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Cyan/Hard Labor

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Critics' Reviews

amg review
2005 and 2006 are going to be remembered as a golden era for fans of Three Dog Night -- oh, not based on the then-current version of the group featuring Danny Hutton and Cory Wells (although they probably deserve credit for endurance if nothing else). Rather, it's the crop of audiophile-quality reissues of their original albums on the Gottdisc and Edsel labels that should excite admirers of their sound. This Edsel release is a case in point. Given the reputation of the two albums included, it should not be that good a CD. But for a band that was supposedly past its peak and beginning a downward commercial descent, Three Dog Night come off amazingly strong on Cyan, at least in this edition; Joe Schermie's bass sounds close and loud enough so that it feels like it's in your lap, and that on the relatively restrained soul ballad "Let Me Serenade You"; and Mike Allsup (who also wrote three excellent numbers on this album) could have held his own with the lead guitarist of any world-class rock band of the era, based on what we hear here; the gospel and soul sounds that ran through the songs on this album are pumped up and projected on this CD like one never heard on the old U.S. issue of Cyan (mastered by Universal in the late '80s and never upgraded). Even the number three hit "Shambala," which you may never have wanted to hear again, comes off with more energy and immediacy than one thought possible, and for the first time listeners can get a good listen at what the members themselves heard in the studio when they cut this number, and it's impressive even thirty-some years later. Maybe success was going to their heads, and some chemical excesses were starting to catch up with them behind the scenes, but you'd never know it listening to this CD or, at least, the first half. The second half is devoted to their next album, Hard Labor, and that's where the rot seems to be setting in. New member Jack Ryland's bass is more subtle but less energetic than Schermie's playing, and the band's sound is smoother and more pop-oriented here than it was on their prior albums. The singing is still first-rate, and the musicianship is fine, but there's not as much urgency or individuality in the sound here, in the playing or the singing, and consequently less excitement, even with the upgrade in sound from the digital transfer. Then again, that might have been too much to expect from a group on its tenth album in barely five years. This edition is worth the investment for what it does with Cyan -- an unexpected jewel in the group's output -- and Hard Labor is a nice but almost unessential bonus; the annotation is interesting and informative, and the producers have fit both LPs onto one CD. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi