I remember picking this record up at a thrift store awhile back. It is The Fifth Dimension’s Greatest Hits On Earth. I didn’t think much of it, just that it had a cool cover and I had heard the name. I wasn’t expecting to be schooled in soul, pop, rock, funk, and psychedelic music.
The album opens with “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All.” This song first introduced me to the crooning of the impeccable Marilyn McCoo and The Fifth Dimension’s pristine melodies. This was a good pop/ soft rock mix to get me started.
Up next was their chart toping “Stoned Soul Picnic.” This song is funky and soulful with a sprinkle of psychedelic. It’s a perfect companion piece to “Second Hand News” by Fleetwood Mac. I just want to lay in the tall grass and do my stuff, which may include sassafras, moonshine, and soul.
I loved their classic pop rendition of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “One Less Bell To Answer.” Marilyn McCoo’s vocal interpretation is flawless. She knows the exact moment to hold back and let go.
Next up was their legendary, Grammy Award winning “Aquarius/ Let The Sunshine In.” It was soul and pop, yet that doesn’t perfectly describe it either. It was revolutionary. It is its own genre. I found it interesting that just three months later Diana Ross and the Supremes released an album of the same name and recorded the same two song melody. To have the Supremes cover you is equivalent to conquering the world.
Side B starts with “Save the Country.” This was folk and pop with the added side of soul. It seemed to be a song of hope after the hard fought Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s. This song is also a perfect companion piece to Martha and the Vandella’s “Dancing in The Street.”
Skipping over, we come to “Puppet Man.” This song contained extreme elements of funk. The melody sung by Marilyn McCoo and Florence LaRue has quite a sexual overtone. I would imagine this could have inspired Marvin Gaye a few years later in his 1973 album Let’s Get it On.
Then came their break-out hit, “Up, Up and Away.” This song was written by the legendary Oklahoman, Jimmy Webb. This song is pop with The 5th’s usual twist. The men and women sang separate melodies and parts resulting in a group duet. Not to mention it showed their vocal range through the songs many drastic changes.
Lastly to close the album, there are live versions of “Never My Love” and “Together Let’s Find Love.” “Never My Love” is a ballad that let’s McCoo’s soulful voice just sail. “Together Let’s Find Love” is a duet between McCoo and her bandmate Billy Davis, Jr. This song brings it all together and is a perfect ending to this compilation.
This album consisted of The 5th Dimensions most successful line up, Billy Davis Jr., Marilyn McCoo, Florence LaRue, Lamonte McLemore, and Ron Townson. This particular greatest hits album came out in 1972. This line up was broken up in 1975 when Davis and McCoo (who were married) left the group to become a singing duo.
Today Davis and McCoo still perform together and are celebrating over 40 years of marriage. Being born again Christians, they give the glory of this accomplishment to God. Florence Larue is the only original member who still tours with a more or less tribute band to the original. As of 2006, McLemore was living in Las Vegas and performing with the group Flashback. Sadly, Townson died of kidney disease in 2001.
It amazes me how versatile this group was and how ahead of their time they were. Although they have been recognized with Grammy Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, you don’t hear their name enough when talking about legends. Their contributions to music were undoubtedly large and serve a long and still standing tenure.
If you don’t agree, you must be living in the 11th dimension and I am not even sure scientists know what that is yet….