Story 1965-1975 (MCA Records) was so comprehensive that it even features stuff a couple of members released prior to the formation of the band. For example, there’s the sun-kissed pop of Danny Hutton’s “Roses And Rainbows,” which clasped the charts far and wide in 1965, along with the sinister garage rock tone of “Sinner Man” by Cory Wells and The Enemys.

Before they were christened Three Dog Night, the band was briefly known as Redwood, and the package additionally offers their demo of the warm and fuzzy “If You Knew” that was initially done by the Young Rascals. To boot, Three Dog Night’s rare debut single, a gorgeous a cappella delivery of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “It’s For You,” appears on the anthology.

Three Dog Night had many strong points, but few will argue their three-part harmonies were their calling card. Singing in perfect pitch, the band’s vocals exploded with power and soul. Weaned on the blues and doo-wop music, the fellows merged these influences with an accessible pop rock finish that brought together the best of each idiom.

Gold-plated cuts like “One,” “Joy To The World,” “Never Been To Spain,” “An Old Fashioned Love Song,” “Celebrate,” “One Man Band,” “Shambala,” “Easy To be Hard,” “The Show Must Go On,” “The Family Of Man,” “Liar” and “Black & White” still tickle the senses after all these years.

Hipper than they were often given credit for, Three Dog Night regularly splashed their work with shards of world beat music, funk and heavy rock motions. The band’s cover of Traffic’s psychedelic-dusted “Heaven Is In Your Mind” is just as enlightening as the original version, “I Can Hear You Calling” shakes with fervor and force, a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Never Dreamed You’d Leave In The Summer” bristles with beauty and heartbreak, and a treatment of Bernie Taupin and Elton John’s “Lady Samantha” is simply haunting.

Not a bunch to take themselves too seriously, Three Dog Night decided to compose a tune of their own, affectionately titled “Our B-Side.” Authored as a response to nit-picking music journalists, the giddy little ditty resembles a kooky cross between a stoned frat rock combo and the Lovin’ Spoonful.

The reason why Three Dog Night acquired such massive success is because they had traction and talent, and here’s proof in the pie.

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 on the national charts with "Stand By Me" - which is ironically one of her favorite songs, especially the version by John Lennon. She has also contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as associate editor of Rock Beat International. Paterson's own publications have included Inside Out, and Twist And Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • Steven

    They were the AM radio staples of my adolescence. 1969-1975. 7th grade through high school. From the end of The Beatles through the ascent of the Eagles. Every single was great, although I did get a little tired of hearing Joy To The World constantly in the spring of 1971.