Light in the Attic is getting ready to spread the Gospel of Bob. Dylan, that is. On April 1, the label returns Ode Records’ 1969 tribute Dylan’s Gospel to print with new CD and LP reissues. Credited to The Brothers and Sisters, Dylan’s Gospel featured the cream of the crop of Los Angeles’ session singers including Merry Clayton, Clydie King, Patrice Holloway, Edna Wright and Shirley Matthews on a variety of Dylan staples, sanctified-style.
Producer Lou Adler formed Ode Records after selling his Dunhill label – the home of The Mamas and the Papas and The Grass Roots, among others – to ABC Records in 1967. The impresario-producer kicked off Ode with releases by Scott McKenzie and Spirit and soon expanded its roster with releases from artists including Mod Squad star Peggy Lipton, Carole King’s band The City and a John Densmore/Robbie Krieger-produced outfit called The Comfortable Chair. When Adler hit upon the notion of a tribute to Bob Dylan, he made sure that it would be something special. Dylan’s career was, unbelievably, less than a decade old in 1969, yet he had already written a number of oft-covered songs which would become modern-day standards. And so rather than another album of Bob Dylan, say, folk-rock-style, Adler took the troubadour to church.
He enlisted arranger-conductor Gene Page for Dylan’s Gospel. Already noted for his work on Phil Spector’s production of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” and at Motown, the versatile Page would go on to orchestrate some of Barry White’s most lush compositions, work in Hollywood and on Broadway, and collaborate with artists like Elton John and Whitney Houston. The 27-strong cast of powerful, big-voiced singers was primarily selected from that rarefied group that would be immortalized in the 2013 film 20 Feet from Stardom: backup singers, many of whom had a background singing in church. “Gimme Shelter” co-vocalist Merry Clayton joined Adler’s Brothers and Sisters as did Edna Wright (Darlene Love’s sister and member of The Honey Cone), Patrice Holloway (co-writer with sister Brenda of “You Made Me So Very Happy”), Stax artist Ruby Johnson, Honeys member Ginger Blake, and the accomplished songwriter and “Tainted Love” vocalist Gloria Jones.
After the jump: what will you hear on Dylan’s Gospel? Plus: the full track listing and pre-order links!
The ten Dylan songs chosen for the project are all now classics, although some were quite recent at the time of Dylan’s Gospel. “Lay Lady Lay” originated on 1969’s Nashville Skyline; “I Shall Be Released” and “The Mighty Quinn” from the Basement Tapes cache were first heard in 1968 by The Band and Manfred Mann, respectively. “All Along the Watchtower” and “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” premiered on Dylan’s 1967 John Wesley Harding. “Mr. Tambourine Man,” a smash hit for The Byrds, was first aired on 1965’s Bringing It All Back Home, while 1966’s Blonde on Blonde yielded “Just Like a Woman.” “Chimes of Freedom,” “My Back Pages” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’” were the earliest songs on Dylan’s Gospel, with the first two dating back to 1964’s Another Side of Bob Dylan and the latter from the same year’s The Times They Are A-Changin’.
The album was recorded at Hollywood’s Sound Recorders Studio, and true to the name of Brothers and Sisters, many of the performers brought family members to the sessions. Adler, too, made sure that friends were plentiful, like Carole King, John Phillips and Peggy Lipton. The result was one of the most significant of the early Dylan covers projects, but the album went largely unheralded. One track (“The Mighty Quinn”) was culled just last year for inclusion on The Best of Merry Clayton from Ode and Legacy Recordings. Future Dylan gospel projects bore its influence, however, such as 2008’s Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan, which concentrated on the music of Dylan’s so-called “born again” period.
Light in the Attic’s reissue is the first on CD since a now out-of-print import version was issued in the early 2000s on the Sequel label. It has been remastered from the original stereo master tapes, and includes a booklet with rare archival photos and new liner notes drawing on interviews with Lou Adler, Edna Wright and Merry Clayton. It will also boast an “expanded gatefold tip-on jacket.” Dylan’s Gospel arrives on CD and LP on April 1. You can pre-order this one-of-a-kind collection at the links below!
The Brothers and Sisters, Dylan’s Gospel (Ode LP Z 12-44018, 1969 – reissued Light in the Attic LITA 106, 2014)
- The Times They Are A-Changin’
- I Shall Be Released
- Lay Lady Lay
- Mr. Tambourine Man
- All Along the Watchtower
- The Mighty Quinn
- Chimes of Freedom
- I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
- My Back Pages
- Just Like a Woman