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Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan

Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan (Amnesty International)

Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Feb. 24, 2012

Phases & Stages

Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan

(Amnesty International)

By the time Bob Dylan emerges on the title track closing out this epic, 4-CD benefit for Amnesty International, it's a revelation. Dylan's sinewy drawl grounds a contorting collection back to its purpose and struggle – personal, artistic, and social – and casts the varied revisions that precede it in the glare of their harrowing provenance. Brandishing unreleased or new takes on his catalogue, the vast array of contributors only emphasizes the depths to which Dylan can be interpreted. Disc three's finale – dueling versions of "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" by unlikely celebrants Ke$ha and Kronos Quartet – highlight the material's expansive versatility: the former reading the tune with raw desperation, a broken-morning counterpoint to her party nights, while the latter strings an ephemeral instrumental. Both are exceptional. Expected artists pay due diligence (Patti Smith, Kris Kristofferson, Jackson Browne, Joan Baez, Billy Bragg, Pete Seeger), though only Pete Townshend's stripped "Corrina, Corrina" and Steve Earle's "One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)" demonstrate old-guard inspiration. Instead, diversity drives the real innovations here: Raphael Saadiq's bluesy "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat"; Mariachi El Bronx's "Love Sick"; Angelique Kidjo's seductive "Lay, Lady, Lay"; K'NAAN's poignant "With God on our Side;" Flogging Molly's raucous "The Times They Are A-Changin'"; and Cage the Elephant's haunting "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll." Conversely, Maroon 5 ("I Shall Be Released"), Sting ("Girl From the North Country"), My Chemical Romance ("Desolation Row"), and even Elvis Costello ("License To Kill") deserve Amnesty International intervention. The women shine behind Diana Krall's "Simple Twist of Fate," Bettye LaVette's "Most of the Time," Lucinda Williams' crackling "Tryin' To Get to Heaven," Zee Avi's breathy "Tomorrow Is a Long Time," and showstopping live cuts from Adele and Marianne Faithfull, delivering "Make You Feel My Love" and "Baby Let Me Follow You Down," respectively. Dylan covers are always a polarizing product, yet even purists will find moments on Chimes of Freedom worthy of the legacy it extols.

***.5

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