Reissue: Dylan’s Gospel

Gospel music and singing in the choir hold a reverent spot in the music of our heart. I sang for several years in the church choir growing up. I find myself at peace when I sing hymns at the weekly celebration of mass. It stands to reason that Bob Dylan‘s music lends itself to a church music setting. After all you “Gotta Serve Somebody” 😉

Something tells us you haven’t heard anything like Dylan’s Gospel by The Brothers and Sisters, a choir of Los Angeles session singers brought gloriously to the fore for a very special, one-off record.

Originally released in 1969 on Ode Records, this rare and sought-after album finds the California collective covering a clutch of Dylan classics in the era’s revolutionary gospel style. Produced by Lou Adler, soon to work his magic on Carole King’s mega-successful Tapestry, and arranged by Gene Page, noted for his work for Motown, the performers were largely unknown, but many went on to find great acclaim. Merry Clayton, the powerhouse singer best known for sparring with Mick Jagger on Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” (and star of the recent documentary 20 Feet from Stardom), appears here, as does Edna Wright of The Honeycones and Gloria Jones who recorded the original version of “Tainted Love” in 1965.

Record producer Lou Adler
Record producer Lou Adler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The genesis of the project was Lou Adler, the music business visionary who staged the legendary Monterey International Pop Festival. He imagined a project that joined the songs of Dylan with L.A.‘s most sought after session singers, most of which began their singing in the Baptist churches of South Los Angeles. “Listening to Dylan’s songs, I felt there was a gospel-like feel to them, both spiritually and lyrically,” Adler says in the liner notes. “So those two ideas, to work with these singers and to explore that side of Dylan – came together.” (Background and publicity information courtesy of The Light In The Attic Records).

The album drops on April 1, 2014. You may place a pre-order here.

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20 Feet From Stardom

When I think of backup singers the music of our heart turns specifically to Merry Clayton‘s riveting performance on The Rolling Stones, “Gimme Shelter” from the Let It Bleed album from 1969.

The documentary movie, 20 Feet From Stardom opens this Friday June 14th. It traces the history of the pop background singer, starting with the Phil Spector girl groups of the 1960’s, touching upon their roles in the work of artists like Lou Reed and the Talking Heads, and bringing to light their presence in the pop music of today. Most certainly Merry Clayton and other significant divas are included in this warm tribute.

A public screening of the film took place on a NY city rooftop on the lower East Side on Saturday night, June 8. Darlene Love featured in the movie gave a live performance followed by a Q&A with the director Morgan Neville.