5th Dimension (released July 18, 1966) was The Byrds’ third album after their blockbuster debut and sophomore releases, Mr. Tambourine Man (June 1965) and Turn! Turn! Turn! (December 1965). While not a commercial success on the level of its predecessors, 5th Dimension marked the band’s innovative shift from electrified folk-rock into a neat blend of psychedelic rock and nascent country-rock.
The standout track and rock classic, “Eight Miles High” was written by original Byrd Gene Clark, who would exit the group before 5th Dimension was completed. Clark’s departure left Roger McGuinn and David Crosby to assume the primary songwriting role, and they responded with a mix of picks and pans (with Crosby’s “What’s Happening?!?!” being dead center in the latter category). At its best, 5th Dimension is uneven, but it remains one of the mid-60s best examples of the coming diversity of folk, country and psychedelic rock (and all the mixtures thereof). The ethereal title track, the astral “Eight Miles High” (with no lead vocals and loads of spacey McGuinn/Crosby guitar work), the abstract “I See You,” the experimental “2-4-2 Foxtrot (The Lear Jet Song)” and Crosby’s aforementioned flopper are the earliest of the psych-rock genre. They’re balanced by decent folk-rock covers in “Wild Mountain Thyme” and “John Riley.” Then there’s that jaunty “Mr. Spaceman,” a sing-along country-rock gem that’s a bit dated but still has a fond 60s trippy feel.
A transitional album from a band that is now recognized for its influence on 60s and 70s psychedelic and country-rock, 5th Dimension spent half a year on the album charts and peaked at #24. Some call it a precursor and challenger to Sgt. Pepper’s as the top psychedelic rock LP. I think it’s a classic, but not that high. 5th Dimension is available for purchase as a CD or individual mp3 files on Amazon, or as iPod tracks on iTunes. The Byrds are in Dr. Rock’s Playlist Vault.