THE 5TH DIMENSION: INDIVIDUALLY & COLLECTIVELY (1972)
1) Leave A Little Room; 2) (Last Night) I Didn't Get To Sleep At All; 3) All Kinds Of People; 4) Sky & Sea; 5) Tomorrow Belongs To The Children; 6) If I Could Reach You; 7) Half Moon; 8) Band Of Gold; 9) Border Song; 10) Black Patch.
Honestly speaking, you can skip most of the individual and the collective songs on here and head straight for the last number — because, as you have already guessed, it is a Laura Nyro song; not one of her best, though, or, at least, not one of those to which they do proper justice. An upbeat, horn-filled anthem giving each of the band members a solo spotlight, it erases the happy-sad personality that they had, up until then, managed to preserve so well, and becomes just another decent, but unexceptional sunshine pop statement.
Even so, it is the best track on this highly generic, thoroughly uninspired platter that finds The 5th Dimension largely unhooked from their energy sources — most of the songwriting seems to come from second- and third-rate people, with Jimmy Webb totally busy elsewhere. One major new songwriter whom they try to include on their roster is Elton John: the cover of ʽBorder Songʼ is halfway decent, but for all their gospel-soul authenticity, they are incapable of preserving the song's aura of loneliness and depression: Billy Davis Jr. is really such a happy, happy person by nature that he could probably inject warmth and cuddliness into Joy Division, so this is just a wrong choice here.
Both of the singles culled from the album, according to the formula established with ʽOne Less Bellʼ, are ballads sung by Marilyn McCoo — Tony Macaulay's ʽI Didn't Get To Sleep At Allʼ and Randall McNeil's ʽIf I Could Reach Youʼ, both of them making bets on the strength and expressivity of Marilyn's voice (no questions there) and little else, standard lush pop Broadway fodder without any special hooks. Both made it on the charts, but climbed highest on the adult contemporary / easy listening registers, for obvious reasons, and I'd think that only a major fan of schlock aesthetics could easily memorize them.
Other than that, you have a surprisingly decent exercise in funk (ʽHalf Moonʼ, previously made famous by Janis Joplin) — excellent musicianship (watch out particularly for a mighty mighty bassline from session veteran Joe Osborne), but not such a great vocal performance; another of their generic pa-da-bam vocalize pieces (ʽSky & Seaʼ, from some obscure musical), good for lengthy elevator rides; and a few other non-descript soul pieces that seem to have been recorded completely in autopilot mode. When you put it all together, the result is devastating: there's not really even a single song that I could visualize making it to my ideal 5th Dimension compilation. Then again, there is absolutely nothing surprising in this: all they did was loyally follow the trends in American mainstream pop tastes, and as those tastes continued disentangling themselves from the pop-rock and psychedelic influences of the mid-to-late Sixties, so did these guys' music continue to evolve from fun-and-cuddly to bland-and-mushy. Thumbs down.