The 5th Dimension
The Fifth Dimension's unique sound lay somewhere between smooth, elegant soul and straightforward, adult-oriented pop, often with a distinct flower-power vibe. Although they appealed more to mainstream listeners than to a hip, hardcore R&B audience, they had a definite ear for contemporary trends; their selection of material helped kickstart the notable songwriting careers of Jimmy Webb and Laura Nyro, and their biggest hit was a medley from the hippie musical Hair, "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In." The group's soaring, seamless harmonies were given appropriately sweeping, orchestrated period production by Bones Howe, which often placed their records closer to California-style sunshine pop. That's actually part of the reason why the best singles from the Fifth Dimension's heyday of the late '60s and early '70s still evoke their era with uncanny precision.
The Fifth Dimension began life in Los Angeles in 1965 as the Versatiles. Lamonte McLemore, Ron Townson, and Billy Davis, Jr. all grew up in St. Louis, and moved to Los Angeles independently of one another; each was trained in a different area - jazz, opera, and gospel/R&B, respectively. Marilyn McCoo was the first female singer to join, and she was soon augmented by Florence LaRue; both were ex-beauty pageant winners who'd attended college in the L.A. area.
In the early 1960s, Lamonte McLemore and Marilyn McCoo got together with three friends from Los Angeles - Harry Elston, Lawrence Summers. and Fritz Baskett - to form a group called 'the Hi-Fis' (which later became 'the Vocals'). In 1963, they sang at local clubs while taking lessons from a vocal coach. In 1964, they came to the attention of Ray Charles, who took them on tour with him the following year. He produced a single by the group, "Lonesome Mood", a jazz-type song that gained local attention. However, internal disagreements caused Elston to go his way, eventually leading to his forming the Friends of Distinction, with latter day Hi-Fis member, Floyd Butler.
McLemore sought to form another group and started looking for members to join him and McCoo. McCoo, who had studied with the respected vocal coach Eddie Beal, had appeared in high school and college musical productions and was known for her way with a torch song. McLemore found Florence LaRue, who had received training as in singing, dancing, and violin; and who won the talent portion at the Miss Bronze California contest, which LaMonte was assigned to photograph. (McCoo had won the contest the prior year.) About the same time LaRue was approached to join the group, McLemore recruited an old friend, Ronald Townson, who at age six was singing in choirs and gospel groups in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. His grandmother fostered his career by arranging for private voice and acting lessons as he grew up. In his teens, he toured with Dorothy Dandridge and Nat King Cole, joined the Wings Over Jordan Choir, and played a small part in the film Porgy and Bess. He demonstrated his skill as a classical artist by placing third in the Metropolitan Opera auditions held in St. Louis. After finishing high school, he worked his way through Lincoln University by conducting the school and church choir. After graduating, he organized his own 25-member gospel choir.
Another of McLemore's friends from St. Louis days, Billy Davis Jr., started singing in gospel choirs at an early age. He later saved enough money to buy a cocktail lounge in St. Louis, which he used as a base for experimenting with musical groups. When asked to join McLemore's new group, he agreed, while hoping for a solo contract from Motown.
The five original members were Billy Davis Jr., Florence LaRue, Marilyn McCoo, Lamonte McLemore, and Ronald Townson. They have recorded for several 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 later recorded 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, especially Ashford & Simpson, who wrote «California Soul». The group is also notable for having more success with the songs of Laura Nyro than Nyro did herself. The group 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, used 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.
Their demo tape was rejected by Motown, but after a one-off single for Bronco, they caught the attention of singer Johnny Rivers, who'd just set up his own label, Soul City. Rivers signed the group in 1966 on the condition that they update their name and image, and thus the Fifth Dimension was born. Their first Soul City single, «I'll Be Lovin' You Forever», was a flop, but a cover of the Mamas & the Papas' «Go Where You Wanna Go» climbed into the Top 20.
Budding young songwriter Jimmy Webb («Macarthur Park», «By the Time I Get to Phoenix», etc.) supplied the Fifth Dimension with their breakthrough hit, 1967's «Up, Up and Away». An ode to the pleasures of flying in a beautiful balloon, the song became the group's first Top Ten hit, peaking at number seven, and went on to sweep the Grammy Awards, taking home five total (including Record of the Year and Song of the Year). Its success pushed the Fifth Dimension's first album, also titled Up, Up and Away, to gold sales status. The group stuck with Webb for its second album, The Magic Garden, which featured only one non-Webb composition; it produced a couple of minor hits in «Paper Cup» and «Carpet Man», but nothing on the level of «Up, Up and Away». Their third LP was thus more diverse, featuring several compositions by another up-and-coming songwriter, Laura Nyro. The title cut, Nyro's "Stoned Soul Picnic," went all the way to number three in the spring of 1968, selling over a million copies and putting Nyro on the map. The Nyro-penned follow-up single, «Sweet Blindness», also reached the Top 20.
The Fifth Dimension's success peaked in 1969 when the group caught a Broadway production of Hair, and immediately decided to cut a medley of two songs from the show. «Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In» was a monster hit and grew to become one of the era's defining pop records; it spent six weeks at number one, sold a whopping three million copies, and won the group its second Record of the Year Grammy. Accompanying LP The Age of Aquarius went gold and nearly hit number one, and their Nyro-penned follow-up single, «Wedding Bell Blues», followed its predecessor to number one as well. The song was something of a mirror of real life; Billy Davis and Marilyn McCoo were married that year, and Florence LaRue also married group manager Marc Gordon.
Johnny Rivers sold Soul City to the Bell label in 1970, and the first Fifth Dimension LP on Bell was that year's Portrait, which spawned several minor hits and the Top Five smash «One Less Bell to Answer», a Burt Bacharach composition. 1970 also brought a controversial performance at the White House; although the group sang «The Declaration», a socially conscious critique, the simple act of appearing before President Nixon further alienated the Fifth Dimension from the black wing of their fan base, at a time when their releases had already begun to peak higher on the pop charts than on the R&B side. Indeed, their Bell recordings moved farther into soft pop and away from R&B and the gently trippy vibes of their late-'60s material. Their album sales began to taper off, and their vocal arrangements now tended to spotlight soloists rather than unified harmonies. McCoo emerged as a focal point, singing lead on the 1972 Top Ten hits «(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All» and «If I Could Reach You». They proved to be the group's last major successes; another Bacharach tune, 1973's «Living Together, Growing Together», barely made the Top 40, and the following year's Soul & Inspiration LP marked the end of their relationship with producer Bones Howe. 1975's Earthbound was another full-length collaboration with Jimmy Webb, and much like The Magic Garden, its thematic unity failed to produce a significant hit single. It was also the last album by the original lineup; McCoo and Davis left the group to form a duo, and scored a big hit in 1976 with «You Don't Have to Be a Star».
The 5th Dimension - The Age of Aquarius 
The Age of Aquarius is the fourth album by American pop group The 5th Dimension, released in 1969.
«The Age of Aquarius, the 5th Dimension's fourth album, was the group's commercial peak. They had already topped the charts with their medley of two songs from the Broadway musical Hair, «The Age of Aquarius» and «Let the Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)», a platinum single that would earn them Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Group, when they released this album. It turned out that was only the tip of the iceberg: They returned to number one with another platinum single, «Wedding Bell Blues», penned by Laura Nyro, who had given them «Stoned Soul Picnic» the year before. And the album also spawned Top 40 hits in Nyro's «Blowing Away» and Neil Sedaka's «Workin' on a Groovy Thing».
The 5th Dimension were the successors to the L.A. vocal group mantle passed on by The Mamas and the Papas (they even inherited the studio band of Hal Blaine, Joe Osborne, and Larry Knechtel). They smoothed out and commercialized everything they sang, and their work had a sheen and a zest that sometimes contrasted with the original tone of the material. On Broadway, the Hair songs seemed full of hippie rebellion; here, they seemed enthusiastic and optimistic. In a conflicted time, the 5th Dimension thrived on their ability to equivocate, and this album was their triumph - just listen to them harmonize on «Sunshine of Your Love»!» (AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann)
The 5th Dimension The Age of Aquarius  (Full Album)
1. Medley: Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures) (Galt MacDermot, James Rado, Gerome Ragni) – 4:51
2. Blowing Away (Laura Nyro) – 2:32
3. Skinny Man (Michael Kollander, Ginger Kollander) – 2:51
4. Wedding Bell Blues (Laura Nyro) – 2:44
5. Don't Cha Hear Me Callin' to Ya (Rudy Stevenson) – 3:56
6. The Hideaway (Jimmy Webb) – 2:45
7. Workin' On a Groovy Thing (Roger Atkins, Neil Sedaka) – 3:10
8. Let It Be Me (Gilbert Bécaud, Mann Curtis, Pierre Delanoë) – 3:54
9. Sunshine of Your Love (Pete Brown, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton) – 3:18
10. The Winds of Heaven (Bob Dorough, Fran Landesman) – 3:14
11. Those Were the Days (Gene Raskin) – 3:03
12. Let the Sunshine In (Reprise) (MacDermot, Rado, Ragni) – 1:29
13. Chissà Se Tornerà (Who Knows If He Will Return) (DeSanctis, Salis, Salis) – 3:00 [Bonus track; 2000 CD reissue only]
Billy Davis, Jr. - lead vocals (track 1), background vocals
Florence LaRue - lead vocals (track 2), background vocals
Marilyn McCoo - lead vocals (tracks 2, 4), background vocals
Lamonte McLemore - background vocals
Ron Townson - background vocals
Dennis Budimir- guitar
Mike Deasy - guitar
Bill Fulton - guitar
Tommy Tedesco - guitar
Joe Osborn – bass
Hal Blaine - drums, percussion
Larry Bunker - mallets, congas, percussion
Milt Holland - percussion
Pete Jolly - keyboards
Larry Knechtel - keyboards
Jimmy Rowles – keyboards
Bill Holman Strings & Brass - string section, horn section
Producer: Bones Howe
Engineer: Bones Howe
Mastering: Elliot Federman
Digital transfers: Mike Hartry
Reissue producer: Rob Santos
Production coordination: Jeremy Holiday
Production assistant: Ann McClelland, Tom Tierney, Russ Wapensky
Project coordinator: Arlessa Barnes, Glenn Delgado, Christina DeSimone, Robin Diamond, Karyn Friedland, Felicia Gearhart, Laura Gregory, Robin Manning, Brooke Nochomson, Ed Osborne, Larry Parra, Dana Renert, Bill Stafford, Steve Strauss
Archives coordinator: Joanne Feltman, Glenn Korman
Musical arrangements: Bob Alcivar, Bill Holman, Bones Howe
Vocal arrangement: Bob Alcivar
Art direction: Ron Wolin
Reissue art director: Mathieu Bitton
Design: Mathieu Bitton, Ron Wolin
Photography: Ed Caraeff
Liner notes: Mike Ragogna
Released: May 1969
Recorded: 1969 at Liberty Studios
Genre: Sunshine pop
Label: Soul City
Producer: Bones HoweI do not make any profit from this video. All rights belong to the artists and the record companies. It is uploaded for educational and promotional purposes only.