Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s music is synonymous with powerful social movements. “Blowin’ in the Wind,” You’ve Gotta Serve Somebody,” Masters of War,” With God On Our Side,” “Political World,” “Hurricane,” “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” all great songs that reflected changing times, civil rights battles and miscarriages of justice. It makes sense that his songs would be the focal point of a 4 CD set that benefits Amnesty International, a group that works to secure human rights around the globe. Interestingly enough, both Dylan and Amnesty International began making an impact on the world in 1961.

Chimes of Freedom isn’t just an album of political songs. The featured tracks cover a wide range of subject matter from love and heartbreak to Dylan’s great story songs and character sketches. Some of Dylan’s best known songs are covered as well as many obscure ones. The star-studded line-up underscores Dylan’s massive appeal and influence. Adele, Miley Cyrus, Kronos Quartet, Kesha, Pete Townsend, Sting, Mariachi El Bronx, Taj Mahal, My Chemical Romance, and Bad Religion are among the nearly 75 acts. What fascinates me is the songs each artist chooses to cover.

It’s no surprise that Patti Smith appears on the album. She’s been a huge Dylan fan for decades, and befriended him in the early ‘70s. Her writing and singing style bears the influence of his work. “Drifter’s Escape,” a song from John Wesley Harding was released as a single in the Netherlands but mostly unknown in the states. Joan Baez selected “Seven Curses” a track from 1964’s The Times They Are a Changin’. Another artist with a shared history with Dylan is the late Johnny Cash. He makes a posthumous appearance on “One Too Many Mornings, with backing vocals from Dylan and The Avett Brothers. Yim Yames took part in Director Todd Haynes pseudo-biopic of Dylan I’m Not There so he’s no stranger to Dylan’s music. Yames and his band My Morning Jacket kick in there cover of “You’re a Big Girl Now.”

K’naan, a young Somalian who escaped his country’s civil war, chose “With God On Our Side.” Michael Franti’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” maintains the acoustic, stripped down production and adds a reggae tinge to Dylan’s early rap classic. Miley Cyrus offers a surprisingly sweet country lilt to “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go. The Carolina Chocolate recast one of Dylan’s ‘80s tracks, “Political World,” as a portentous hoedown stomper. Mr. Dylan himself makes an appearance on the album on the title track.

With 74 performances to check out, you are bound to find tracks you love and others that will be less than inspiring. Chimes of Freedom, being a benefit for Amnesty International and features the songs of one of music’s all-time greatest composers, I think you’ll find that the disc is worth your time.

Rosemary Welsch (afternoon host)