by Chris Familton
Bob Dylan must surely be the most covered artist of the last forty years so when another compilation of versions of his songs comes along it is easy to dismiss it as another batch of standards reinterpreted. The hook with this one though is twofold. Firstly it is a fantastic cause with all profits going to Amnesty International and secondly the quality of music from an incredible diversity of artists is of the highest order. Spread across four discs it spans artists like Jackson Browne, Joan Baez, Eric Burdon and other contemporaries of Dylan through to new musicians and singers like Adele, The Gaslight Anthem and My Morning Jacket.
As with any compilation of this size there are going to be a number of tracks that won’t be to everyone’s taste. The Nashville country sounds of Dierks Bentley and Miley Cyrus and others are a little too clean and straight compared to their outlaw cousins like Johnny Cash (One Too Many Mornings) and the wonderful world weary version of Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn) by Kris Kristofferson. My Chemical Romance butcher Desolation Row, stripping it of all emotion with their punk rock bluster. Similarly Michael Franti’s Subterranean Homesick Blues lacks any of the original’s poetic swagger.
Some of the more surprising covers include Mick Hucknall’s One Of Must Know (Sooner or Later) where he closely channels Dylan’s vocal inflections and Kronos Quartet with their classical gypsy take on Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right. There are also those that you expect to nail any Dylan song they chose to cover. Lucinda Williams delivers a devastating version of Trying To Get To Heaven while Betty LaVette gets achingly soulful on Most Of The Time. Patti Smith sounds more country than she ever has on Drifter’s Escape and it suits her tough voice nicely. Ziggy Marley is another who brings his own distinctive reggae lilt to the protest song Blowing In The Wind and it works wonderfully.
Of the newer artists, Rise Against do a roaring version of Ballad Of Hollis Brown and Mariachi El Bronx take a Mexicali brush to Love Sick with brilliant results. My Morning Jacket do well to focus the spotlight on Jim James’ heavenly voice as he he slows down You’re A Big Girl Now and ventures into Van Morrison territory.
The ratio of fantastic covers far outweighs the misses on Chimes Of Freedom and it is by no means just a a compilation for Dylan fans. Any music lover will find something to love across the four discs with the range soul, funk, rock and folk interpretations. More than anything this is a lesson in superb unparalleled songwriting and goes to show just how good Dylan’s output is, regardless of whether you rate the man as a singer and performer.
this review was first published on FasterLouder