by: The 5th Dimension

Clocking in at just over half an hour, this 1998 release on the budget Planet Entertainment imprint is a distillation of the double-LP set The 5th Dimension/Live!! issued in 1971. The original package arrived at the height of Lamonte McLemore, Ron Townson, Billy Davis, Jr., Marilyn McCoo, and Florence LaRue's collective success as the 5th Dimension. Following their initial Top Ten pop entry in 1967 -- a cover of Jimmy Webb's "Up, Up and Away" -- the vocal quintet scored several additional chart hits. Unfortunately, none of them made their way onto this compilation. And while those arguably glaring omissions preclude Live from being a thorough assessment of the combo's supper club act, these nine selections do represent a few of the band's zeniths. The rousing opener, "Shake Your Tambourine," is reminiscent of a vintage high-octane James Brown rave, replete with skin-tight brass and fiery vocal arrangements, both courtesy of the 5th Dimension's longtime musical director, Rene DeKnight. Their remarkable breadth of scope is displayed as they animate a dark and paranoia-riddled musical dramatization of Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billy Joe." The 5th Dimension continue on a much lighter note with a catchy reworking of Sonny & Cher's "The Beat Goes On" and a more soulfully suitable take on "Respect." Considerably more insightful are "Hurry Sundown" and an outstanding interpretation of "How Insensitive." By comparison, "Monday, Monday" is rather lightweight, while "Going Out of My Head" and the energetic closer, "Use Your Head" (aka "Better Use Your Head"), are better than average adaptations from the Little Anthony & the Imperials songbook. In 2007, the full-length The 5th Dimension/Live!! was issued on CD by Collectors' Choice Music -- with the original 14-song set list intact, not to mention a trio of previously unissued bonus tracks -- effectively rendering this cut-rate title rather inconsequential. ~ Lindsay Planer

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