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Gotta Serve Somebody - The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan
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by Helen Baylor
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It took some kind of courage to pay homage to this particular period of Bob Dylan's career, a period that still can evoke a scoff or dismissive chuckle from even the most diehard fan. Because this project had humble beginnings and likely had its fair share of painful moments, it must have given executive producer Jeff Gaskill tremendous joy when it was birthed...and an outside world could finally see it and feel it and think it and breathe it.
Although Shirley Caesar kicks off the CD with a pre-song rap which includes these words--"I wanna share Bob Dylan's song with you"--it may well be the case that she's done to "Gotta Serve Somebody" what Jimi Hendrix did to "All Along the Watchtower." Like Hendrix, she wasted no time in making it her own (she recorded the song in 1980); Dylan even said, way back in 1985, that he liked her version better than his. Caesar, in this take, makes heartfelt and emotional declarations that seem anything but weak, alludes to the Hebrew scriptures at the beginning of the song (Joshua) and at the end (Chronicles) while her backup singers--with their occasional "Serve my Jesus!"--serve as an antidote to phony baloney revisionist history, i.e., Dylan really wasn't/isn't singing about Jesus, or if he was/is, that somehow he cannot claim his Jewish heritage.
When Dylan recently sang "I Believe in You" in concert, one observer noted how it still retains the original passion and power of its '79-'80 airings.Read more ›
The topper, for me, is "Pressing On," and the Chicago Mass Choir give it the epic performance it deserves, one at least equal to Dylan's own version on "Saved." The Sound of Blackness do right by the same album's "Solid Rock," and Aaron Neville lends his admirable pipes to a lovely rendition of "Saving Grace." One of Dylan's overly preachy and arrogant Christian tracts, "When You Gonna Wake Up" from "Slow Train Coming," gets a dramatic overhaul from Lee Williams and the Spiritual QCs that is one of the album's highlights.
Of course, Dylan also wrote some clinkers during this period. The title track of "Saved" never gave off sparks and it doesn't do it here despite a valiant effort from the Mighty Clouds of Joy.Read more ›
Yet many who heard Saved ranked it among Dylan's best, and found in the album ample evidence that Dylan still had his old songwriting skill. Regardless of what the press might say about what he did or did not believe, there was no denying he had written some great gospel songs. But Gospel is all about delivery--how would great Gospel singers sing these songs? Shirley Caesar handles "Gotta Serve Somebody" in her own inimitable style--sliding between talking, preaching, joking, relating a story as well as moving dynamically across her singing range. Mighty Clouds of Joy tackle "Saved," which a lot of listeners know from Third Day's Offerings album. Aaron Neville, who recently offered his own Gospel album, turns in with "Saving Grace." Because this CD includes well-known artists whose styles are so distinctive, we hear how Dylan's songs stand up simply as songs. "Saved" turns out to be an extraordinarily wonderful song.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I am one of the most satisfied listeners in the entire world after hearing Bob Dylan's words on "Gatta Serve Somebody." I love it!Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is great music, transported from rock'n'roll to black gospel, and the message is, if anything, even more potent and accessible. Truth.Published 2 months ago by harryb
Awesome music from the great Bob Dylan. I play this cd over and over. I produces a sense of calmness. Just beautiful lyrics. And great tunes.Published 3 months ago by Missmelly
Each time I listen to this, I like it more and more. The musicians do a great job of interpreting these songs. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Michael Ray