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Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International

Amnesty International

It’s rare to find a tribute album that offers more worthwhile performances than sincere yet misguided ones but Chimes of Freedom is fortunate to be one of the pleasing exceptions. Celebrating Amnesty International’s 50 years of fighting for justice, freedom and human dignity around the world, the four-disc set features over 75 new and previously unreleased tracks by 80 artists. The list of participants range from multi-platinum acts to newcomers with the musicals styles going from rock to hip-hop, folk, country, jazz and blues.

Concentrating on the positive, some of the release’s better and/or more interesting covers include tracks by Raphael Saadiq, Ziggy Marley, Bettye LaVette, Brett Dennen, Mariachi El Bronx, Mark Knopfler, Queens of the Stone Age, Steve Earle & Lucia Micarelli, Jackson Browne, Jack’s Mannequin, Oren Lavie, Bryan Ferry, Flogging Molly and Ed Roland and The Sweet Tea Project and State Radio.

Miley Cyrus’s take on “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” displays that the former tween star has a future as a country traditionalist. Besides her performance I’m also surprised with how well Darren Criss (of “Glee”) featuring Chuck Criss and Freelance Whales played “New Morning.” Punk acts Rise Against (“Ballad of Hollis Brown”) and Bad Religion (“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”) find numbers from the past that resonate in the hard times of the present. The Avett Brothers are added to the Nashville Session version of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan singing “One Too Many Mornings.” While this works, the original or an Avetts-only take would have been even better.

Say what you want about her messed up romantic life, but Sinéad O’Connor can still be a great singer, as shown on “Property of Jesus.” Joe Perry plays an arrangement of “Man of Peace” that wouldn’t be unfamiliar in a pre-2004 Dylan’s set. Eric Burdon layers “Gotta Serve Somebody” over the instrumental soundtrack of “Willie and the Hand Jive.” Taj Mahal emphasizes on “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” that besides the meanings within the song the poet laureate of his generation also likes to have fun with words.

Discussions can be had as far as who is not involved (i.e. no Willie Nelson or Neil Young) and who is (Maroon 5 and Key$ha), but the album’s main enjoyment stems from the good versions made by contemporaries and younger artists who display an understanding of the material – whether it be the lyrical content or Dylan’s neverending tweaking of the original arrangements.

For more information on Amnesty International, visit www.amnestyusa.org.

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