Various Artists
Gotta Serve Somebody

You might call this the definitive Special Event CD. Gotta Serve Somebody —The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan is most cetainly event, and once you listen to the album, there’s no argument that it’s special.

CDThe brainchild of executive producer Jeffrey Gaskill, this is a set of Bob Dylan Gospel songs pulled from his acclaimed Slow Train Coming and Saved albums, but freshly interpreted by some of Gospel’s finest and most treasured voices.

Things become even more fascinating when you consider that the album reunites Bob Dylan’s touring band from this same period, including bassist Tim Drummond, guitarist Fred Tackett, pianist Terry Young and drummer Jim Keltner. The veteran Billy Preston even stops by on organ on a couple of spot.

To say that there are some great songs on this album is too obvious. Of course they’re great, that’s already been proven. It’s the interpretations that make this project fly.

Venerable groups such as The Fairfield Four on “Are You Ready?” sing the song with true quartet feeling. Their take is matched only by Lee Williams and the Spiritual QCs on the stark “When You Gonna Wake Up”, or arguably, by The Mighty Clouds of Joy with Joe Ligon on the pure Gospel message of “Saved”.

Shirley Caesar delivers a simply incredible vocal performance on the title track, “Gotta Serve Somebody”, packing plenty of oomph into a song that kicks along with unstoppable groove.

Rance Allen brings his inimitable style to a rather mellow, organ-anchored “When He Returns”. Dottie Peoples delivers the familiar “I Believe In You”. Also heard along the way are artists that include Helen Baylor, The Sounds of Blackness, Aaron Neville and the Chicago Mass Choir.

The project closes with a fiery number that brings Bob Dylan himself onto the record, singing in tandem with fellow legend Mavis Staples on “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking”. The song is hard-core grit and drive, a playful combo of rock, blues and Gospel that can’t be defined even on those terms.

Producers: Various
album release date: March 25, 2003
Columbia / Legacy / Integrity Gospel

— review by Stan North

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