Chimes Of Freedom
Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan
By Grant Britt
It’s an ambitious undertaking, 8o artists interpreting the songs of America’s greatest living folkie. Amnesty International celebrates the organization’s 50th anniversary with the release of Chimes Of Freedom,a genre-busting collection of 76 Bob Dylan tunes spanning his entire catalog. It’s a motley crew of rockers, folkies, hip-hoppers, country, pop, jam, blues and Americana artists rubbing shoulders.
The guest list is a who’s who of the entertainment industry from Evan Rachael Wood and Miley Cyrus to Pete Townsend to Johnny Cash. All the artists, producers,engineers, and recording studios donated their time for the project, and more than 30 tracks were mixed by Bob Clearmountain, who has mixed albums and singles from artists ranging from Kool and the Gang to four for the Stones including Tattoo You and 6 for Springsteen,including Born in the USA.
But there’s no single theme here, no common denominator except a love for Dylan’s music. Pete Townsend’s low-key, plaintive acoustic rendering of “Corrina Coriina” has more in common with another Pete- Seeger, who appears a bit later on with a stirring spoken word version of “Forever Young,” backed by a youth orchestra and Bela Fleck’s banjo. Marianne Faithful croaks out a low register version of “Let Me Follow You Down” that’s a far cry, in tone and timber, from her “As Tears Go By” days. Sounding like a mashup of the Stones’ “Sympathy For the Devil” and Johnny Otis’ “Willie and the Hand Jive,” Eric Burdon vocalizes like a backwoods vocal hybrid of Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Winter on “Gotta Serve Somebody.” Seal steps out of character for a gruff, Neil Diamond-flavored take on “Like A Rolling Stone,” backed by Jeff Beck’s howling guitar. Taj Mahal’s interpretation of “Bob Dylan’s 115thDream” is bizarre, with Mahal’s spoken word croak coming out like the gravelly rasp of “Wild Thing” and “Funky Cold Medina” comic/rapper Tone Loc. Sounding like she’s singing from the bottom of a bottle and the depths of her soul on a a scratchy old 78 recording,Lucinda Williams’ turns in a hauntingly beautiful performance of “Trying To Get To Heaven.”
Bettye LaVette blows away the competition, showing why she’s the reigning queen of old school r&b with her pain-wracked delivery of “Most Of The Time.”Raphael Saadiq’s “Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat” is a funky rocker with Saadiq turning in a spot-on impersonation of Dylan’s snarled vocal. Queens of the Stone Age crank out a chunky garage rock take of “Outlaw Blues.” Adele provides a soulful version of “Make You Feel My Love.”
Bad Religion’s take on “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” sounds like a punky Pink Floyd. Cage the Elephant’s softly crooned version takes the edge off of Dylan’s stark murder ballad “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” but still leaves plenty of creepy lying around. Joe Perry is at his rock god best with his blistering slide rendition of “Man of Peace” Sounding like Macy Gray, Ke$ha’s anguished rendition of “Don’t Think Twice” is light years away from her usual slacker/ hip-hop persona. Sinead O’Connor’s “Property of Jesus” may be the best thing she’s ever done. In typical Sinead fashion, it’s loud, brassy and waay over the top, but it works like an Irish bar band rattlin’ the windows in the pub with one last blast before closing time.
It’s a lot to take in one sitting, but every time you come back to it, you discover another hidden treasure to take you to another level. Masterfully crafted and executed, this is truly one for the ages.