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chimes of freedom? not quite.

January 27, 2012

Chimes of Freedom - Amnesty InternationalI’ve often been glad that I’m not a singer. Because I know that if I was I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from doing Bob Dylan covers. I don’t blame anyone for wanting to cover some of the best songs ever written. But with the exception of some truly amazing renditions, the majority of Dylan covers just end up reinforcing that his uniquely idiosyncratic delivery is really elemental to all of his songs.

Amnesty International has just released a 4-cd album of Bob Dylan covers. Chimes of Freedom features renditions by everyone from Joan Baez to Maroon 5. (Sidenote: Maroon 5 should be on musical timeout until they can think of a way to apologize to the world for “Moves Like Jagger”) The album is a fundraiser for Amnesty International’s 50th anniversary so the music is for a great cause, even if it is all over the place.

There are a few real standouts for me. Mark Knopfler delivers a quietly gorgeous “Restless Farewell.” Jackson Browne doesn’t mess with a good thing on his fairly faithful take of “Love Minus Zero/No Limit.” Adele’s version of “Make You Feel My Love” shouldn’t be new to many but it’s quite lovely. Brett Dennen’s jubilant “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” works well. Throwing a Joan Baez cover in the mix is like letting Baryshnikov compete on So You Think You Can Dance. But her “Seven Curses” is fabulous, obviously. And I love the posthumous collaboration between Johnny Cash’s studio outtake and the Avett Brothers on “One Too Many Mornings,” Johnny Cash has always known his way around a Dylan tune.

But there are plenty of misses among the hits. Lenny Kravitz doesn’t sound nearly high enough for “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” and the sped up tempo feels like there should actually be a jack-in-the-box popping out at the end of the song. Silverstein’s punk take on “Song to Woody” is a terrifying non sequitur. I couldn’t even make it all the way through Silversun Pickup’s overworked “Not Dark Yet.” Maroon 5’s “I Shall Be Released” rings incredibly hollow.

Admission: When I first heard that Miley Cyrus was going to contribute to this album I was, ahem, less than enthusiastic. But she shocked me with her not-terrible, stripped down, country take on “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” It isn’t a musical revelation but it’s a serviceable, and dare I say, endearing cover. Typing that isn’t easy for me, but it’s important to admit.

The majority of the songs plod along through middle ground, being neither a disaster nor a triumph. There’s a lot of music on these CD’s and, unfortunately, a lot of it is forgettable.

Chimes of Freedom is available for purchase and can also be streamed via Spotify.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 27, 2012 9:12 am

    I hadn’t heard about this album at all. I feel like I have to give it a listen solely because of the eclectic mixture of musicians doing Dylan covers. I’m still, after reading this, having incredible difficulty processing the idea that Miley Cyrus and Joan Baez are on the same album. I don’t think I could have imagined Baez and Maroon 5 on the same album, but Baez and Cyrus popping up on the same track list feels a bit surreal.

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