Producer / songwriter Lou Adler had worked with Herb Alpert, Jan & Dean, The Mamas & The Papas, and in 1967, with John Phillips (of The Mamas & The Papas), produced the Monterey Pop Festival, securing artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, The Who, and Janis Joplin for the international bill. In between jobs in 1969, having just left Columbia Records, he came up with the idea for “Dylan`s Gospel”. Hearing a spirituality in Dylan`s words, he matched this with the amazing voices of the backing singers he had met during his years producing. Voices from the South (Central) Los Angeles Baptist community. Voices that included Merry Clayton, now famous for her role in The Stones` incendiary “Gimme Shelter” and Gloria “Tainted Love” Jones. Names like Edna Wright, Joseph Green, Jesse Kirkland, Chester Pipkin, who Adler had been introduced to by Sam Cooke. The set was recorded simply and quickly, in three or four days, at Sound Recorders in Hollywood. The studio arranged in pews like a church.
When the stereo needle first hit on that Hammond I thought I might cry, such was the music`s impact. Pull yourself together, stand tall, keep walking forward. He who`ll catch hurt will be he who has stalled. Protest songs on which Dylan cannily wrote his ticket, and his honest broken love songs, which were already art, elevated, exhalted. It`ll soon shake your windows and then it`ll rattle your walls. A revenge / redemption ballad, made famous by The Band, might seem steeped in sadness, but here it summons a strength from within. “Lay Lady Lay” a gospel for when there was all the time in the world for love (makin`). A moment when only two lovers exist. “Mr Tambourine Man” is a psalm for Hunter, and a trip I took upon his instruction, am still taking. Strike out for curiosity, and your own moral code. No compromise and no sell out. At the voices of the Brothers and Sisters Hendrix`s desperate conspirator`s night flight turns mission statement, directive. “The Mighty Quinn” is raised to messiah. A second coming. The whole congregation dancing in the aisles. “Chimes Of Freedom” moves to the dark end of the street. The lysergic poem of “My Back Pages”, reaching for inner understanding, turns sermon, salvation. There is a song for Edie, and hymns for underdogs and soldiers. A timelessness that is testament to Adler and Gene Page`s arrangements, and those voices. A record that will remain important when all other shit has faded and passed.