Tag Archives: 5th Dimension

A little variety from Ray’s Corner

There was a crisis at Ray’s Corner the other day.

My dad, who is 87, dropped his TV remote. It shattered. Without it, he can’t watch TV. Watching TV has been my dad’s main source of entertainment for as long as I can remember. You can see where this might be a problem. So we got him a new remote and managed to fix the old one.

However, there still are no variety shows for him to watch.

In the ’60s and ’70s, we frequently heard the sophisticated pop songs of Hal David and Burt Bacharach on those shows. At the time, they worked most often with singer Dionne Warwick, of whom David once said: “She always interprets my lyrics in a way that sounds as though she had written them herself.”

Four years ago, I took Dad to see Dionne Warwick.  I was certain Dad would remember her from those long-ago variety shows. He didn’t. But once his hearing aid was adjusted, and he heard the songs, he recognized them. That night, Warwick performed two Bacharach-David tunes — “I Say A Little Prayer” and “Do You Know The Way To San Jose” — with new, Latin-flavored arrangements and new phrasing. They sounded just fine.

That’s what makes them classics, and why the songs of Hal David — who died earlier today at 91 — are timeless. No matter who interprets them, they usually sound just fine. (Well, those Isaac Hayes covers might be an acquired taste.)

David and Bacharach worked together from 1957 to 1973, an arc that matches the first 16 years of my life, a time often spent watching TV with my dad. Enjoy, as we did, a little variety, some of the most familiar versions of Hal David’s songs, and some covers.

“What The World Needs Now Is Love,” Jackie DeShannon, 1965, from “The Very Best Of Jackie DeShannon,” 1975. The original version. David and Bacharach didn’t think this was such a good song after they wrote it. “We put it away in our desk drawer and kept it hidden there for 10 months,” David once said. “A flop, we thought.”

“This Guy’s In Love With You,” Al Wilson, from “Searching For The Dolphins,” 1968. Herb Alpert did the original version earlier that year.

“(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me,” R.B. Greaves, from “R.B. Greaves,” 1969. Warwick did the original version as a demo in 1963. Lou Johnson had the first hit with it in 1964. It’s such a great song that it became a hit all over again in 1983 for the British synth-pop duo Naked Eyes.

“One Less Bell to Answer,” the 5th Dimension, from “Portrait,” 1970. Out of print, but available digitally. The original version, with Marilyn McCoo’s tremendous vocals.

Finally, a little glimpse of one of those old variety shows.

That’s Tom Jones, of course, doing “What’s New Pussycat.” In 1965, he did the original, for which David and Bacharach were nominated for an Oscar for best original song.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under September 2012, Sounds

That ’70s song, Vols. 27 and 28

There must be something wrong with me.

It is sunny, scarcely a cloud in the sky, and 85 degrees on this summer day in Wisconsin. I am sitting inside, listening to music and writing.

It isn’t all that different from the summer of 1970, when I would sit inside — probably on gorgeous days just like today — and listen to the rock, pop, soul, R&B, country and easy listening tunes that poured out of my Panasonic AM/FM radio.

That summer, plenty of sunny pop goodness poured out of that radio. In the middle of July 1970, two such songs neatly wrapped a message for the times inside compositions that blended pop and gospel.

“United We Stand,” Brotherhood of Man, from “United We Stand,” 1970. It’s out of print. The tune is available on “Brotherhood of Man: Golden Classics,” a 1994 CD release.

Though widely interpreted otherwise with the Vietnam War raging at the time, this is a love song, and one from England at that.

The lead singer is Tony Burrows. He also was the lead singer in Edison Lighthouse, White Plains and the Pipkins, all studio groups that scored hits in 1970. Believe it or not, that got him banned by the BBC. Burrows explains in the August 2010 issue of Mojo magazine:

“The producer (of ‘Top of the Pops’) said, ‘Word has come from above that you’re not to be used any more. People are beginning to think it’s a con.’ They banned me from ‘Top of the Pops.’ I was not played by the BBC for two years.”

“Save the Country,” the 5th Dimension, from “Portrait,” 1970. It’s out of print but is available on this 2-on-1 CD along with “Love’s, Lines, Angles and Rhymes” from 1971.

This is another of the great songs written by Laura Nyro and turned into a hit by the 5th Dimension. That said, I’ve always thought it would have been stronger had it ended 4 seconds sooner. Does it really need that “Now!” on the end?

If you want only one studio LP from the 5th Dimension, this might be the one. Five of its eight cuts were released as singles, including “Puppet Man” and “One Less Bell To Answer.” There also are fine covers of Traffic’s “Feelin’ Alright” and the Rascals’ “People Got To Be Free.”

The Leroy Neiman painting on the cover is just icing on the cake.

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Filed under July 2010, Sounds

That ’70s song, Vols. 5 and 6

Even if you were around in February 1970 and listening to the Top 40 radio of the day, your take on it may be different than mine.

If you lived in Chicago, your Top 40 was more diverse than the Top 40 heard in Stevens Point, a small college town in central Wisconsin.

Of the 40 songs on the WSPT chart in the first week of February 1970, six were by black artists or groups. As you’d expect, Chicago’s WLS had more than twice as many — including five in the Top 10 alone.

WLS was so influential in the Midwest that it was like dropping a stone into a pond. The songs charted first in Chicago, then rippled through to smaller markets.

Which explains, for example, why the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” was in the first week of February 1970 just breaking into the Top 10 in central Wisconsin and on its last week in the Top 40 in Chicago.

Also among the black artists in the WSPT Top 40 that week: Sly and the Family Stone, Jimmy Cliff, Dionne Warwick and …

“Psychedelic Shack,” the Temptations, from “Psychedelic Shack,” 1970. (The LP is out of print, but the tune is available digitally.)

It had just debuted at No. 38 on WSPT. It was No. 5 in Chicago at the same time. Perhaps this early taste of producer Norman Whitfield’s reinvention of the Tempts’ sound was too freaky for central Wisconsin.

“Blowing Away,” the 5th Dimension, from “The Age of Aquarius,” 1969. (The LP is out of print, but the tune is available on “Ultimate 5th Dimension,” a 2004 greatest-hits compilation.)

This peppy, swinging cover of a Laura Nyro tune was moving up both charts, but was further along in Chicago (No. 9, up from No. 15) than in central Wisconsin (No. 13, up from No. 22).

Charting that week in Chicago but not in central Wisconsin: Eddie Holman, Thelma Houston, R.B. Greaves, Brook Benton, Chairmen of the Board, Delfonics, Luther Ingram, Diana Ross and the Supremes, B.B. King and Stevie Wonder.

I’ll leave it to you to draw any further conclusions from this evidence.

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Filed under February 2010, Sounds