Return to the 5th Dimension

(PR) The year 1967 marked the Summer of Love, when the initial strains of psychedelia shared the pop charts with the Tijuana Brass, the Monkees, Aretha Franklin, Nancy Sinatra and a harmonizing quintet who managed to combine sophisticated pop and soul with a touch of hippie aesthetic, the 5th Dimension. One of the great hit-making groups of the time, the 5th Dimension recorded a respectable body of chart-top hits: “Up Up & Away,” “Go Where You Wanna Go,” “Sweet Blindness,” “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “Age of Aquarius,” “California Soul,” “Working on a Groovy Thing,” “One Less Bell to Answer” and “(Last Night) I Couldn’t Get To Sleep at All” among others.

Forty years after the group’s inception, on August 7, Collectors’ Choice Music (CCM) will reissue ten 5th Dimension long-players on seven CDs, representing the group’s entire Soul City/Bell recorded output, plus the first post-group recording by the duo of Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr.

Collectors’ Choice has, in most cases, bundled two long-players per CD, remastered with bonus tracks and liner notes by venerated music scribe Gene Sculatti.

The 5th Dimension: Up Up & Away/Magic Garden: As key songwriter, arranger and conductor, Jimmy Webb guided the group through its first two LPs. This set includes their first hit, a remake of the Mamas & Papas’ “Go Where You Wanna Go,” along with the song that would propel them to superstardom, “Up Up & Away,” and a third hit, “Another Day, Another Heartache,” as well as notable album track “Rosecrans Blvd.” Up Up & Away went Top 10 on Billboard’s pop album charts and remained on the charts for a record-setting 83 weeks. The Magic Garden, a semi-concept album, was wholly written by Webb save for one Beatles cover, and launched the group’s long relationship with producer Bones Howe. The CCM reissue contains three bonus tracks.

• The 5th Dimension: Stoned Soul Picnic/The Age of Aquarius: The quintet shifted into even higher gear with Stoned Soul Picnic, which contained two Laura Nyro compositions: the title track and “Sweet Blindness.” Although they had to ask Nyro the meaning of “surrey down,” the group wasted no time in making “Stoned Soul Picnic” its own, reaching No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart. The album contained the No. 25 hit “California Soul,” and songs by Dick & Don Adfrissi, Jeffrey Commanor and Association co-founder Jules Alexander. Picnic is paired here with The Age of Aquarius, which featured the smash title track from the Broadway production “Hair,” and the Nyro song “Wedding Bell Blues.” It also included the hits “Blowin’ Away” (also by Nyro) and “Working on a Groovy Thing.” But who would have predicted a cover of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”? Anything was possible in the Aquarian age. Contains two bonus tracks as well.

• The 5th Dimension: Portrait/Love’s Lines, Angles & Rhymes: The 5th Dimension entered the ‘70s with a bang, or at least a Bell, as Johnny Rivers sold his theretofore Imperial-distributed Soul City label to Bell Records (which later became subsumed by Arista). And the hits followed them to the new address, due in no small part to the group bringing in its creative cadre. Burt Bacharach’s mournful ballad “One Less Bell to Answer” was a No. 2 pop hit. But overall, Portrait went down as the group’s protest album, featuring a medley called “Declaration,” which they sang at the Nixon White House in 1969. The hit “Save the Country,” their sixth Laura Nyro smash, also came from the album. The title track charted Top 20. Other songwriters represented included doo-wop veterans Johnny Bristol, Harvey Fuqua and Jesse Belvin, and lyricist Norman Gimbel, who wrote Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.” Contains three bonus tracks, and features the CD debut of Love’s Lines.

• The 5th Dimension: Live!: This 1971 double-live album showed what level of harmony (vocally, spiritually and conceptually) the group could generate onstage. That it’s never been on CD before is a real surprise. But the bigger surprise is that CCM dug up three unreleased live tracks to add to this CD reissue. Contains the “Love Medley,” the “Laura Nyro Medley” and the “Jimmy Webb medley.”

• The 5th Dimension: Individually & Collectively/Living Together, Growing Together: Neither of these LPs have been reissued before on CD, yet they represented a fertile — if lesser known — period for hits. Individually featured “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All,” with Marilyn McCoo increasingly taking the vocal spotlight. The writer was Tony Macaulay, whose other credits included the Foundations and Edison Lighthouse. The other hit, pointing the way to increased musical sophistication, was “If I Could Reach You,” which nicked the Top 10. Growing Together bore no fewer than three Hot 100 entries: the title track plus Paul Anka’s “Everything’s Been Changed” and “Ashes to Ashes.”

• The 5th Dimension: Soul & Inspiration: This was the group’s last album for Bell (never previously available on CD), and the last they would make with Bones Howe, with some tracks produced by Friends of Distinction producer John Florez. The original lineup would make one more album on ABC before Davis and McCoo left to pursue their successful career. The CD features six unreleased, Bones Howe-produced bonus tracks.

• Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis: I Hope We Get to Love in Time: McCoo and Davis’ first post-5th Dimension album went gold, landed them three hit singles (“You Don’t Have to be a Star (To Be in My Show),” “I Hope We Get to Love in Time,” and “Your Love.” Their new producer was Detroit-based producer Don Davis, who’d worked with Stax sensations Johnnie Taylor and the Dramatics. The album stayed on the Billboard charts for more than six months, and the duo continued its success with two subsequent albums plus their own prime-time television show. The two continue to perform 75-100 live dates per year.

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