VARIOUS ARTISTS - "GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY: THE GOSPEL SONGS OF BOB DYLAN" ARRIVES IN STORES APRIL 1 ON COLUMBIA RECORDS
FEATURES NEW VERSIONS OF SONGS FROM DYLAN'S TWO GOSPEL ALBUMS --"SLOW TRAIN COMING" AND "SAVED" -- PERFORMED BY TODAY'S TOP GOSPEL ARTISTS
INCLUDES A BRAND-NEW DUET BY BOB DYLAN AND MAVIS STAPLES ON WHOLLY REWRITTEN VERSION OF "GONNA CHANGE MY WAY OF THINKING"
SHIRLEY CAESAR, AARON NEVILLE, FAIRFIELD FOUR, MIGHTY CLOUDS OF JOY, LEE WILLIAMS AND THE SPIRITUAL QCs, AMONG THOSE CONTRIBUTING TO THE 11 NEWLY-RECORDED TRACKS
THIS COLLECTION MARKS THE REUNION OF DYLAN'S GOSPEL TOURING BAND PERFORMING "SOLID ROCK" WITH SOUNDS OF BLACKNESS
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"I like the fact that Bob Dylan couldn't care less about what people say or think about his music, because you write what's in your heart." -- Shirley Caesar, the queen of gospel
"I think it's interesting, twenty years now from that time, from that gospel period, there's now a record with people singing those songs. So, twenty years had to go by for people to become aware of the fact that Bob Dylan is one of our great gospel writers?" -- drummer Jim Keltner
Nearly a quarter-century after Bob Dylan's Gotta Serve Somebody cracked the Top 30 and garnered him his first Grammy Award, a new album by that name, GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY: THE GOSPEL SONGS OF BOB DYLAN, presents eleven newly-recorded renditions of songs from Slow Train Coming and Saved performed by today's leading gospel artists, including Aaron Neville ("Saving Grace"), Mighty Clouds of Joy ("Saved"), Lee Williams and the Spiritual QCs ("When You Gonna Wake Up"), the Fairfield Four ("Are You Ready"), and Shirley Caesar, the queen of gospel herself, performing the title track. The compilation allows these songs to be heard finally in a wholly new and fresh context, perhaps the very context in which they were always destined to be heard -- as pure, unadulterated gospel music. The title arrives in stores April 1 on Columbia/Integrity, a division of Sony Music.
GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY also includes a new duet by Bob Dylan and Mavis Staples of the Staples Singers on his smoking-hot, rewritten version of "Gonna Change My Way of Thinking," recorded with his 2002 touring band.
"The music is great -- it's uplifting too," says Joe Ligon of the Grammy Award-winning ensemble Mighty Clouds of Joy, contemporary gospel's preeminent group, known for its trademark quartet style. Says Ligon, the group's co-founder and leader since 1955, "The music
sounds like back home in one of those sanctified churches where I come from, where everybody would get up, and they would be beating a tambourine, and playing the drums, and all of that's going on, and the old ladies, and the young people clapping, and people falling out and feeling God's spirit."
That spirit is heard in the joyous sound of a revival meeting in the Mighty Clouds of Joy's version of "Saved" and in the inspirational, soulful testifying by Detroit singer Rance Allen on "When He Returns."
"The writer of 'When He Returns' has to have had a real experience with the Lord, because those kind of lyrics do not come up out of just singing and writing," said Allen, a featured lead vocalist along with Men of Standard on Something About the Name Jesus" from Kirk Franklin's 1998 blockbuster album The Nu Nation Project. "It's powerful stuff, powerful stuff."
It wasn't hard to convince these artists to take part in this project. Many of them were already familiar with Bob Dylan's material. Shirley Caesar, whose crowded trophy closet includes 10 Grammys and 17 Dove awards, sang "Gotta Serve Somebody" at the request of Bob Dylan when President Clinton presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Kennedy Center in 1997.
Mavis Staples, of course, has been a friend of Bob Dylan's for over 40 years (as can be heard near the beginning of "Change My Way of Thinking," when Dylan stops the band in order to give Staples a hearty greeting when she wanders into the recording session
mid-song). Bob Dylan songs were staples of the Staple Singers' repertoire of "message music" since the early 1960s, and the group -- the first African-American performers to record a Bob Dylan song -- helped make anthems out of Dylan songs like "Blowin' in the Wind," "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" and "Masters of War."
Nor was Aaron Neville a stranger to the work of Bob Dylan; his version of "I Shall Be Released" graced his 2000 gospel album, "Devotion." He has also recorded a version of "Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight," and with the Neville Brothers he recorded "The Ballad of Hollis Brown and "With God on Our Side."
Formed in 1921, The Fairfield Four -- who were recently featured in both the film and soundtrack to "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" and in the "Down from the Mountain" documentary and concert tour -- stamp "Are You Ready" with their four-part harmony vocals in the vintage, "jubilee" style the quartet helped to create.
The genesis of GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY: THE GOSPEL SONGS OF BOB DYLAN goes back to 1980, when as a college freshman, executive producer
Jeffrey Gaskill attended his first Bob Dylan show. During this period, Dylan had put aside his political anthems and searing personal ballads in favor of set lists drawn almost entirely of songs from Slow Train Coming and Saved."
"I recognized he was taking a stand and doing something highly unusual for someone in his position, and I was amazed by that," remembers Gaskill. "I felt the obligation to entrust these songs to the finest gospel singers to be found."
The album -- produced by Joel Moss, best known for his Grammy Award-winning work with gospel singer Cissy Houston -- also reunites Bob Dylan's touring band from his "born-again" period, including bassist Tim Drummond, guitarist Fred Tackett, pianist Terry Young, and drummer Jim Keltner, on a jubilant version of "Solid Rock" performed with Grammy-winning group, Sounds of Blackness, the choir from Dylan's home state of Minnesota. Also featured is a lead vocal by Regina McCrary, one of the backup singers from Dylan's gospel albums and concert tours, performing "Pressing On" with the Grammy-nominated Chicago Mass Choir.
The album features contributions by organist Spooner Oldham (Percy Sledge, Neil Young) -- also a member of the original gospel touring band -- who lends his Hammond B-3 organ to Aaron Neville's version of
"Saving Grace," and keyboardist Billy Preston (the Beatles, the Rolling Stones), who plays on two tracks, including a rendition of "What Can I Do For You?" by Grammy nominee and Dove Award-winner Helen Baylor. The album also includes a version of "I Believe in You" by Atlanta-based, Dove and Stellar award-winning vocalist Dottie Peoples.
"On this recording, we can separate what Dylan is saying in his gospel songs from the drama of his saying it," writes author Tom Piazza in the album's liner notes. In addition, says Piazza, "we see, again, how rooted Dylan is in the grain of American music, the Saturday night/Sunday morning tug-of-war that has lent tension and fire to the fact of the Gospel in the singing of Ralph Stanley, Little Richard, Charley Patton, Muddy Waters, and Hank Williams, among so many others."
For Regina McCrary, who sang with Bob Dylan throughout the original gospel period in 1979-1981, GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY brings things full
circle. A lead vocalist with the Bobby Jones Gospel Choir and the daughter of the late Reverend Sam McCrary -- "the Singing Preacher" of the Fairfield Four -- McCrary says, "I don't think that a song that is written about God -- about his 'Saving Grace' or about 'Serve
Somebody' or 'Pressing On' or 'Saved' or 'I Believe in You' or 'Are You Ready' -- will ever die, no matter who wrote them. But because Bob Dylan wrote them and we're going in and we're doing them over now, I think that all it does is just remind people that this man is
GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY: THE GOSPEL SONGS OF BOB DYLAN (CK/CT 89015)
1. Shirley Caesar, "Gotta Serve Somebody"
2. Lee Williams and the Spiritual QCs, "When You Gonna Wake Up"
3. Dottie Peoples, "I Believe in You"
4. Fairfield Four, "Are You Ready"
5. Sounds of Blackness, "Solid Rock"
6. Aaron Neville, "Saving Grace"
7. Helen Baylor, "What Can I Do For You?"
8. Chicago Mass Choir, "Pressing On"
9. Mighty Clouds of Joy, "Saved"
10. Rance Allen, "When He Returns"
11. Bob Dylan and Mavis Staples, "Gonna Change My Way of Thinking.
...the concept works nicely... This is a whole new way to hear Dylan.
---- NY Post
...not only entertaining but also fascinating. ...another corner of American music has, appropriately, claimed Dylan as its own.
This collection admirably honors and educates fans about Dylan's enduring contribution to the gospel music world, and is a must--have for any serious collector.
-- Barnes and Noble
These songs from Bob Dylan's fundamentalist--Christian period are truly born again, thanks to bracing reinterpretations by gospel icons.
-- Rolling Stone
"All I can say is a big fat wow!" -- E Online
...breaks new ground for tribute albums.
-- New Haven Advocate
...Dylan wrote some fine songs during that period ----made even more so more so with these interpretations by some of America's prime
-- Honolulu Star
...that's right: Bob Dylan is a great gospel songwriter... -- Stylus Magazine
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Copyright 2003, Sony Music Entertainment Inc.