More from The Master of Tubey Magical Pop Recording, Mr. BONES HOWE
- An outstanding copy of The Age of Aquarius with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too
- Tubey Magical sweetness and richness is key, and here you will find plenty of both, with virtually no sacrifice in presence, clarity or resolution
- You can thank legendary engineer and producer Bones Howe, the man behind the phenomenal recordings of The Association, The Turtles and even the likes of Tom Waits(!)
- 4 stars: “The Age of Aquarius, the 5th Dimension’s fourth album, was the group’s commercial peak… The 5th Dimension were the successors to the L.A. vocal group mantle passed on by The Mamas and the Papas… their work had a sheen and a zest that sometimes contrasted with the original tone of the material.”
This vintage Soul City pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the Best Sides of the Age of Aquarius Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1969
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
And most of the time those very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy that does all that, it’s an entirely different listening experience.
What We’re Listening For on The Age of Aquarius
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Medley: Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures) (From The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical “Hair”)
Wedding Bell Blues
Don’tcha Hear Me Callin’ To Ya
Workin’ On A Groovy Thing
Let It Be Me
Sunshine Of Your Love
The Winds Of Heaven
Those Were The Days
Let The Sunshine In (Reprise)
AMG 4 Star Review
The Age of Aquarius, the 5th Dimension’s fourth album, was the group’s commercial peak. They had already topped the charts with their medley of two songs from the Broadway musical Hair, “The Age of Aquarius” and “Let the Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures),” a platinum single that would earn them Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Group, when they released this album.
It turned out that was only the tip of the iceberg: They returned to number one with another platinum single, “Wedding Bell Blues,” penned by Laura Nyro, who had given them “Stoned Soul Picnic” the year before. And the album also spawned Top 40 hits in Nyro’s “Blowing Away” and Neil Sedaka’s “Workin’ on a Groovy Thing.”
The 5th Dimension were the successors to the L.A. vocal group mantle passed on by The Mamas and the Papas (they even inherited the studio band of Hal Blaine, Joe Osborne, and Larry Knechtel). They smoothed out and commercialized everything they sang, and their work had a sheen and a zest that sometimes contrasted with the original tone of the material. On Broadway, the Hair songs seemed full of hippie rebellion; here, they seemed enthusiastic and optimistic. In a conflicted time, the 5th Dimension thrived on their ability to equivocate, and this album was their triumph — just listen to them harmonize on “Sunshine of Your Love”!