I’ve heard a few of the tracks but I needed Dorian Lynskey in the Guardian, 8.5.14, to tell me about Dylan’s Gospel, an album of righteous covers of Bob in spiritual mode, recorded in 1969 and now being re-issued, along with a documentary on the making of it.
One of the session singers called in for the project was Merry Clayton, whose reputation with musicians was celebrated in the recently-released documentary 20 Feet From Stardom – previously mentioned on this blog at
Lynskey interviewed Clayton about her memories of the record and wrote:
Seattle label Light in the Attic is reissuing Dylan’s Gospel, a 1969 album recorded by a dream team of backing singers known as the Brothers and Sisters of LA.
The reissue is long overdue. Conceived by record producer Lou Adler, who admired backing singers so much that he sometimes paid them triple scale, it features 27 vocalists, including Clayton, Clydie King, Patrice Holloway, Gloria Jones and Edna Wright, injecting the likes of Chimes of Freedom and Lay Lady Lay with Baptist gusto. It’s a righteous, inspiring, beautiful piece of work.
Clayton was particularly thrilled to be singing lead on The Times They Are A-Changin’. “I’d met Bob during that period and I just adored him. I loved what he was saying.”
Every word of her version is wrenching and magnificent. You can hear the same intensity in her volcanic 1971 version of Neil Young’s Southern Man and in her transformative, apocalyptic performance on .
Unfortunately, Dylan’s Gospel came out just as Adler’s Ode Records was changing distributor so it fell through the cracks despite warm reviews. Even more disappointing to him was the fate of the excellent solo albums he produced for Clayton in the early 70s.
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