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Microscope: Fifth Dimension (The Byrds)

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The third Byrds' album, Fifth Dimension, was released in July 1966 (shortly before Revolver) and could be considered as a founder of psychedelia along with the Yardbirds' Roger The Engineer. The album was recorded almost entirely without Gene Clark, who left the band because of his fear of flying. Clark had been the main songwriter of the group, so Roger McGuinn and David Crosby had to fill the gap (Chris Hillman started to shine in the next album). Let's see the result...

5D (Fifth Dimension). In this album McGuinn started to write songs about his passion for space science, and this title track is an example. The lyrics are interesting, I especially like the line "I will remember the place that is now, that has ended before the beginning". The tune is a folk ballad rather than a psychedelic song, though. It's a pleasant and well performed song if a bit monotonous. It ends with a tasteful guitar and organ combination.

Wild Mountain Thyme. A traditional song arranged by the band. A nice folk tune, with great singing and some unusual orchestration for the time.

Mr. Spaceman. Another McGuinn's song, this time an upbeat tune. I dig the guitar solo. Fine song despite not being very innovative.

I See You. At this point noone that hadn't listened to the record may believe me that it is a founder of psychedelia. Well, in this song some psychedelic bits can be heard, from the dreamy singing to the confusing lead guitar to the intricate drumming. I can hear some claves as well. Very good and quite innovative song, written by McGuinn and Crosby.

What's Happening?!?!. This time a Crosby's song. The melody is simple and repetitive, but the psychedelic guitar playing gives a special ambient. I like when David sings almost as he's laughing.

I Come And Stand At Every Door. This is an example of how special the Byrds were, who could transform such a simple protest song into a pastoral experience. Love this.

Eight Miles High. Not only the highest point of the album, but probably the best song ever released under the name of the Byrds. It was released as a single some months before the album, and it's a serious candidate for being the first psychedelic song ever recorded. Several elements to be analysed here. The intro is awesome, with that dense bass and that random guitar playing that is said to be inspired by Coltrane (I've also read that the keyboard solo in the Zombies' "She's Not There" was another influence). The ascending and extending vocals take you that high. The guitar solo in the middle and the end continues playing with randomness. The drumming is also very innovative: Mike Clarke is never mentioned among the greatest drummers, but he clearly defined a style in the 60's. The song was initially written by Gene Clark (how strange he wrote a song with this title, having fear of flying) but it was refined by McGuinn and Crosby.

Hey Joe (Where You Gonna Go). The famous song that was covered by several artists in the 60's. This version is not as wild as the one by the Leaves or as memorable as Jimi Hendrix's rendition. But it's interesting how Crosby sings it. Not sure if the cowbell was a good addition.

Captain Soul. A weak instrumental. It has some good bass and harmonica playing, though.

John Riley. Another traditional orchestrated folk song. Good harmonies and good song.

2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song). Time for the joke-song that closes the Byrds' album. Another weak instrumental (well, they just sing "go 'n' ride the lear jet, baby" all the time and there's some backing talk). The "jet" sound actually sounds more like a vacuum cleaner (and probably it was). At least it keeps the experimental spirit of the record.

So this is an innovative and historically relevant album with a really outstanding song that turns the record from "good" to "very good". The experimentation in this album led to really great results in their next work.

Thanks for another well thought out review of this great band, Hombre.


--- Quote from: ibanez_ax on September 21, 2012, 08:36:43 PM ---Thanks for another well thought out review of this great band, Hombre.

--- End quote ---

Thanks George, and you're welcome.

I'll get my review together in a few days.


--- Quote from: tkitna on September 21, 2012, 11:53:16 PM ---I'll get my review together in a few days.

--- End quote ---

I'll be expecting for it.


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