Spirituality has been a cornerstone of Bob Dylan’s music.
Matters of God and faith have infused his material regularly, from early songs such as “With God on Our Side,” in which he questioned humankind’s ability to justify most any behavior according to one’s interpretation of religious beliefs, right through “Duquesne Whistle” on 2012’s “Tempest,” when he confessed, “I can hear a sweet voice gently calling/ Must be the Mother of our Lord.”
Yet most fans and critics alike were flummoxed in 1979 when he released “Slow Train Coming,” the first of a trio of albums that were immersed in Christian imagery and scriptural references.
That period, which continued with “Saved” in 1980 and “Shot of Love” in 1981, is one of the most polarizing of his career.
Yet it’s an era his record label is exploring in-depth in “Bob Dylan: Trouble No More — The Bootleg Series Vol. 13/1979-1981,” coming Nov. 3.
The Times online (latimes.com/music) premiered a track from the forthcoming Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings set, and it’s one of the finest songs to come out of that period. The song, “Every Grain of Sand,” originally appeared on “Shot of Love.”
This version is from a rehearsal on Sept. 26, 1980, where he was accompanied by guitarist Fred Tackett, keyboardist Willie Smith, bassist Tim Drummond and drummer Jim Keltner.
It’s a strikingly different take from the “Shot of Love” rendition, which swayed with a waltz pulse that sounded designed for a Sunday morning congregation.