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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The gospel songs of Bob Dylan, 7 Jan. 2010
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This review is from: Gotta Serve Somebody: Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan (Audio CD)
Dylan's `gospel' period #1979-81# is not well represented by the three shortish and patchy albums in his official catalogue - unfortunately we have to rely on bootleg recordings of live performances and unreleased songs to testify to the richness of this much-derided period in his career. This album of covers goes at least some way to redress the balance. Like all cover albums, it's a mixture of the good, the not so good and the `why did they bother?', but overall it is a remarkable tribute to Dylan's contribution to the genre. Highlights include the title track, performed by Shirley Caesar; Helen Baylor's powerful take of `What can I do for you?'; `Pressing on', where the Chicago Mass Choir is majestically led by Regina McCrary, Dylan vocalist 1979-81, in one of that tiny handful of Dylan covers that transcends the original; and Rance Allen's noble version of `When He returns', which doesn't attempt to compete with the emotional complexity of Dylan's performance, but works beautifully on its own terms, and sets up perfectly the acidic blast of Dylan's own contribution to this CD, a rewrite of `Gonna change my way of thinking', performed as a duet with Mavis Staples in a manner reminiscent of Dylan's early `80s work with Clydie King. Disappointments include Aaron Neville's `Saving grace' - abject repentance never sounded this virtuosic - and `Solid rock', featuring some of Dylan's 1979-81 band revisiting old territory with very little of the old excitement. All in all, though, not to be missed. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the project is that it doesn't sound at all like a tribute album to Dylan and his material - the performers are singing about and to God. Dylan, I suspect, would expect nothing less.
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