Transient

various artists – chimes of freedom: the songs of bob dylan honoring 50 years of amnesty international

by jared silva
02.20.12

Compilation albums are always tricky to perfect. If there’s a central theme (and not just a lazy Now! collection), it can be really demanding to want to compile great collection of songs that really compliment each other track after track. Most of the time, you’re going to listen to one and get some stand out tracks, some “whatever” songs, and some lame duds. At 76 total songs, Amnesty International has an tough task to moderate a huge collection of Bob Dylan covers to celebrate their 50th anniversary (as well as coming up on Bob Dylan’s 50th anniversary in the music business). Dylan has always had a unique style to his lyrics and singing. With all these artists covering his music all in their own styles, it can become worrisome as to how they’ll take on such a big task. So it honestly is surprising how good of a job Amnesty International has done with this compilation under those circumstances.

It’s going to be really hard for someone to not find an artists they already love in this collection. Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International  is a 4-disc, four hour collection of 75 artists singing 74 different Dylan songs (with only one duplicate song, as well as Bob Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom” ending the collection). It’s wide genre diversity ranges from pop vocalists to punk rockers to folk veterans to soul singers. Basically any kind of genre of music Bob Dylan has influenced over the past 50 years, it’s featured here (sorry, no electronica or dubstep).

Even the featured artists themselves have a vast range. The album starts off great with a pleasant cover of “One Too Many Mornings” by the late Johnny Cash, sung along side indie folk group The Avett Brothers. From there, it is very much hit-and-miss, but thankfully, there seem to be more hits here than misses. A lot of the veteran singers who’ve lived in Dylan’s era such as Bettye LaVette, Marianne Faithful, and Pete Seeger are just a few of the big hitters here. There are plenty of younger acts that sing some powerful renditions as well, especially Adele’s cover of “You Make Me Feel My Love,” whose passionate soul-crushing voice makes it an easy transition into Bob Dylan’s more romantic songs. A lot of this artists also take Bob Dylan’s love songs to cover over his political or protest songs, which is a good thing, because they could very well come off as preachy from anyone else but Bob Dylan.

But the big concern really is if this album is worth your time. “Why would I listen to Bob Dylan covers if I could just listen to Bob Dylan?” It’s completely valid to ask that since there are some real lame songs featured in here too. The worst offender (and you could probably guess this before even listening to it) is Ke$ha singing “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” It isn’t insultingly bad, as she does drop her electro-pop trash music persona, but it does sound like a rough unfinished copy of a song. Maybe it’s why the following track is the same song by Kronos Quartet. Others include a horribly over-the-top version of “The Times They Are A-Changin’” by Flogging Molly, an almost eerily straight forward copy of “One of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later)” by Mick Hunknall, and I just can’t get into Michael Franti’s cover of “Subterranean Homesick Blue,” maybe proving not every Dylan song should be covered if it can’t be done better. One great thing about this album though is it’s very accessible, making it easy for any listener to get into the good renditions without necessarily having to know much about Bob Dylan’s work. The trade-off of course is hopefully that whoever listens to this will seek out more of Bob Dylan’s work and appreciate that even more, and this is definitely a decent album to recommend to do that.

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favorite tracks // adele “you make me feel my love,” pete seeger “forever young,” ziggy marley “blowin’ in the wind,” silversun pickups “not dark yet”

Listen to Chimes Of Freedom: The Songs Of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years Of Amnesty International now, via Spotify.