The 5th Dimension

Individually & Collectively/Living Together Growing Together

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As the title implies, Individually & Collectively (1972) contains both ensemble as well as solo efforts from the 5th Dimension's Lamonte McLemore, Ron Townson, Billy Davis, Jr., Marilyn McCoo, and Florence LaRue. However, this was certainly not the first time that the combo had ventured away from lush five-part harmonies in favor of spotlighting the members' specific talents. The mellow pop ballad "Leave a Little Room" commences the album. This is the quintessential outlet for Davis Jr.'s supple yet commanding vocals, as the group provides a perfect supporting symmetry with their effortless blend. "(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All" was a solid gold smash and landed in the upper reaches of the singles chart. But, for as much as the rest of the 5D are featured, this could have just as well been issued as a Marilyn McCoo side. Burt Bacharach and Hal David provide the positive "All Kind of People." Although the message may sound a tad optimistically naïve to modern ears, LaRue's prowess gives the suitable singalong energy. The playful and wordless "Sky & Sea" is a jazzy exercise allowing the aggregate to bebop and soar alongside a melody that evokes Miles Davis' classic "So What." "Tomorrow Belongs to the Children" is another arguably anachronistic social statement that might have seemed hip and apropos in the early '70s. But much like "All Kind of People" before it, the words ring more with expectancy than realism. McCoo takes the reigns on the tastefully orchestrated "If I Could Reach You." She projects a vulnerability that struck a chord with 5D fans, scoring the band their final Top Ten pop entry. Among the remaining selections, "Half Moon" -- which was recorded by Janis Joplin -- is a bit funkier than the way Joplin did it, with the horn section trading off well-placed interjections between Davis Jr.'s testifyin' and Sunday-go-to-preachin' lead. Townson turns in one of his best performances on the revival of the '50s pop standard "Band of Gold," while the gospel-tinged take on Elton John's "Border Song" owes as much to Aretha Franklin's reading than to the original. "Black Patch concludes Individually & Collectively with another stylistic bull's-eye from the pen of Laura Nyro. From the distinct five-part a cappella introduction and right through each of the soul-filled solos, the 5D flourish in their element. Bones Howe's poignant arrangement manages to take it to a whole other strata -- as exemplified when the score drops out for the line "lipstick on the reefer, waiting for a match." Powerful stuff indeed.

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