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Up, Up and Away: Tracks on “Essential 5th Dimension” Revealed

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For a golden period in the late 1960s and early 1970s, few groups had as winning a streak as The 5th Dimension. Jimmy Webb wrote an entire album for the group, The Magic Garden, after having supplied them with their first hit, the five-time Grammy winner “Up, Up and Away.” The 5th Dimension appeared to be the muse of Laura Nyro, as well, turning Nyro’s brilliant and idiosyncratic material like “Wedding Bell Blues,” “Stoned Soul Picnic” and “Sweet Blindness” into hit gold. The group discovered Burt Bacharach and Hal David late in the game, yet recorded the definitive version of the team’s little-known song “One Less Bell to Answer,” which Keely Smith had debuted in 1967. Their 1970 recording hit No. 2 on the pop charts and is well-remembered today. They took a mini-medley from the Broadway musical Hair all the way to the top when “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)” spent 16 weeks on the chart, six of them at No. 1. Neil Sedaka, Ashford and Simpson and Tony Macaulay all benefitted from the group’s “champagne soul” stylings. Even Frank Sinatra sought them out as an opening act and as guest stars on his well-regarded television special Francis Albert Sinatra Does His Thing. The original quintet disbanded in 1975 after the release of Earthbound, a reunion album with Jimmy Webb on the ABC label which unfortunately still remains unavailable on CD. There were a couple of Motown albums in 1978 from the group’s new lineup and another unsuccessful comeback effort in 1995. But it’s the classic 1967-1974 period that will be collected by Legacy on The Essential 5th Dimension, scheduled for release on March 15, the same date when the label drops The Essential Paul Revere and the Raiders.

The Essential 5th Dimension contains 36 of the group’s finest moments. These reflect a true embarrassment of songwriting riches, not to mention sophisticated arrangements, both vocally and musically. All of the above-mentioned songs are included, of course. But you’ll also hear tracks such as the hit cover of The Mamas and The Papas’ “Go Where You Wanna Go,” great Neil Sedaka songs (“Puppet Man,” also recorded by Tom Jones, and “Workin’ on a Groovy Thing”) and Jimmy Webb perennials (“The Worst That Could Happen,” recorded before Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge, plus “Carpet Man,” “Paper Cup,” “The Girls’ Song” and “Orange Air”). There’s of course, plenty of Laura Nyro, who’s represented by songs both ubiquitous (“Wedding Bell Blues,” “Stoned Soul Picnic”) and unfamiliar, though no less great (“Black Patch,” “Blowing Away”). The great Bones Howe, who went on to helm Tom Waits’ earliest LPs, was seated in the producer’s chair for every LP after the debut album, Up, Up and Away. (That LP was produced by Johnny Rivers and Marc Gordon.) Howe created a smooth and instantly recognizable sound for the group, aided by the stellar arrangements of Bob Alcivar and others. The Wrecking Crew lent able support as the house band. But the stars were the five individual singers whose distinctive blend was capable of both pure pop and impassioned soul: Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis, Jr., Florence LaRue, Lamont McLemore and Ron Townson. What’s the scoop on The Essential? Hit the jump for the full track listing and more!

Alas, there’s nothing new for longtime fans of the group on this two-CD anthology.  The Essential 5th Dimension is basically a repackage of Arista/BMG Heritage’s Up, Up and Away: The Definitive Collection (07822-18961-2, 1997), containing the same 36 tracks as that compilation. (Unlike other sources, Amazon is showing The Essential as differing by one track, including “California My Way” in place of “I’ll Be Lovin’ You Forever.” Both tracks are from the group’s debut, 1967’s Up, Up and Away. The Amazon track listing also resequences the songs, primarily on Disc 1,  into more strictly chronological order.)

Yet The Essential 5th Dimension (much like its predecessor) remains one-stop shopping for those wishing to familiarize themselves with one of the greatest pop/soul vocal groups of all time. At 36 tracks, it’s the most comprehensive collection of the group’s material available, combining the hit singles with choice album cuts. The original Arista/BMG Heritage issue featured a lengthy and informative essay by Mike Ragogna along with full discographical information for each one of the 5th Dimension’s albums. It’s currently unknown whether The Essential will carry these features over. Similarly, the mastering engineer hasn’t yet been revealed. The tracks were remastered in 20-bit “from the original master tapes” by Sundazed’s Bob Irwin in 1997, but there have been subsequent remasters. Eliott Federman tackled the catalogue for Buddha’s 2000 reissues, while Vic Anesini and Rob LoVerde remastered much of the group’s catalogue for Collectors’ Choice’s 2007 expanded reissue series. The newest Anesini/LoVerde masters could be utilized this time around, which could very well make this worth an upgrade from the 1997 issue.

Feel like reacquainting yourself with The 5th Dimension?  The Essential 5th Dimension streets on March 15 from Legacy.

The 5th Dimension, The Essential 5th Dimension (Arista/Legacy 88697 82702-2, 2011)

Disc 1

  1. Up, Up and Away
  2. Go Where You Wanna Go
  3. Learn How to Fly
  4. Another Day, Another Heartache
  5. Paper Cup
  6. Carpet Man
  7. Stoned Soul Picnic
  8. Sweet Blindness
  9. California Soul
  10. Wedding Bell Blues
  11. Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures) (Greatest Hits Mix)
  12. Workin’ on a Groovy Thing
  13. Blowing Away
  14. The Girls’ Song
  15. The Worst That Could Happen
  16. Orange Air
  17. I’ll Be Lovin’ You Forever

Disc 2

  1. One Less Bell to Answer
  2. Puppet Man
  3. Save the Country
  4. Medley: The Declaration/A Change is Gonna Come/People Gotta Be Free
  5. Dimension 5ive
  6. On the Beach (In the Summertime)
  7. Love’s Lines, Angles and Rhymes
  8. Light Sings
  9. Time and Love
  10. Never My Love (Single Edit)
  11. Together Let’s Find Love (Single Edit)
  12. (Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep At All
  13. If I Could Reach You
  14. Black Patch
  15. Living Together, Growing Together
  16. Everything’s Been Changed
  17. Ashes to Ashes
  18. Flashback (Mono Mix)
  19. No Love in the Room

Disc 1, Tracks 1-4 from Up, Up and Away, Soul City 91000, 1967
Disc 1, Tracks 5-6, 14-16 from The Magic Garden, Soul City 92001, 1967
Disc 1, Tracks 7-9 from Stoned Soul Picnic, Soul City 92002, 1968
Disc 1, Track 10, 12-13 from The Age of Aquarius, Soul City 92005, 1969
Disc 1, Track 11 from Greatest Hits, Soul City 33900, 1969
Disc 1, Track 17 from Soul City single 752-A, 1966
Disc 2, Tracks 1-5 from Portrait, Bell 6045, 1970
Disc 2, Track 6 from Bell single 913-A, 1970
Disc 2, Tracks 7-9 from Love’s Lines, Angles and Rhymes, Bell 6060, 1971
Disc 2, Track 10 from Bell single 134, 1971
Disc 2, Track 11 from Bell single 170, 1972
Disc 2, Tracks 12-14 from Individually and Collectively, Bell 6073, 1972
Disc 2, Tracks 15-17 from Living Together, Growing Together, Bell 1116, 1973
Disc 2, Track 18 from Bell single 45425-A, 1973
Disc 2, Track 19 from Soul and Inspiration, Bell 1315, 1974

Written by Joe Marchese

March 1, 2011 at 09:08

6 Responses

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  1. Does anyone know what is different about the “Greatest Hits Mix” of “Aquarius/Let…”?


    March 1, 2011 at 10:33

  2. Why does their version of “Love Hangover” get ignored on comps? I know McCoo was not the lead on it, but their version was released around the time Ross’ version was released (perhaps, even before if I’m not mistaken).


    March 1, 2011 at 10:50

  3. Nothing from the Jimmy Webb produced Earthbound (1975)?
    Their version of The Beatles’ “I’ve Got A Feeling” is amazing – much better than the original!

    Rich Morgan

    March 1, 2011 at 11:49

    • Scott — I played the original Age of Aquarius LP version and the Greatest Hits version (as heard on The Definitive Collection) last night back-to-back, and I’m still hard-pressed to hear much that is different; there’s maybe a three-second variation in timing, but any other changes are subtle.

      Tom & Rich — As ABC releases, the “Earthbound” LP and the single “Love Hangover” keep falling out of the purview of the then-BMG, now-Sony releases. I’ve been campaigning for a release of “Earthbound” for ages, and suggested it to the powers-that-be at Collectors’ Choice when they brought the remainder of the Bell catalogue into print on CD. Perhaps the time is right for a Hip-o Select collection of the complete ABC and Motown material?

      Joe Marchese

      March 1, 2011 at 12:18

      • If Earthbound does get re-released they need to make sure they issue the UK version. The US version of “I’ve Got A Feeling” is censored. Half way through their rendition a euphoric cry of “shit!” is yelled – it’s the best part of the song.

        Rich Morgan

        March 1, 2011 at 12:36

  4. Johnny Rivers and Marc Gordon are credited with producing the “Up Up and Away” album, with Bones Howe engineering. Howe went on to produce the excellent follow-up albums. Is it possible that Rivers took a producing credit since he started Soul City Records, and was a producer in name only? Maybe Howe produced this one too…


    Jim Blanchard

    June 22, 2011 at 19:01

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