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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The 5th Dimension: Love's Lines, Angles And Rhymes


1) Time And Love; 2) Love's Lines, Angles And Rhymes; 3) What Does It Take; 4) Guess Who; 5) Viva Tirado; 6) Light Sings; 7) The Rainmaker; 8) He's A Runner; 9) The Singer; 10) Every Night.

Umm... nice stripes, I guess. While the more progressively-minded part of the African-American community at the time was seriously getting funky (and this involved even major commercial stars like Aretha Franklin), The 5th Dimension, still ruled by the rose-perfumed fist of Bones Howe, continued to live in their own vision of 1967. The most important difference is probably the lack — first time ever! — of even a single Jimmy Webb song: not a very good sign, but if we agree that they swapped Webb for Paul McCartney, it might be OK. Actually, the cover of ʽEvery Nightʼ is one of the album's highlights: the band must have chosen the song because they felt McCartney's falsetto wooh-wooh harmonies on the track were right up their main alley, and they were quite right about it.

Other than that, it is almost too easy to predict which songs will be good and which ones will be bad just by scrutinizing the tracklist. Check: two more Laura Nyro songs, the wonderfully upbeat and catchy ʽTime And Loveʼ and the golden oldie ʽHe's A Runnerʼ that had already been covered by Mama Cass and Blood, Sweat & Tears. Check: Harry Nilsson's ʽThe Rainmakerʼ, for some reason, with Billy Davis' lead vocal reciting rather than singing the lyrics much of the time, but the girls' harmonies on the flute-supported chorus more than make up for it. Check: who are all these other guys writing songs for them? They probably all suck.

Indeed, almost everything else seems to be forgettable. Maybe with the exception of the title track, an effort to capitalize on the slow ballad success of ʽOne Less Bell To Answerʼ: once again sung by Marilyn McCoo, it is another of those torch songs, but I actually prefer it to the mush of Bacharach/David — there's more fire in this one, with a chorus rising to near-scream levels on brass fanfare waves and a dark and firm bassline supporting the verses. Originally written by Dorothea Joyce and recorded by Diana Ross, the song is even better suited for Marilyn's fuller, more powerful vocals, so it passes the quality test.

The rest is just generic soft-soul, inoffensive ear candy with weak hooks and mediocre levels of emotional power. ʽViva Tiradoʼ, with its annoying mixed-language chorus of "viva joy and viva peace", sounds like a serious misuse of Latin rhythms; the other four songs, including the minor hit single ʽLight Singsʼ, sound like they belong in the soundtrack of some generic hippie movie from the early 1970s. There's nothing tastelessly wrong with enjoying that sound (as long as the backing musicianship remains professional, which you can always expect of Bones Howe and the 5th Dimension), but nothing too exciting to relate to your grandchildren, either. The striped pants and suits certainly look far more exciting than the overall musical content.

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