Graham Reid | | 1 min read
There have been any number of tributes to Bob Dylan – from the Hollies in the Sixties through country, jazz, quasi-classical, latterly alt.country, black Americans, actors reading his lyrics, world music artists and doubtless by creatures on other planets.
But this album, produced in '69 – the same year as The Hollies Sing Dylan – by Lou Adler with the Los Angeles Gospel Choir and here given belated reissue, is among the more unusual.
Not because lyrics like those on The Times They Are A Changin', I Shall Be Released and Chimes of Freedom don't suit the spiritual ethos, but that other songs here are considerably more secular. Like Lay Lady Lay, Just Like A Woman and Mr Tambourine Man.
And what do we make of a gospel treatment of the always odd Mighty Quinn? Maybe this ain't your cup of meat.
Or I'll Be Your Baby Tonight.
This was not any official gospel choir but black men and women who were backing singers or in church groups. Among them were Merry Clayton – who later appeared on the Stones Gimme Shelter and here gets the lead on Mighty Quinn and Times – and Gloria Jones who did the original Tainted Love.
Clayton says they took the songs to church, but it's quite some funky kirk in places, more than just Southern Baptist gospel but a real sensual hip swing on Lay Lady Lay (appropriate) and a brooding groove on Watchtower (again, it fits).
The Mighty Quinn in Clayton's raw treatment is barely through the door of a church, aside from the stacked up vocals and handclaps on the chorus.
This is perhaps because Adler threw a four day recording party in the studio and that sense of joy comes through in many places.
But it still remains an odd one.
Imagine if Adler had just held his breath for another decade when Dylan embarked on his religious phase with Slow Train Coming, Save and Shot of Love.
Then he might have had some real spiritual source material, albeit most of the songs not a patch on I Shall be Released, Chimes of Freedom or My Back Pages.