A Higher Calling To An Ordinary People (Thinman-079/80)
Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA – November 21st, 1979
Disc 1 (57:34): Gotta Serve Somebody, I Believe In You, When You Gonna Wake Up?, When He Returns, Man Gave Names To All The Animals, Precious Angel, Slow Train, Covenant Woman, Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking
Disc 2 (48:50): Do Right To Me Baby (Do Unto Others), Solid Rock, Saving Grace, Saved, What Can I Do For You?, In The Garden, Blessed Be The Name, Pressing On
Bob Dylan began his born again Christian stage life with fourteen shows in San Francisco which were generally slammed by an unbelieving, uncaring rock press. The new Thinman has the final show from the second set of shows in Santa Monica, California. These were close to where he attended Bible class at the Hollywood Vineyard Church and the audience were composed of many of his brethren. Thinman use a very good and clear recording that captures the music very well and was previous released on Preaching To The Converted (184/185) on the CDR Doberman label. Dylan’s speeches are more difficult to discern. There is noticeable hiss throughout and a chatty attendee speaks during “When He Returns. There are small cuts following “I Believe In You”, “Slow Train”, “Covenant Woman,” “Saved,””What Can I Do For You?” and “Blessed Is The Name.” There are mastering faults on disc one at 3:01 and 3:05 in “Precious Angel” and at 4:02 in “Covenant Woman.”
The concert itself is spurned on by a supportive crowd. There are a number of very minor miscues in timing which may also tend to make the band, and perhaps Dylan himself, more tentative. Another cause may be the technical difficulties they were having with one set of keyboards, as Dylan mentions during band introductions. This may be the source of the annoying drone on the louder songs. Regina Havis’ ticket story is missing along with the opening five gospel songs, but picks up with the opening duo of “Gotta Serve Somebody” and “I Believe In You.”
Dylan introduces “When You Gonna Wake Up?” by quoting the opening line, saying, “I don’t know what kind of god you believe in, but I believe in a god that can raise the dead. He does it all the time, every day. Now there’s certain men, you know, many of them who live right in this town who seek to lead you astray. You be careful now. The real god, the real god, the only and only god, he don’t make promises that he don’t keep. That’s how you can tell he’s the real god.”
Many commentators find it difficult to classify Dylan’s songs in this period. Musically they are firmly planted in gospel and rock, but the content of the songs. Since they are part proclamation, they are definitely homiletical in form. It is interesting to note that, on the first two gospel albums (which comprise these early shows), the abundant use of the second person singular pronoun “you.” In the first fifteen minutes he sings “you‘re gonna serve somebody,” “I believe in you,” and “when you gonna wake up?” The subject of the pronoun changes depending upon the context, but in general he is addressing the listener in the songs planting the rhetoric firmly in the polemical. If the audiences were uncomfortable with the new songs, this is probably the reason why. Dylan’s earlier classics were presented objectively with the listener eavesropping in on the dialogue, but using the second person singular pronoun definitely invites the listener in to the dialogue occurring onstage.
Before “Slow Train” Dylan preaches, “Well, you know the god of this world is blind to many people. We see them all the time, we hear about them on the radio, the TV, and the newspapers. Satan is called the god of this world. He owns the media, everything about the media, he owns it….While America’s on its way down becoming a third-rate power. We can’t help that. There’s nothing we can do about that. But we can know what is going to happen and what is going to happen is this world is going to be destroyed. That’s been coming a long time and its going to happen. But Christ will set up his kingdom in Jerusalem for a thousand years. I want you to know that, because you’ve got a choice.” Incorrect theology aside, “Slow Train” is one of the highlights of the first album and in this show.
After “Covenant Woman” he goes into a long introduction for the next song, which gives the name tot this release. “Thank you. You know that God uses ordinary people. He uses ordinary people all the time. All those guys from the Old Testament, Joshua, Moses, Abraham, Gideon; they’re all ordinary people. They weren’t any super heroes at all. In fact, Moses did not want to go back to Egypt, and get the people out, he did not want to do that, because he knew he was an ordinary (inaudible) person. Anyway, God told him to go back and tell the Pharaoh to let those people go. Pharaoh didn’t want to let those people go. Moses said to God, “But Pharaoh don’t want to let those people go.” God said, “Well don’t you worry about it Moses, and I’ll put the words right in your mouth.” You see Moses had a problem, just like I do. Moses had a problem too. He stuttered, let’s say he stuttered, or he missed, he had something, something like that, I don’t know exactly what it is. But, but uh, anyway he went back to where he came from and he told Pharaoh what God had told him, and, and Pharaoh said, “No way, Moses, I can’t let those people go, they’re building my pyramids.” Anyway, Moses said to Pharaoh, “Well, God said that your rivers are going to dry up if you don’t let those people go.”
“Well, Pharaoh didn’t pay any attention to that and his rivers dried up. Then, ah, Moses said, “God warned you frogs are going to crawl across your streets.” Pharaoh still didn’t, it didn’t make any difference to Pharaoh at that time. Frogs crawled everywhere. There was no place they could look they didn’t see frogs. Hail started falling as big as basketballs. People are dropping like flies. Many, many plagues came down. But finally God said to Moses, “Moses, you go tell Pharaoh that every first-born son is going to die, if they don’t let those people go.” Moses said, “all right I’ll go and tell him.” But Moses probably figuring out, well, if all the first-born sons are going to die, what are all the Hebrew children, are they going to die too? God said, “No, Moses you just put the blood sign on every door.” So when the angel of the lord passed over, he saw the sign of blood on every door, and he didn’t touch those houses. Now you need the blood on you. Because, of what is going to be happening in the world, coming up, you need the blood on you. Anyway, I tell this story, to tell you, that God does use ordinary people. And Mona Lisa’s gonna sing a song for you now called, “God Uses Ordinary People.”
“Do Right To Me Baby” lacks the melodic bass-line of the Slow Train Coming recording and sounds much “lighter.” It is still an effective explication of the golden rule. Before the closing “In The Garden” Dylan says, “All right, we’ve got time for one more. You know the story about, when they came to get Jesus in the garden? Peter rose very quickly and cut off the man’s ear to keep him from being taken. Jesus says ‘Hold it Peter.’ He said, ‘Put your sword away’ and Jesus healed the man’s ear. You see, Peter, he didn’t understand. When, when there wasn’t, when he didn’t know what to say he would say it, or he would do it. Anyway, Jesus said to him, ‘This cup that’s coming to me, I’ve got to drink it.'” This song would become much more dramatic in the following year but the doom-tinged organ in the hopeful melody is one of his greatest gospel compositions. Before the encores he introduces the band and ends by saying, “We’re gonna give all the praise, all the glory to God tonight, we know we don’t want any, and we don’t deserve any.” A Higher Calling To An Ordinary Peopleis another great gospel era release on the Thinman label who have released many in the past couple years. The graphics are interesting and are printed on very thick glossy paper making it collectible.