The Fifth Dimension – Up Up And Away


Artist:The Fifth Dimension
Genre: Pop
Title:Up Up And Away
Label:Soul City
Musicians:Florence Larue, Marilyn McCoo, Lamont McLemore, Billy Davis Jr., Ron Townson – all vocals, Al Casey-guitar & eastern sounds, Tommy Tedesco-guitar & piano, Larry Knechtel-piano & keyboards, Jim Webb-keyboards, Joe Osborne-bass, Hal Blaine-drums
Producer:Johnny Rivers & Marc Gordon
Engineer:Bones Howe
Mastering Engineer: Elliot Federman

The 5th Dimension is an American popular music vocal group, whose repertoire includes pop, R&B, soul, jazz, light opera and Broadway. They are also one of my all time favorites and you should hear what they do with the few rock songs they covered, but we will get to them later in another review.

Formed as The Versatiles in late 1965, the group changed its name to the hipper The 5th Dimension, by 1966 and became well-known during the late 1960s and early 1970s for their popular hits “Up, Up and Away”, “Stoned Soul Picnic”, “Medley: Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)”, “Wedding Bell Blues”, “One Less Bell to Answer”, “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All”.

The five original members were Billy Davis, Jr., Florence LaRue, Marilyn McCoo, LaMonte McLemore, and Ron Townson. They have recorded for several different labels over their long careers. Their first work appeared on the Soul City label, which was started by Imperial Records/United Artists Records recording artist Johnny Rivers. The group would later record for Bell/Arista Records, ABC Records, and Motown Records.
Some of the songwriters popularized by The 5th Dimension went on to careers of their own. The group is also notable for having more success with the songs of Laura Nyro than Nyro did herself, particularly with “Stoned Soul Picnic”, “Sweet Blindness”, “Wedding Bell Blues”, “Blowin’ Away”, and “Save the Country”. The group also covered music by well-known songwriters such as the song “One Less Bell to Answer”, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and the songs and music of Jimmy Webb, who penned their hit “Up, Up and Away”, including an entire recording of Webb songs called The Magic Garden. The 5th Dimension’s famed producer, Bones Howe, utilized Bob Alcivar as the singers’ vocal arranger, as well as The Wrecking Crew, a renowned group of studio musicians including drummer Hal Blaine, for their recording sessions. You can read more here:

My other favorite vocal group is the Mamas and Papas, I grew up with their music. Here are some other tidbits: In 1965 The Mamas & the Papas’ first single, lead member John Phillips’ “Go Where You Wanna Go”, failed to open the foursome’s chart career. At the suggestion of Rivers and their manager Marc Gordon, The 5th Dimension covered the same song virtually note-for-note (except for the last verse’s upward modulation), and their early 1967 version climbed into the top 20 on both R&B and pop stations and peaked at #16 on the Hot 100, opening the quintet’s chart career.

The group’s success broke wide open, with “Medley: Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)” from the musical Hair topping the Hot 100 for six straight weeks in April and May, and another Nyro song, “Wedding Bell Blues”, doing the same for the first three full weeks in November.

They also made several TV appearances. I only remember them appearing on Soul Train and American Bandstand and in an episode of It Takes A Thief which was weird. I also have a copy of their own variety show special: The 5th Dimension Traveling Sunshine Show.
From Wikipeda: The 5th Dimension performed “Sweet Blindness” on Frank Sinatra’s 1968 TV special Francis Albert Sinatra Does His Thing and sang “Workin’ On a Groovy Thing” and “Wedding Bell Blues” on Woody Allen’s The Woody Allen Special in 1969. They introduced “Puppet Man” and “One Less Bell To Answer” as guests in the It Takes a Thief episode “To Sing a Song of Murder” in 1970; the latter song used as a plot device in which the song’s closing notes were to activate a bomb in an assassination attempt of the head of a fictitious country.
The 5th Dimension appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show twice in 1969. The group performed and sang a medley consisting of “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” on February 23, 1969 and performed and sang “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” on May 18, 1969. That same year the group appeared on the British show This Is Tom Jones, singing “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” and “Got My Mojo Workin’ “.
The 5th Dimension: An Odyssey in the Cosmic Universe of Peter Max, a television special, aired on CBS on May 21, 1970.
During the last season of The Ed Sullivan Show, Sullivan dedicated the entire February 21, 1971 episode to the fifth anniversary of The 5th Dimension. The group opened the show with “Love’s Lines, Angles and Rhymes” and later joined Connie Stevens for “Puppet Man”. The group came back for the last 15 minutes of the show and sang their hits “Up, Up and Away”, “One Less Bell to Answer”, “Stoned Soul Picnic”, “Wedding Bell Blues”, and finished up with “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In”. This appearance would be the group’s last on Sullivan.
The 5th Dimension Traveling Sunshine Show, a television special, aired on August 18, 1971.
The 5th Dimension also made memorable appearances on Soul Train, American Bandstand, The Flip Wilson Show, The Mike Douglas Show, and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Seems like they were on TV more than some actors.

From here it gets messy though, this group had more members revolving through the door than any other group including Yes.
Regrouping: In 1975, McCoo and Davis, who had married on 26 July 1969, left the group to do both collective and individual projects. McCoo also served a lengthy ’80’s stint as the host of the TV show Solid Gold. The remaining trio carried on with new members, and nearly had a hit in 1976 with the LaRue-sung “Love Hangover”; however, Motown issued Diana Ross’ original version shortly after the 5th Dimension’s hit the charts, and hers soared to the top of the charts. The group signed with Motown not long after, releasing two albums in 1978. R&B singer Lou Courtney was in the group briefly in 1978 and 1979, Joyce Wright joined in 1979, and Phyllis Battle joined in 1988.

Reunion: The original quintet reunited in 1990 and 1991 for a tour. Townson briefly left the group to try a solo career, but soon returned, as the group eventually resigned itself to the nostalgia circuit. In 1995, the quintet of LaRue, Townson, McLemore, Battle, and Greg Walker recorded a new album, In the House, for Click Records. In 1998, Willie Williams replaced Townson, who died in 2001 due to diabetes-related kidney failure. Battle departed in 2002, to be replaced by Van Jewell. McLemore left from the group in March 2006.

Today: As of April 2009, the group is actively touring as “The 5th Dimension featuring Florence LaRue”, led by LaRue, with Willie Williams, Leonard Tucker, Patrice Morris, and Floyd Smith.
Celebrating 45 years of marriage, McCoo and Davis continue to tour separately from the 5th Dimension as their own act: “Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr.”
(author’s note:This is what happens when you embrace the nostalgia circuit, it’s sad).
Over the years there have been 26 different members of the group!
The list is here:

This LP here, Up, Up and Away is the debut album by American pop group The 5th Dimension, released in 1967. The title track was released as a single and became a major pop hit. Overall, my only gripe is that it was not recorded quite loud enough, perhaps the producer or engineer feared clipping so much that they erred on the side of caution, I don’t know. That said though it is well mixed. Overall, I think this LP is ok, but it’s not my favorite of their’s.

The stand outs for me are:
Up-Up And Away – the obvious title cut and one of my favorite songs. It was written by Jimmy Webb and became a major pop hit.
A canonical example of sunshine pop, themed around images of hot air ballooning, it cleaned up at the 10th Grammy Awards in 1968, winning for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

Another Day, Another Heartache – This song has a Mamas and Papas flavor, not quite the same feel, but a good song.

Go Where You Wanna Go – This is it, the Mamas and Papas cover. As mentioned, it was written by John Phillips and never made anything for the Mamas and Papas, but it was a small hit with The Fifth Dimension. Personally, I felt this was inevitable for The Fifth Dimension to do this song. That said though, I like the Mamas and Papas version better, it just sounds more correct to me, probably because I grew up hearing the Mamas and Papas doing it on the LP “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears” which got a lot of rotation in my house.

MUSIC: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars
SOUND: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars

Up-Up And Away:

I can’t find a true live clip of The Fifth Dimension performing this, but thought it would be interesting to let you compare the two groups Fifth Dimension and Mamas and Papas doing “Go Where You Wanna Go”. (Note the tempo is a bit faster in The Fifth Dimenaion’s version and the strings come in later than the Mamas and Papas version.
The Fifth Dimension
The Mamas and Papas

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