The Byrds – Fifth Dimension (1966)

Fifth Dimension is the third album by the American folk rock band the Byrds and was released in July 1966 on Columbia Records. Most of the album was recorded following the February 1966 departure of the band’s principal songwriter Gene Clark.[In an attempt to compensate for Clark’s absence, guitarists Jim McGuinn and David Crosby stepped into the breach and increased their songwriting output. In spite of this, the loss of Clark resulted in an album with a total of four cover versions and an instrumental, which critics have described as “wildly uneven” and “awkward and scattered”. However, the album is notable for being the first by the Byrds not to include any songs written by Bob Dylan, whose material had previously been a mainstay of the band’s repertoire.

The album peaked at number 24 on the Billboard Top LPs chart and reached number 27 on the UK Albums Chart. Two preceding singles, “Eight Miles High” and “5D (Fifth Dimension)”, were included on the album, with the former just missing the Top 10 of the Billboard singles chart. Additionally, a third single taken from the album, “Mr. Spaceman”, managed to reach the U.S. Top 40. Upon release, Fifth Dimension was widely regarded as the band’s most experimental album to date and is today considered by critics to be influential in originating the musical genre of psychedelic rock

Track Listing:

Side one

“5D (Fifth Dimension)” (Jim McGuinn) – 2:33
“Wild Mountain Thyme” (traditional, arranged Jim McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke, David Crosby) – 2:30
“Mr. Spaceman” (Jim McGuinn) – 2:09
“I See You” (Jim McGuinn, David Crosby) – 2:38
“What’s Happening?!?!” (David Crosby) – 2:35
“I Come and Stand at Every Door” (Nâzım Hikmet) – 3:03

Side two

“Eight Miles High” (Gene Clark, Jim McGuinn, David Crosby) – 3:34
“Hey Joe (Where You Gonna Go)” (Billy Roberts) – 2:17
“Captain Soul” (Jim McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke, David Crosby) – 2:53
“John Riley” (traditional, arranged Jim McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke, David Crosby) – 2:57
“2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song)” (Jim McGuinn) – 2:12

Review: Although the Byrds’ Fifth Dimension was wildly uneven, its high points were as innovative as any rock music being recorded in 1966. Immaculate folk-rock was still present in their superb arrangements of the traditional songs “Wild Mountain Thyme” and “John Riley.” For the originals, they devised some of the first and best psychedelic rock, often drawing from the influence of Indian raga in the guitar arrangements. “Eight Miles High,” with its astral lyrics, pumping bassline, and fractured guitar solo, was a Top 20 hit, and one of the greatest singles of the ’60s. The minor hit title track and the country-rock-tinged “Mr. Spaceman” are among their best songs; “I See You” has great 12-string psychedelic guitar solos; and “I Come and Stand at Every Door” is an unusual and moving update of a traditional rock tune, with new lyrics pleading for peace in the nuclear age. At the same time, the R&B instrumental “Captain Soul” was a throwaway, “Hey Joe” not nearly as good as the versions by the Leaves or Jimi Hendrix, and “What’s Happening?!?!” the earliest example of David Crosby’s disagreeably vapid hippie ethos. These weak spots keep Fifth Dimension from attaining truly classic status. —Richie Unterberger

Schill Score: 8.25/10

Listen to Album on Spotify

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