Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Three Dog Night

Although it rained for a good while both before and during the show, the weather did nothing to dampen the spirits of the large crowd gathered to see Three Dog Night perform a free, live concert in Elk Grove Village last night ... in fact, it's probably one of the biggest turn-outs this series has ever seen.   

Cory Wells and Danny Hutton were both in fine voice as they rattled through their hits in quick succession.  (The missing third of the original line-up, Chuck Negron, blows through town in a couple of weeks as part of The Happy Together Tour.)  

The set kicked off with what can best be described as two classic Forgotten Hits ... "Family Of Man" and "One Man Band".  More hits followed.  (Three Dog Night scored 21 consecutive Top 40 Hits between 1969 and 1975, an INCREDIBLE track record ... and they performed most of them last night.  You can check out the complete Three Dog Night Hit List below.)   

In addition to classic gems like "Black And White", "Shambala", "Out In The Country", "An Old Fashioned Love Song", "Eli's Coming", "Celebrate" and "Never Been To Spain", we were also treated to a couple of vintage album tracks (like their earlier-than-Joe-Cocker version of "You Can Leave Your Hat On" and the title track from their "It Ain't Easy album) as well as two brand-new tunes from their forth-coming album that Wells promises should be out "by 2035".  (You can check out these tracks on their official website ... ... "Prayer of the Children" proves just how strong these guys are vocally ... they performed a letter-perfect rendition last night that rivaled some of the best Beach Boys harmonies you've ever heard.)   

I won't say that Chuck's voice wasn't missed ... he provided the high end of those classic harmonies and really drove home Chuckcentric songs like "One" and "Joy To The World", which the band featured as their final encore.  They also did an updated, rap version of their #1 Hit "Mama Told Me Not To Come" that Frannie hated but I thought was a clever idea that simply went on far too long.  (Do the faithful version as you did and then cut the gimmick down to about a third of what you did last night and you'll probably retain more of your audience's attention.)  

It's too bad the guys can't mend the fences after all these years ... a full-blown Three Dog Night reunion tour would generate millions and sell out theaters around the world.  (We recently ran a video clip of deejay Jimmy Jay interviewing Chuck Negron backstage after one of his shows.  He blames the failure to put things back together squarely on Danny Hutton.)  Read Chuck's book, "Three Dog Nightmare" to find out how his drug abuse ultimately did in the band, at the time the #1 recording and touring act on the planet.  It's understandable why there might be some hard feelings between the two camps ... these guys were literally on top of the world.  It's one of the best rock biographies you'll ever read.  But Chuck's been clean and sober for decades now, out doing his own shows.  One can only imagine the intense excitement a full reunion could generate.)  That being said, long-time keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon is still onboard.  He's been playing with Cory and Danny since 1965, before Three Dog Night even existed!  (One thing I've got to say is that back in the day, Three Dog Night had one of the best back-up bands around ... these guys totally killed and were often given their own spotlight as part of the show.)  

Last night's performance was a fast-paced, very entertaining show. Between songs, both Cory and Danny recount humorous stories and experiences ... they've really got their show down pat.  (The guys seem to be really big on the casino circuit lately.  Last year they completely sold out The Arcada Theatre at tickets close to $100 ... so seeing them for free in Elk Grove Village last night was an especially sweet treat for local fans, who turned out in droves to see the concert.)  If there was one disappointment, it's that in all the recollections of their hey-day they never even once mention or acknowledge the fact that they accomplished this incredible career as a trio. 

Three Dog Night continues to tour extensively (and there's a great video available, now out of print, of them performing with The Tennessee Symphony Orchestra through
Highly recommended if they hit your area.    

An absolute concert highlight for me last night was their spot-on rendition of "Liar", a #6 national hit from 1971.  For some reason, you never hear this one on the radio ... and it deserves, at the very least, an occasional spin. 
The song was first recorded by Argent.  Keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon heard it and immediately called Cory Wells, for whom he then played it over the phone in one of those "you've just got to hear this" moments.  The rest, as they say, is history.

We mentioned earlier that the boys performed their new track "Prayer for the Children" displaying harmonies worthy of The Beach Boys ... but DIDJAKNOW that there is an actual Beach Boys connection to Three Dog Night? 
Danny Hutton has been a long-time friend of Brian Wilson.  Hutton started with a solo career (and even toured as part of Dick Clark's Caravan Of Stars back in the day ... in fact, that is how he first met Cory Wells, in 1965). 
Just prior to launching Three Dog Night, Danny was fronting another band called Redwood, who secured a recording contract.  Brian Wilson gave the band a song to record, "Time To Get Alone" ... but then had to pull it back from the band when The Beach Boys decided they wanted to cut it themselves.  As such, this one sat unreleased for decades, Redwood disbanded, Three Dog Night united and history was forever rewritten.  We've got that extremely rare Redwood track to share with you today.  (We featured The Beach Boys' version as part of our time sweep last Friday!)

One misnomer I'd like to correct.  Early in the set last night, Cory Wells made a comment that Chicago was one of the last major cities to climb onboard the Three Dog Night bandwagon as the group was starting to make it ... but that once they did, Chicago became a very supportive city and a favorite place for the band to play. 
This simply isn't the case.  The song that most consider to be Three Dog Night's break-through single, "One", went all the way to #1 here in Chicago in 1969, a feat it didn't even accomplish in Billboard Magazine where it peaked at #5.  In fact, their follow-up single, "Easy To Be Hard", ALSO topped the Chicagoland charts despite stopping at #4 in Billboard.  In all, Three Dog Night scored 18 consecutive Top 20 Hits in Chicago, including six #1's, one #2 and three #3's.  This hardly sounds lackluster to me!!!  A close analysis of this chart will show that in nearly every instance, their records performed better here locally than they did on the national charts.   (Truth be told, Three Dog Night's records consistently performed better in Cash Box Magazine and Record World than they did in Billboard.) 
Here is the complete Three Dog Night Hit List, highlighting the highest national peak for each record as well as how these tunes scored here in Chicago.  Impressive doesn't even begin to describe this track record ... you'd be hard pressed to name many other bands who put together this kind of a recording legacy.  (kk)  

1969 - Nobody  (National - 72 / Chicago - 28)

1969 - Try A Little Tenderness (22 / --)

1969 - One  (1 / 1)

1969 - Easy To Be Hard  (1 / 1)

1969 - Eli's Coming  (7 / 3)

1970 - Celebrate  (11 / 7)

1970 - Mama Told Me Not To Come (1 / 1)

1970 - Out In The Country  (9 / 7)

1971 - One Man Band  (11 / 15)

1971 - Joy To The World  (1 / 1)

1971 - Liar  (6 / 10)

1971 - An Old Fashioned Love Song  (4 / 3)

1972 - Never Been To Spain  (3 / 5)

1972 - The Family Of Man  (8 / 6)

1972 - Black And White  (1 / 1)

1973 - Pieces Of April  (18 / 2)

1973 - Shambala  (1 /1)

1973 - Let Me Serenade You  (12 / 8)

1974 - The Show Must Go On  (1 / 3)

1974 - Sure As I'm Sittin' Here  (16 / 11)

1974 - Play Somethin' Sweet  (24 / 20)

1975 - Til The World Ends  (22 / 14)