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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The 5th Dimension: High On Sunshine


1) High On Sunshine; 2) Turn My Love Away; 3) Everybody's Got To Give It Up; 4) Magic Man; 5) Children Of Tomorrow; 6) Sway; 7) Skyway; 8) Can't Get You Out Of My Mind; 9) You're My Star.

Common logic should dictate that the last album by a band that had never been great in the first place; went through a long period of ever-increasing blandness and loss of focus; finally, lost two of its key members and sold out to the disco craze — well, that the last album by such a band should be hideously embarrassing. But it isn't: a little less packed with sharp moments than Star Dancing, perhaps, yet overall, nothing to be particularly ashamed of. Once more, Hal Davis and the other producers flesh out a simple, inoffensive record of shiny dance grooves and cuddly ballads — nothing too great, but perfectly adequate from all sides. As before, this is sunshine pop masquerading as disco, not the other way around, and everything is handled with professionalism and without any unwarranted ambitiousness or cockiness.

The title track, a cover of the Commodores hit song, written by Lionel Richie, is only different from the Commodores' version through the addition of female vocal harmonies: a nice touch for an otherwise ideal anthem to doing nothing in particular on a hot summer day and loving it. The other two fast-tempo grooves, ʽSwayʼ and ʽSkywayʼ, although technically disco, have prominent and well-arranged horn parts and Latin percussion that give them a carnivalesque flavor, without too much pomp, but with catchy vocal hooks a-plenty, though their emotional impact is as simple and stupid as it ever comes.

The single best song is probably Lou Cortney's ʽTurn My Love Awayʼ: Lou, a professional R&B songwriter and singer in the Sixties, had briefly joined the band for some inexplicable reason, and contributed this fairly lovely mid-tempo ballad with a genuinely touching vocal melody — the "turn my love away, turn my love away and you'll be sorry" bit is an excellent hook, with a touch of tired melancholy to add a little extra blue color to the overall bright-shiny palette. The other ballads tend to descend into total schmaltz (ʽMagic Manʼ — ah, why couldn't this be a Heart cover instead of corporate saccharine?) or second-rate Bee Gees imitations, but at least there's not too many of them to spoil the dancing mood.

Still, it is useless to insist that, at best, what we have here is well-executed formula with nothing much going on by way of inventive songwriting or tight-as-hell musicianship; and if Star Dancing did not succeed in revitalizing the image of The 5th Dimension, it would be futile to expect them to correct things with an even less inspired follow-up. It would take them 17 years to get another album after that — after even more lineup changes, periodical breakups and regrou­pings, they would make one more LP in 1995, called In The House, which is apparently fairly hard to get now outside of the recycle bins (the few bits I've heard are awful, but this may not be the case with the entire album). As of 2017, The 5th Dimension has become totally one-dimen­sional, with Florence LaRue as the sole original member, but they still seem to be touring some circuits, so catch her if you dare.

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