6. Shot Of Love (1981) and 5. Slow Train Coming (1979): In a career marked by strange and subversive gestures, often seemingly contrived to purposefully wrong-foot his audience, there is perhaps no more shocking episodes then Dylan's public embrace of evangelical Christianity in the late '70s, followed by a trio of overt gospel music. While it is perhaps understandable that many longtime fans would have been dismayed by this development -- especially when he began refusing to play non-religious music at concerts, and also took to some fairly bizarre preaching on stage -- history will also record that this period yielded some of Dylan's greatest songs and indeed some of the greatest devotional music ever written. Unpacking the so-called "Christian period" is in itself a momentous undertaking for which there is not space here, but Slow Train Coming and Shot Of Love are wonderful albums (The second album of spirituals, 1980's Saved, has is moments, but is considerably weaker). Part of the irony of the Dylan-turns-Christian outrage is that a great deal of this music makes perfect sense within the context of his catalog. From the outset he has always littered his writing with scriptural allusion and a restless spiritual striving. In this regard songs like "Slow Train" and "The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar" are not so different from the early classic songs like "Hard Rain" or "Highway 61 Revisited," both of which function on some level as blues and folk-based biblical parables. Another common misconception is that Dylan had grown scolding and humorless during this period -- this could not be further from the truth. In fact, he often sounds out-and-out giddy, making silly jokes and sounding thoroughly delighted on the enduringly great and insightful "Gotta Serve Somebody." And, finally there is "Every Grain Of Sand," the yearning ballad that closes Shot Of Love. Clearly on a shortlist of his best songs, it is a moving statement of awe and devotion that recalls nothing so much as "Amazing Grace" in its power. Not for nothing was this song performed by Emmylou Harris when Dylan's old buddy Johnny Cash was laid to rest.