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VINE VOICEon January 24, 2012
Fifty years after its founding in 1962 (the year Bob Dylan released his first album), Amnesty International continues to do lifesaving work for prisoners of conscience and victims of injustice around the world. In 1977, it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Since the 1970s, Amnesty's Secret Policeman's Ball concerts and records have generated funds for the promotion of human rights and raised awareness of discrimination, state censorship, police brutality, torture, the death penalty, and genocide. AI currently has over three million supporters.

As for Bob Dylan, few artists have been offered accolades to match those laid at his feet. He's among the greatest poets of our age, a transformational figure in the history of music. There's not a singer or songwriter alive who doesn't owe a debt to his wit and wisdom, and thousands cover his clever, compassionate songs every day. They line up to perform on albums like this one, and there's a Dylan tribute disc for just about every genre you can name: pop, rock, blues, reggae, country, folk, classical, jazz. While most of these are heartfelt, many are uninspired or insipid, and few are memorable.

Fortunately, this four-CD, 73-track compilation is both musical and meaningful. The renowned performers on "Chimes of Freedom" possess not only ample talent but also a deep feeling for the political and personal messages that Bob communicates. And they clearly support Amnesty International, whose anniversary they celebrate. None of them accepted any money for their work (nor did producers, arrangers, engineers, or studios), thereby maximizing their assistance to AI. The music and the cause mesh perfectly.

Nearly all of the tracks are new studio recordings, but Joan Baez, Sugarland, Adele, My Chemical Romance, Dierks Bentley, The Dave Matthews Band, and Marianne Faithfull each contribute previously unreleased live tracks. There are legends like Johnny Cash, Pete Townshend, Sting, Mark Knopfler, Patti Smith, Steve Earle, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, Bryan Ferry, Jeff Beck, Lucinda Williams, Taj Mahal, Kris Kirstofferson, Eric Burdon, and Pete Seeger, among others, as well as more recent stars: The Avett Brothers, Raphael Saadiq, Rise Against, My Morning Jacket, Diana Krall, Sinead O'Connor, Ziggy Marley, Lenny Kravitz, Angelique Kidjo, Seal, and many more. And of course Bob himself is here in the form of his original 1964 song "Chimes of Freedom."

A majority of the acclaimed Dylan anthems are covered, but in over five hours of playing time, there's plenty of room for rarely-heard songs, unusual interpretations, and little-known groups and individuals. Of course, that's a selling point for those of us who like to explore new music. The inclusion of a few performers may irritate those who are not fans (Miley Cyrus, anyone?), yet almost all of them do credit to Amnesty and to Bob's music (with the horrifying exception of Ke$ha, who groans, sobs, and screeches throughout "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," sounding for all the world like she's taken leave of her senses and embarked on a suicidal bender).

The case for this set is a very minimal affair: the four CDs fit into an all-paper package that's about the size of a standard single-CD jewel case. Each disc is contained in one of four panels that fold out. A listing of tracks and artists appears on the inside panels along with a brief historical essay by Sean Wilentz, who is a professor of history at Princeton. There is no booklet.

In 1992, Bob Dylan and his legendary contemporaries held the best concert ever produced in his honor: The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration. Many of music's greatest stars expressed love and gratitude for the man and his music: Neil Young, Eric Clapton, The Band, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Roger McGuinn, Stevie Wonder, Lou Reed, Johnny Winter, Ron Wood, Richie Havens, Chrissie Hynde, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, and others. Such a laudatory gathering will never be repeated, but the names on this new compilation provide evidence of Dylan's continuing relevance. Listening to the variety of styles represented reveals the universality of his melodies and lyrics and the pervasive influence he has had on our culture. May it also motivate listeners to lend their support to AI and to human rights.

Most of the music is marvelous, the album benefits a great organization, and the price is remarkably low. Don't hesitate. Get it!
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VINE VOICEon January 24, 2012
I'm a fan of broken, unmusical voices. Leonard Cohen, Vic Chesnutt, Tom Waits...and Bob Dylan. But as is so often the case, the compositions of these amazing singer/songwriters can sound fresh and vibrant in the vocals of someone more, shall we say, technically accomplished. Such is the case with many of the songs on "Chimes."

Although, having said that, an early favorite is Kris Kristofferson's take on "The Mighty Quinn," which makes superb use of gargles-with-glass throatiness.

The songs on this album span nearly the entire length of Dylan's career so far, even reviving a couple of favorites from his gospel-influenced days. I'm not a fan of what Sinead O'Connor did with the song "Property of Jesus," but I did appreciate someone resurrecting the song. Same with "Gotta Serve Somebody."

Perhaps the best songs are the ones that play directly into Amnesty International's messages of peace and justice. Dylan seems like the perfect poster child for AI, and the international flavor of many of the tracks underscores that message. The other way that the medium emphasizes the message is in the album's dizzying tolerance--not to say embrace--of all styles, from front-porch folk (Pete Seeger on "Forever Young") to harmonious punk (Bad Religion on "It's All Over Now, Baby"), to every point in between. Forget ebony and ivory--if Miley Cyrus can live side-by-side with K'NAAN in my MP3 player, perhaps there's hope we can all learn to get along.
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on January 24, 2012
There's no way I wouldn't add this to my collection. Dylan is one of those who has sung the soundtrack to my life, now to rapidly approaching seven decades. I first heard, and then saw him, in the auld country back in the '60's, (took a night off from Georgie Fame at the Flamingo). Leonard Cohen is another who's words and music have sustained and rescued me and he also has a new album full of "Old Ideas" coming out.
Just listening to the first few samples was enough to remove any doubt, which I never had, and grant amnesty to any who may not 'live up to expectations'. As a home visit Hospice nurse one of my guiding principles is to 'leave my expectations at the door', just enter into whatever waits. Deep thanks to all the artists in all fields, and those behind the scenes, who contributed their time, effort and talents to this noble cause.
What I want to know is WILL WE EVER GET A DVD OF THE 30th ANNIVERSARY CONCERT, hopefully before I kick the bucket. I've still got a lot of miles left on me, I ain't knocking on heaven's door yet, but I am going down slow. Sure would like to watch this concert before I hear the Chimes of Ultimate Freedom.
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What's all the negative fuss? If you want to hear Bob sing these songs,go buy HIS albums,otherwise avoid this set. It is so refreshing to hear other people interpret these songs. They are,I think, done tastefully, and like any album set like this there will be a couple of songs you wont take to first time around but give it time and these too will grow on you. Also younger generations would do well to listen to this set. I remember I went to a Dylan concert in Sydney Australia and he changed the tempo and the style of his songs. People were getting up and leaving and I couldn't see why. He was showing that he wasn't stuck in the same old rut and I thoroughly enjoyed it. These same people,sadly, have missed the point. As I said before "IF YOU WANT TO HEAR DYLAN SING LIKE DYLAN GO BUY HIS AND ONLY HIS ALBUMS". I really believe you will miss out in the end. The only thing that stays constant in this world is CHANGE." Get out of the new world if you can't lend a hand, for the times they are a changin'" I Would give it more stars if I could, at least 8.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 6, 2012
Whilst the phrase "its for a good cause" should be a prime consideration when reviewing this album any listener can't help but face the fact that this is a very long curates egg of an album with the balance just about tipping towards hits than misses. It is a humungous amount of music for the price and great VFM, but frankly had it been cut to a double or even a long single album it would have been a better outcome. Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Amnesty International and their wonderful ability to shine light into the darkest corners of human rights violations deserves some really special. Sadly this is not it. With over 70 songs from such a strange brew of artists it was inevitable that quality and variability would be an issue. Equally while the compilers have used up to date covers of the Dylan cannon the absence of Hendrix, Neville Brothers, Dave Alvin and especially the Byrds does leave a an aching gap. This is compounded by seeking to accommodate all comers when a "stop and proceed no further" policy should have been more selectively employed. In particular someone should have boomed out in Gandolph like tones "YOU SHALL NOT PASS" to Maroon 5 and their pedestrian cover of "I shall be released", cried halt to My Chemical Romance's butchering of "Desolation Row", informed Silverstein's that producing an EMO version of "Song for Woody" wasn't a great idea and let us not get started on Mick Hucknell's laughingly bizarre Dylan impression on "One of us must know". This is by no means a complete list of some of the atrocities here with Sting's "Girl from the north country" easily being the most irritating thing on the album while Cage the Elephant should be summoned to appear before a angry judge for their heinous version of "The lonesome death of Hattie Carroll".

Thankfully there are more counterbalancing influences. Steve Earle and Lucia Micarelli take on "One more cup of coffee" is up their with the original. Not surprisingly Lucinda Williams gives "Trying to get to heaven" a suitably Southern wasted tinge and as far as this reviewer is concerned giving Tom Morrello and the Nightwatchman "Blind Willie McTell" to cover is a stroke of righteous inspiration. The "Changing of the Guards" is profitably rocked up by the Gaslight Anthem (perhaps Dylan rather than Springsteen should be their muse?) and My Morning Jacket rise to the occasion with a ghostly alt country version of "You're a big girl now". Old Pete Seeger doesn't so much sing nowadays as speak but the tireless campaigner has done more than most to champion human rights than just about anybody and his "Forever Young" had to be here. Another Pete, this time in the form of Townsend does a lovely version of "Corrina Corrina" while the dreamy shoegaze of the Silversun Pickups version of "Not Dark Yet" works rather well. Nice also to see Mark Knopfler back on form with a great "Restless farewell". Mention in dispatches should also go to Jackson Browne, Carly Simon, Diana Krall and Patti Smith. The covers here which seems to be generating most controversy are Ke$ha's "Don't think Twice its alright" and Miley Cryus "You gonna make me lonesome when you go". The latter version is a inoffensive passable cover and Cryus has a nice country twang to her voice. Ke$ha alternatively does a raw strung out (overwrought?) version of "Don't think twice" which is going to split the jury but to be fair it is at least a radical attempt to deconstruct the original.

So there you have it an album that will generate a fair share of talking points which is probably Amnesty's underpinning motivation and hopefully draw a new generation to the wonders of Dylan. Certainly if you come from the "don't mess with perfection" school of Dylan appreciation this album will be a source of high irritation and returning to the starting point there is something not quite right here. A "less is more" approach would have been a better policy but we are where we are. That said well done Amnesty International. Happy 50th birthday and keep up the great work.
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on February 13, 2012
I love Dylan's music. Just last summer I saw him in concert and have listened to the recent boxed set of mono recordings maybe 75 times in the last year or so. For the most part I don't don't pay a huge amount of attention to new music - a lot of the names on this album are new to me. You might think I'd be one of the ones that hate this. Think again.

There are over seventy different artists doing their interpretation of over 70 songs. Different artists. Different interpretations. All of them are valid. Some of them blow me away. For example - Hollis Brown is not my favorite Dylan and I usually don't listen to hard rock but Rise Against creates a new powerful work of art out of this song as classic as Hendrix version of All along the Watchtowers.

You know, I've heard Hendrix and The Byrds and Manfred Man and dozens of others do covers of Dylan songs and they did a great job back in their day. Well, this is today and I for one am not unhappy that we have new interpretations, new voices speaking the words of Dylan for today. So many voices in so many styles all unified to sing for Freedom, to sing for Amnesty International. To sing Dylan.
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on January 25, 2012
I don't understand all the negative reviews on here. I for one am tired of all the same folksy covers of Dylan's music. We have about 200 hundred albums worth of covers that don't venture too far from the source material and lack adventure and creativity. An album like this, featuring an impressive lineup of modern musicians across all genres has been long overdue. I'm not as old as some of you, but it's time some of you pass the baton to a newer generation. Don't like what we've done with your hero's music? fine. You guys are also responsible for disco. Don't ever forget that.
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on June 9, 2012
"And if my thought-dreams could be seen They'd probably put my head in a guillotine." For nearly 50 years I have been an on-again/off-again, runnin' hot and runnin' cold fan of Bob Dylan. I am also a long-time supporter of Amnesty International, in part because I am outspoken and if I lived in a totalitarian country of left or right I am certainly of the type who would be tortured and killed, and so I relate to the innocent sufferers who Amnesty campaigns for.

What a great if imperfect pile of music is provided on these four CDs. There are songs of Dylan that I never heard or never paid attention to, that I have now fallen in love with. Sometimes this is due to the clarity a new voice gives to the words, opening up the song like a Bible. There are singers that I never listened to, like Adele, or would never listen to, like Miley Cyrus, or who I've never even heard of, like Thea Gilmore, Carolina Chocolate Drops and Evan Wood, whose albums and/or songs I have now added to my most played selections. There are singers singing songs that I have long cared for but which now go straight into my soul/stimulate my endorphin production--like Jackson Browne doing Love Minus Zero and especially Carly Simon doing Just Like a Woman and Billy Bragg doing Lay Down Your Weary Tune. Many of these singers are just complete surprises to me on their own and doubly surprising doing Dylan.

But the best aspect of the collection has been its causing me to rethink and renew and deepen my long-standing interest in Dylan. By showing me new ways of looking at old songs and by uncovering songs that are new to me, my inquisitiveness has been peaked. I have since acquiring this CD collection, purchased half a dozen Dylan albums and numerous songs. I have purchased alternative takes and multiple versions of songs sung by various artists. And purchased CDs and songs by artists I hadn't even heard of before. I've even now, after all these years, read three Dylan biographies, to try to make sense of this arrogant, oblique yet humane musical genius.

Yes, not every song is a delight and there are some songs I immediately hit the skip button for. But given the cause--Amnesty International--and the almost startling insight the myriad of musicians give into one of our greatest singer songwriters, you can't go wrong by buying this CD collection. If you listen, you will find at least half a dozen songs that are so wonderful that each alone would make the purchase worthwhile. Buy it!
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on February 6, 2012
This gets an extra star for supporting Amnesty International and another for several truly inspired covers. Three stars raised to five.

Of course, Bob Dylan has been covered to death over the years. It seems everyone has wanted a shot at interpreting one of his brilliant songs. Unfortunately, some should restrain themselves. There are a number of covers here that are not only some of the worst covers of a Bob Dylan song ever, but among the worse sounds ever committed to a recording device.

But fear not, most are at least average or better and there is a ton of good material for the money. If you're like me, you'll also find some truly excellent covers that will only add to your enjoyment of certain Dylan tunes. The covers by The Nightwatchman (Tom Morello), Sinead O'Connor, Johnny Cash and several others did that for me.

I imagine a lot of people would be surprised that Miley Cyrus does a song on here, and might be even more surprised to hear that it's quite good. But really, it's the surprises that draw a lot of us to these sort of albums. Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan has quite a few - both good and bad.
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on January 26, 2012
It is so ironic that Dylan fans can be so arrogant and close minded. After all they did boo him and call him Judas for having the nerve to pick up Satan's instrument - the electric guitar.

Detractors of this album is forgetting one thing first and foremost - this is not a Bob Dylan tribute album. It is one honoring Amnesty International. And this album is a true celebration of the diverse nature of humanity in that respect. One listen is enough to understand why these artists were picked. They truly show how diverse and beautiful the human race is and at the same time converge on an idea. Open your mind to it. Each artist has interpreted these songs in a way that is true to their selves. If you want the original music, just go and buy that.
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