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  Listen Up! 5/16/03 Listen Up!

Friday, May 16

Various Artists, “Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan,” Columbia Records. This isn’t as good as I hoped it would be, but the more I think about it, it’s at least as good as it should be. Dylan’s gospel period wasn’t exactly his strongest collection of songs, and Gospel singers don’t sit well with whatever ambivalence may have been in the originals. So, we rise and fall on the skills of the vocalists, and there are some great singers here. Whoever the lead woman is in the Chicago Mass Choir can testify, that’s for sure! “Pressing On” is easily the best cut here. You can’t argue with Shirley Caesar (who, unfortunately, has to sing the most well known, and thus least straight-forward, “Gotta Serve Somebody”) or the Fairfield Four or Lee Williams & the Spiritual QC’s, or Aaron Neville, or the Mighty Clouds of Joy (who get to tackle the joyous “Saved”). The combination of Dylan himself and the god-like Mavis Staples on “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking” is pretty great, once you get past the bizarre talking introduction (that I couldn’t even hear because Lew was playing a crazy foreign condom commercial on his computer).

--Steve Pick

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