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The Fifth Estate

Launched out of Garage Rock; doused into the British Invasion; expanded through Folk Rock; rollicked across Sunshine Pop; experimented with Psychedelia; classicized by Baroque Rock; toughened in Hard Rock. And all that was compressed into just the 1960s!

Now, the original Fifth Estate is back. The band is recording fresh material, reissuing its Sixties classics, and opening its vaults of archived never-before-heard tapes from the 1960s. And it's all available right here through CdBaby!

Formed across the bridge from the Big Apple in Stamford, Connecticut, the quintet debuted on vinyl as The D-Men in early 1964. In the wake of the revolutionary British Invasion, every American record label, band manager, and all-around pop music hustler was searching for teenagers who could play a few chords, sing reasonably on key, and were already growing their hair long. The D-Men checked off all those boxes, and many more. The big city guys drove down to Stamford, watched them perform, and inked them to contracts. The fact that they could not only play and sing, but also wrote their own songs - well that amazed the cigar-chomping New York City impresarios. Remember, this all happened in 1963 and 1964, when such a combination of talent was still quite rare in teen music.

Standing out among many unsung, under-publicized aspects of The Fifth Estate's legacy is the fact that they played their own instruments on every track they recorded. They composed and arranged their own songs. They sang their own leads and harmonies. Heck, they even produced and recorded many of their basic tracks in the group's own helter-skelter home studio. Talk about self-contained groups! The Fifth Estate could have written the manual.

Remember: This was a time when many other top groups were ably assisted by studio pros like the Wrecking Crew and hit-penning songwriters like P. F. Sloan, Boyce and Hart, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and so many others.

With such a rich background, The Fifth Estate was motivated to reunite in 2011. They still had it in them to write, to play, sing, to record, to produce. As they did on the CD album Time Tunnel, co-produced with the legendary Shel Talmy and issued on their unique Roxon imprint. That 14-track album distills the spirit and energy of the Sixties, while adding the power, maturity, and recording brilliance developed through years of varied musical experiences from the five musicians of The Fifth Estate.

In the mid-1960s, The D-Men/Fifth Estate played shows at local clubs, high schools, and college mixers. Soon enough, the quintet was pulled into the swinging Greenwich Village scene, where they blasted cool music and filled hot dance floors with mods, hippies, suburban kids on a wild ride, and beautiful people wanting in on the action. It was, as was proclaimed at the time, a Happening!

Amidst it all, they squeezed in the time to record four singles for three record labels in two years. On those early releases, they wrote and arranged every note, played every instrument, and sang every lyric, while promoting their records on TV shows like The Clay Cole Show and Hullabaloo, where they uncorked the rocking "I Just Don't Care." For their fourth single pressed on the storied Red Bird Records, they changed their name permanently to The Fifth Estate, debuting with "Love Is All A Game," a perfect evocation of British beat, American folk rock, and teenaged garage rock. Those two titles plus many more can be heard on 21-song compilation The Best Of The Fifth Estate, another album found here at CDBaby

The most heralded track on The Best Of The Fifth Estate the international best-seller "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead" cracked the Top 10 during the summer of 1967, dubbed at the time - and ever since - as The Summer of Love. Every type of musical experimentation was in full bloom, as psychedelia and Baroque sounds supplemented echoes of garage, Anglophile, and folk rock. Amidst this bubbling cauldron, what could be crazier than adapting a song from The Wizard Of Oz to the "now" sounds of The Summer of Love?

That's exactly what The Fifth Estate accomplished with their Baroque rock concoction of "The Witch." Collaborating with arranger John Abbott fresh off his groundbreaking Baroque pop sessions with The Left Banke, The Fifth Estate delivered their own home recording demo that blended Renaissance dance music with contemporary Beatlesque stylings. Re-recording their arrangement with an assist from genuine classical musicians provided the thrill of a lifetime for the quintet from Stamford. "The Witch" was vinylized, flew around the globe, and turned into the most successful chart-action single among countless great interpretations of numbers from that fabled movie soundtrack.

"The Witch" and other examples of The Fifth Estate's Baroque rock innovations can be heard on Higher Density, the group's 2016 remaster available right here at CdBaby. In fact, three different "The Witches" are included: the classic hit single; an Italian language version cut phonetically for the European market; and the initial demo track recorded in The Fifth Estate's home studio. Their follow-up chartmaker "Heigh Ho" is heard in its hit single version and in a live recording showing off keyboardist Wayne Wadhams' mastery of both Bach and rock. Opening Higher Density is the irresistible power pop "Morning, Morning" that found a receptive audience in Australia for its catchy guitar licks and harpsichord underpinnings. Not satisfied with getting things right in the studio only, The Fifth Estate was likely the first band in America to lug a harpsichord across America in order to replicate their Baroque recordings on stage for live audiences.

The phenomenal reception accorded "The Witch" led to an endless string of concert tours and sharing stages with The Lovin' Spoonful, The Turtles, The Byrds, Gene Pitney, The Ronettes, The Easybeats, The Count Five, The Electric Prunes, The Music Explosion, and The Buckinghams. Somehow, recording sessions were shoehorned in between. Because the group sometimes hauled their own home recording gear to gigs, they preserved reel-to-reel tapes of some 1960s shows. Given the cavernous Grand Canyon-echoes of large arenas and the primitive state of PA's and sound systems, it's not surprising that many live recordings replicate the challenging conditions musicians faced in the 1960s. Loud, frantic, exciting, explosive - yes; able to hear each other at opposite ends of the stage - not so much. Listen to the guitar-crunching blues rock on "Corina, Corina," "Walkin' The Dog," and "Bright Lights, Big City" for a taste of the album On The Road, a 20-cut smorgasbord of the the band live on-stage and spontaneous in practice sessions from the mid-'60s up to today.

A similar experience can be had at Live, Loud & Lo-Fi. Crank up the group's originals "When I'm Gone" and "I Wanna Shout" and you'll enjoy unfiltered doses of the hard rocking 1960s. Those sound explosions had kids jumping out of their seats and shaking the rafters at countless sports arenas. And then there are very early tracks from special places in their hometown like Rippowam High School and the Paradise Bar, where Stamford teens came to stomp and scream for the D-Men/Fifth Estate as if they were the latest Anglo-accented import. They were the places where jingle writer and adman Kevin Gavin "discovered" them back in 1964.

That was the year the D-Men/Fifth Estate did their first professional studio recordings. Their debut seven-incher "Don't You Know" b/w "No Hope For Me" is included on Surf, Rocks & Fuzz. The 22-song album explores some of their earliest tracks and traces their development as a garage rock band. It closes with "Just Talk" and "Time Tunnel," a couple of 2011 recordings that gave The Fifth Estate the same feeling, spirit, and energy that inspired them in the mid-'60s.

All of which brings us right back to a quintet called The D-Men who began banging away in Stamford cellars before anyone in America had heard of The Beatles or The Stones or The Kinks or The Who. The album titled I Wanna Shout! bursts with the rock 'n' roll sounds of the Sixties. "Boom Boom" and "Hi Heel Sneakers" are pure greasy garage-rockin' R&B; hundreds - maybe thousands - of teen bands across the U.S.A. filled their sets with similar titles. "Like I Love You" and "Love Could Show Me" demonstrate this American band's raw ability to compete with whatever the British Invasion had to offer. The big power chords and riffs of "So Little Time" reverberate with the guitar blasts from the folk rock era, and far beyond. "Night On Fire" captures the group experimenting with psychedelic sounds. And the closing title track "I Wanna Shout!" roars with the unabashed power and excitement of a decade of rock 'n' roll.