The concept of a compilation of Bob Dylan's gospel songs is certainly an idea whose time has come. That this does not feature Dylan performing the original versions of these songs is yet another. Executive producer Jeffrey Gaskill assembled a wide-ranging assortment of the hottest talent in the gospel arena, both past and present, to perform the songs from Dylan's Slow Train Coming and Saved albums, and producer Joel Moss extracted phenomenal performances from Shirley Caesar, the Fairfield Four, the Sounds of Blackness, Rance Allen, the Chicago Mass Choir fronted by Regina McCrary (who sang backup for Dylan on the 1978 and 1979 tours when these recordings were originally done), the Mighty Clouds of Joy, Helen Baylor (with Billy Preston), Aaron Neville, Dottie Peoples, Lee Williams & the Spiritual QC's, Mavis Staples, and Dylan himself (performing a duet on a completely rewritten version of "Gonna Change My Way of Thinkin'").
Arriving in 1967, Greatest Hits does an excellent job of summarizing Dylan's best-known songs from his first seven albums. At just ten songs, it's a little brief, and the song selection may be a little predictable, but that's actually not a bad thing, since this provides a nice sampler for the curious and casual listener, as it boasts standards from "Blowin' in the Wind" to "Like a Rolling Stone." And, for collectors, the brilliant non-LP single "Positively Fourth Street" was added, which provided reason enough for anybody that already owned the original records to pick this up. This has since been supplanted by more exhaustive collections, but as a sampler of Dylan at his absolute peak, this is first-rate.
On Songs of Bob Dylan, Joan Osborne unleashes her sizable gifts as a vocalist and interpreter upon The Bard's celebrated canon. With performances honed by the time Osborne spent polishing them during 'Joan Osborne Sings The Songs Of Bob Dylan' two critically acclaimed two-week residencies she performed at New York City's Café Carlyle in March 2016 and 2017, the seven-time Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum-selling singer and songwriter, whom The New York Times has called 'a fiercely intelligent, no-nonsense singer,' winds her supple, soulful voice around Dylan's poetic, evocative lyrics, etching gleaming new facets in them along the way.
While covering Bob Dylan songs certainly isn't a novel idea, it's potentially a very interesting idea to have contemporary blues musicians perform Dylan compositions indebted to that form, since it's sometimes easy to overlook the deeply traditional roots of his music in light of the vast new territories he opened up…