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.
The songs, however, are what provide the meat of Seven Separate Fools, much as they have throughout Three Dog Night's long career. Not being writers themselves (or so it would seem), they've been set free to pick and choose from the vast expanse of material that usually lies fallow in these times of self-contained artists. In the past, they've helped bring Laura Nyro, Randy Newman, Paul Williams and a host of others to the fore. With this latest album, they show that their taste is as good as ever. Some of the names aren't immediately familiar -- who, for instance, is the R. Ballard that wrote "Chains," harmonically closing the first side; or this team of T. Myers-Jaiananda, given due credit for the "X Y & Z" theme of "Going in Circles"; or, for that matter, the D. Loggins who bestowed Chuck Negron with such a tailor-made showcase in "Pieces of April." Others sound a bit closer to home: ex-James Gang Dom Troiano ("The Writings on the Wall") and Alan Toussaint's "Freedom for the Stallion," a breathtakingly and strangely religious bit of lyricism. Indeed, the only one of their old reliables TDN have used is Randy Newman, whose "My Old Kentucky Home" should be, and as performed here, is, a classic.
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.
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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