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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The 5th Dimension: Living Together, Growing Together


1) Open Your Window; 2) Ashes To Ashes; 3) Changed; 4) The Riverwitch; 5) Living Together Growing Together; 6) Day By Day; 7) There's Nothing Like Music; 8) What Do I Need To Be Me; 9) There Never Was A Day; 10) Let Me Be Lonely; 11) Woyaya.

Although the band's commercial luck began to seriously wane with Individually & Collectively, it was not until 1973 that the fifth dimension truly began caving in on them — the LP did not make it into the Top 100, and this time, not even the singles were of much help. The biggest of 'em all was the title track — immediately recognizable as a Burt Bacharach tune since it uses the exact same introduction as ʽClose To Youʼ, and sharing all the usual easy listening attributes of any generic Bacharach tune: sweet, slightly bouncy ear candy with about as much depth to it as the movie it was written for (the allegedly awful reinvention of Lost Horizon as one of those corny 1970s musicals). And even that one only got to No. 32.

By now you know that you can usually predict the average quality of a 5th Dimension album just by looking at the list of songwriters, and this time around, the list is particularly discouraging. Bacharach & David, represented by two songs (the second one is ʽLet Me Be Lonelyʼ, a solo spot for Florence that's nice if you... umm, like sentimental waltzes with lotsa strings and brass), are actually one of the top names on the list — the only other top name is Harry Nilsson, whose ʽOpen Your Windowʼ, deliciously and seductively crooned (cooed?) by Marilyn McCoo, is a nice enough opener, but very short and misleading.

Elsewhere, brace yourselves for the return of Jeff Comanor, with derivatively Sam Cookish gospel numbers like ʽThe Riverwitchʼ (Billy Davis Jr. gives a fairly impressive Cooke / Redding impression, as usual, but the melody has not a single original twist) and equally derivatively Wil­son Pickettish R&B rave-ups like ʽThere's Nothin' Like Musicʼ — well, not too bad, to be honest, but not particularly necessary if you can get the real thing. And then there's lush ballads, ballads, ballads a-plenty, all of them largely interchangeable, even if, technically, McCoo's vocals are unimpeachable as usual. Of course, the «easy listening» genre is not really my cup of tea, and maybe I simply cannot see the little things that make these particular performances stand out against the rest, but as far as I'm concerned, this is all just plastic soul-imbued pop crapola, dili­gently, but indifferently executed by the performers. At least all those Laura Nyro songs offered a good chance to get into some character, but now they've run out of these, too.

Out of good ideas, The 5th Dimension make a nice, but meaningless, gesture of fraternizing with their black brothers across the Atlantic — covering Osibisa's ʽWoyayaʼ from the latter's 1971 album of the same name. As you can guess, it is a loyal, professional, and probably well-meaning cover, but it is hard to expect that the professional, glossy, restrained approach of a bubblegum Californian band can make this mix of pop music and tribal chanting uncover hidden depths that it lacked in the original. Nice try, but next time, try moving to Ghana or something. Definitely a thumbs down — no Jimmy Webb, no Laura Nyro, no dice.

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