THE FIFTH DIMENSION: The Magic Garden (Label: Rev-O-La)

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The Fifth Dimension are not everyone’s cup of soul tea, but for those who like their music slick, smooth and sophisticated they do it every time. The fivesome broke through in the Summer of ’67 with a wonderful harmonic take on Jimmy Webb’s song ‘Up, Up And Away’ and that Autumn the writer was allowed to write and arrange a whole album on the band. The result was ’68’s ‘The Magic Garden’ which has just won a reissue on collectors’ label Rev-O-La and for fans of sweet soul harmonizing, it’s an absolute must. Some of the songs – notably ‘Carpet Man’ and ‘Paper Cup’ have found their way onto all kinds of compilations and Fifth Dimension hits sets, but after 40 years its good to be able to hear all the songs in their original album context. More so, since ‘The Magic Garden’ was intended as a concept album – one that was meant to be taken as a whole, rather than a collection of individual tracks. In the sleeve notes Webb explains, “The Magic Garden was designed to be cohesive and though the connections between the songs are not obvious, they were all inspired by the same romantic situation and so an overall sense of story and surround is suggested, if not insisted on.” To that end Webb added ornate and lush orchestral passages between some of the songs and those, coupled with the ethereal harmonies of Billy Davis Jr., Florence LaRue, Marilyn McCoo, Lamont McLemore and Ron Towson, bring a truly magical feeling to the collection. As we’ve hinted, individual songs aren’t meant to stand out but ‘The Girl’s Song’ and ‘The Worst That Could Happen’ are superb and either would destroy any argument that the Fifth Dimension lacked real soul. Interestingly the original Soul City release had a cover of the Beatles’ ‘Ticket To Ride’ shoe-horned into the middle – for some bizarre contractual reason. Here the sensible Rev-O-La people leave it to the end so that we get a proper look at Webb’s original concept – and I urge you to take a peek pronto.
(BB) 4/5