Various Artists – Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan (Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International)
by Cara McGrath (Graphic Design), published February 9th 2012
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
It’s pretty bold for an artist to try to cover a song by Bob Dylan. It’s even more audacious for over 80 artists to do it. But that’s exactly what exists within the new four-disc collection, Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan (Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International) - five hours of Dylan covers. There are 76 tracks in the compilation, all paying tribute to one of the most significant musical influences of all time and to this Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization for a half-century of work.
Bob Dylan’s incomparable lyrics bring together a wide variety of musicians of differing ages and genres. Any music fan can find at least a handful of songs that they will enjoy, whether country singers (Johnny Cash, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle), Top-40 artists (Ke$ha, Adele, Natasha Bedingfield), or alternative rock bands (Silversun Pickups, State Radio, The Gaslight Anthem) have recorded them. All of the tracks are either new or previously unreleased.
It isn’t easy to cover these tunes; much of the record is hit or miss, so the trick is just finding the noteworthy moments. All that the plethora of iTunes reviews allow a reader to conclude is either that Miley Cyrus (who covers “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”) is the greatest thing since sliced bread, or that Miley Cyrus is destroying the world one song at a time. So, as thrilling as that information is, it won’t help you when you’re sifting through 76 songs trying to discover the collection’s strongest tracks.
While many are mediocre, there are definitely several songs that stand out from the rest. Lucinda Williams’ take on “Tryin’ To Get To Heaven,” Flogging Molly’s cover of “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” and Queens of The Stone Age’s rendition of “Outlaw Blues” are three of the best. Two very different executions of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” appear on the record, the first by Ke$ha and the second by Kronos Quartet. At the risk of losing a substantial amount of respect, I have to commend Ke$ha on her passionate performance. But if her cover doesn’t do it for you, Kronos Quartet provides a beautiful instrumental version. A few collaborative tracks are great as well, particularly “One Too Many Mornings” by Johnny Cash and The Avett Brothers and “One More Cup of Coffee” by Steve Earle and Lucia Micarelli.
The assortment of artists featured is pleasantly surprising; there is something for everyone, but in its entirety, the album is only average. Proceeds from the compilation will be donated to Amnesty International.
Recommended Tracks: Tryin’ To Get To Heaven (Lucinda Williams), Drifter’s Escape (Patti Smith), Outlaw Blues (Queens of the Stone Age), You’re A Big Girl Now (My Morning Jacket)