Chimes of Freedom

To mark Amnesty International’s fiftieth year, which coincides with Bob Dylan’s self-titled first record, an album of suitable cover versions has just been released called Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan.

Featuring an incredibly diverse group of 80 artists, there are 75 Dylan songs spread across four CDs. The liner notes from Sean Wilentz explain the connections between Amnesty’s mission and Dylan’s genius as a songwriter far better than I ever could; I just wondered what you think of it. As we spent a considerable chunk of yesterday’s chat listening to it, if you have heard any of the recordings or are curious enough to seek them out online, I’m sure we’d all like to know what you think. The unanimous chatroom favourite, by the way, was Steve Earle and Lucia Micarelli with ‘One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)’.

You can hear a snippet from each song here (the all-important player is to be found below the impressive album cover art and will helpfully take you through the first track to the last, so you can forget about it and go about your business as usual). To find out more and perhaps ultimately download individual tracks, simply select the artist from this list and away you go.

If you only download one track to support Amnesty, which will it be?

With Dylan waiving the rights to his catalogue and all musicians and producers donating their time freely, considerable proceeds will go to the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organisation to aid Amnesty in its valiant campaigning for better human rights worldwide.

I do love to laugh at the occasional silliness of reviews, mine included. After all, many of the things I’ve at one time loved and raved about I’ve grown to dislike in a remarkably short space of time, and the same thing can sound so different to different people, even different from one moment to the next. We all know this and take it into consideration when gauging opinion. Andy Gill, in the Independent, thought the My Morning Jacket version of ‘You’re a Big Girl Now’ – the original, by the way, is one of my favourite, and one of Dylan’s most beautiful, songs – “particularly impressive”, and Joe Levy of Rolling Stone then added that they’d turned the song “into a paper kite floating in space”, which I presume is a compliment and not wishful thinking on his part. Me, I didn’t like it at all and had to turn it off.

Now, I love Bob Dylan, you know that, but I’m not particularly precious about who may or may not attempt his songs or how they choose to interpret them. It is true that I love the original, tormented ‘Bob Dylan’s Dream’ too much to embrace Bryan Ferry making it his, not that he tinkers with it much. Mick Hucknall of Simply Red respectfully keeps ‘One of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later)’ true to the original, and I like that. Similarly, Seal and Jeff Beck play safe with ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, and they do a very good job (it’s possibly the album’s strongest track, but so you’d expect).

Of the more adventurous attempts, which some fans of Dylan might well cringe at, the highlights for me include a reggae ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ (Ziggy Marley); ‘Love Sick’ mariachi-style (Mariachi El Bronx); a punk-rock ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ (Bad Religion); and a funky ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ (Michael Franti). ‘The Times They Are A-Changin” also works well driven by the relentless Celtic punk of Flogging Molly.

However, if someone can put in print that they would rather stick pins in their ears, as the respected Andy Gill has (not that I should pay too much attention to Mr Gill on this matter, I suppose), than listen to the Dave Matthews Band’s “execrable”, as he puts it, version of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ (shudder indeed), I daren’t listen – and haven’t yet. I fight a daily urge to stick pins in my ears – and eyes – and not because I derive some warped pleasure out of doing so, you understand. There are so many songs here, surely I can overlook one or two, especially if I suspect they’re only going to irritate the already irritated, right?

So, to begin with, I somewhat expectedly picked out the artists I most favour, then the songs – as I’m sure you will or did – and ignored the ones I don’t have much time for. That is, until curiosity got the better of me and those whose music I personally have little interest in were clicked almost for snobbish amusement. How wrong. Books, covers and all that. I’m not fond of Pete Townshend’s ‘Corrina, Corrina’, actually preferring Miley Cyrus’ country version of ‘You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go’. Really. Go on, try it, it’s not bad. (If you think I’m being silly now, tell me.) Admittedly, I didn’t and still don’t know who some of these artists are or what they’ve created. It’s nice to find that, through a mutual appreciation for the work of Bob Dylan and Amnesty, there are musicians out there that might never have come to my attention and might well have other songs that I can enjoy. I hope you also find something new from this collection.

Although I can’t quite decide if I like it or not, I have to mention the brave, raw offering by Ke$ha, produced by Bob Ezrin: ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’. On an album of unusual interpretations, I thought turning this sensible and positive acceptance of a love lost into a suicide note was very clever. Fittingly, she cries throughout.

For fun, and you might need cheering up if you’ve made it all the way through Ke$ha’s sobbing and now feel a tad awkward, which Dylan song would you cover if given half a chance? As much as I could clap and table-drum along to Michael Franti all day (well, maybe for half an hour or so on a good day, I shouldn’t exaggerate), it would have to be ‘Idiot Wind’ for me. I don’t think it takes much singing talent and how satisfying it is to wail, You’re an iiiiiidiot, babe, it’s a wonder that you still know how to breeeeathe. Good therapy for these idiot-heavy times, that one.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour’s official blog, The Blog (‘Features’ previously being its rather naff title), affectionately – or lazily – shortened to ‘FEd’.

39 thoughts on “Chimes of Freedom”

  1. …actually preferring Miley Cyrus’ country version of ‘You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go’. Really. Go on, try it, it’s not bad. (If you think I’m being silly now, tell me.) Admittedly, I didn’t and still don’t know who some of these artists are or what they’ve created. It’s nice to find that, through a mutual appreciation for the work of Bob Dylan and Amnesty, there are musicians out there that might never have come to my attention and might well have other songs that I can enjoy.

    I had never heard anything by Miley Cyrus before preferring “not to go there” and, as such, was pleasantly surprised last night when listening (via YouTube) to her rendition. I have a whole new appreciation for her instrument! Of course this doesn’t mean I’ll dash out an buy her body of work but will be less likely to prejudge.

    My Morning Jacket has become ‘persona non grata’ if I may be so bold as to use the singular for the group … what they did to my beautiful, beautiful “You’re a Big Girl” now was sacrilege. 🙁 They may very well be banished from my mental vault from this day forward.

    I would upload “One More Cup of Coffee” — it was beautifully interpreted.

  2. The times they are a-changin’. They have for me these last couple of years.


  3. A very appropriate title, ‘Chimes Of Freedom’, seeing as the right to freedom is (should be) one of the most basic human rights.

    But I think that covers are rarely as good as originals and I certainly won’t download 75 Dylan cover songs 8| , even though it’s very cheap – Not even a single one, I think, sorry, Amnesty International.

    I tried to listen to some samples but nothing really appealed to me, except maybe ‘One More Cup Of Coffee’, yes (mostly because of the beautiful violin), ‘Rainy Day Woman’ (Lenny Kravitz) and ‘You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go’ (Miley Cyrus – Mais oui…). Anyway it’s hard to judge a song from a short snippet. Oh and I didn’t like at all the instrumental ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ by Kronos Quartet. “Très’kitch”, we say here.

    I have to say that my attention has been attracted by the band name ‘Pajama Club’ :)) . I have found their cover ‘She Belongs To Me’ and I like it.

    Speaking of Bob Dylan, an exhibition about him, called ‘The Rock Explosion’, is scheduled in Paris, Cité de la Musique from 6 March to 1 July 2012. Should be interesting.

    1. Not bad at all. According to Wikipedia (so take it with a pinch of salt), they were originally called Pajama Party. I heard Neil Finn doing an acoustic ‘Billie Jean’ once. It was really good.

      Is that three of us now in the Miley Cyrus fan club? 😉

      “She can take the dark out of the night-time and paint the daytime black.” Great line.

  4. Well Fed, as you know I am not a Dylan connoisseur but this seems a perfect opportunity to download a nice cheap bucket of songs, so I did the opposite and downloaded the lot as AI is a cause I like to support.

    Unlike Michèle I quite like a cover version (especially if it does not involve his Bobness “singing” other people’s songs) but now I have to do some listening before I can report back on any particular success or abject failures.

    Watch this space.

    1. Good man. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

      I think I should add ‘Outlaw Blues’ by Queens of the Stone Age to my list of favourites.

    2. I should think this topic will have moved on before I get to listen to all the tracks ….. Especially since actually getting a download from an alternative source to sit happily in iTunes is a feat apparently beyond me (I blame Steve Jobs but I dare say it’s my old foolish self) ….

      But as I sit listening to disc 1 in its entirety I’m pleased to report that I don’t think there’s a bad track on it …. The whole thing processes along very nicely, various styles without clashing against each other. Because I recognise them, and because they are undoubtedly good songs anyway I could happily recommend Ziggy Marley’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and probably most of all a rather beautifully soulful “Simple Twist of Fate” by Diana Krall, but come on guys, for $19 this looks like a real bargain for a good cause.

    3. To my ears there is nothing wrong with the version of “All Along the Watchtower” – perhaps Mr Gill excretes more sweetly than the rest of us?

    4. This could get rather boring and I don’t intend to write “I like …” about 75 tracks – even if I probably could. Does that mean I have Catholic taste and Bob Dylan is the Pope? Who could tell?

      Right now I’m rather liking the funky groove meets hints of Smoke on the Water of “John Brown” by State Radio.

  5. So, I got to thinking (I do that sometimes 😉 ) about which artists might cover a few of Bob Dylan’s songs quite well …

    Blue October – Isis
    Mark Knopfler – Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
    Leonard Cohen – Sara

    Donovan might do a good You’re a Big Girl Now.

    My husband thinks that Jack Johnson would do an amazing Lay, Lady Lay!

    “there are musicians out there that might never have come to my attention and might well have other songs that I can enjoy. I hope you also find something new from this collection.”

    And how nice that followers of some of these musicians are being introduced to Bob Dylan, in some cases, for the very first time perhaps.

  6. This won’t win me fans.

    I don’t like Bob Dylan. It’s all preference I suppose, but me and him never ‘clicked’. Still respect him though.

    Happy Days,
    Simon J

    1. But Simon, trust me, if you weren’t told otherwise this could be “just” a collection of good songs by serious minded artists in a variety of styles.

      Don’t let the Bobness put you off … there’s something here for everybody, I’m sure of that. It’s been merrily playing in the kitchen on shuffle this afternoon and the milk hasn’t soured yet.

    2. But Simon, trust me, if you weren’t told otherwise this could be “just” a collection of good songs by serious minded artists in a variety of styles.

      That’s very true… and I’m glad your milk hasn’t soured.

  7. Hi Fed and Bloggers, loads of Floyd activity on Nick Mason’s Facebook.

    Sorry Fed, not poaching I hope, LOL.


  8. Bonjour,

    pour moi la plus belle des musique freedom de david gilmour elle représente beaucoup pour moi.

    1. The first Bob Dylan album was a favorite of mine. In 1963 we were refreshed to enjoy listening to a talented young man who was not another teeny bopper. “See That My Grave is Kept Clean”, “Fixing to Die”, “Gospel Plow” and “In My Time of Dying” have that much more meaning to me 50 years later.

  9. Now if I had to pick a song to buy it would be Pete Seeger and the Rivertown Kids playing Forever Young. It just really fits and if you really think about it we are all forever young…

    Take Care,

  10. … I always liked Bob Dylan’s songs most when others sang, and I like AI, so this seems to be a win-win situation for me. 😉

    Thanks for bringing the topic up, FEd!!


  11. Holy crap!!!

    Apologies for my absence for the last month or so. I am just getting used to this new layout and there is a lot to catch up on. However, now I notice that I am top contributor? And Michele is right behind me? Wow. Hard to believe but since I have been here since almost the inception of the blog, I guess it’s not surprising.


  12. FEd,

    By special request, for Michèle and via Lorraine’s suggestion, whilst indulging in a lock-in-chat last night, here’s a repeat of an old A-Z of mine (as it happens to be topical and because Michèle has been suffering withdrawal symptoms, apparently)…

    Not sure how many of the below have been covered on Chimes of Freedom, if any, but…

    This A-Z dates back from 26/05/11.

    All I Really Want To Do
    Blowin’ In The Wind
    Cold Irons Bound
    Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright
    Every Grain Of Sand
    Forever Young
    Gotta Serve Somebody
    High Water (for Charlie Patton)
    I Shall Be Released
    Just Like A Woman
    Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
    Lay, Lady, Lay
    Maggie’s Farm
    Not Dark Yet
    One Too Many Mornings
    Positively 4th Street
    Queen Jane Approximately
    Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
    Shelter From The Storm
    Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You
    Under The Red Sky
    Visions Of Johanna
    What Good Am I
    X – ?
    You’re A Big Girl Now
    (Love Minus) Zero/No Limit

    As for an A-Z of possible England managers Lorraine, I’ll pass on that one. Thanks. 😉 (Although, if I think about it…)

    1. Surely there’s only one man for the job: it’s got to be ‘Arry.

      If you listed all those who have at one time been linked to the post of England manager, though, you could probably come close to a complete A-Z or two.

      How about…?

      Ancelotti, Carlo (or Adams, Tony)
      Benitez, Rafa (or Butcher, Terry)
      Curbishley, Alan
      Er, David Platt?

      OK, I’ll stop there before I have to cheat again.

    2. Rest assured Ken, I’ll be cheering for the team just as loudly as I always have no matter who gets the job.

      What about David Ginola? Nice teeth, blue eyes, speaks French and he’s a David – all fine qualities in a man (IMHO).

      He even has the odd SOYCD moment.

    3. – X –

      (2) X 2 ? (from ‘Under The Red Sky’ – 1990)

      OK, I have to admit, it’s not good…(not the song, I don’t know it…) – Maths reflex…;)

  13. I guess a cover release for charity is a bit more acceptable but how many bands lately are not releasing new material but cover albums? I think one of the latest is the Scorpions and on it they do a cover of Tainted Love (yes the song made famous by Soft Cell).

    As for covers of Bob Dylan, I have not heard any of the songs mentioned here yet but to me the Hendrix cover of All Along the Watchtower is the best Dylan cover. To me Jimi was able to transform that song to be one of his own.


  14. Hurricane! I can’t sing, it lasts 9 minutes but what a story… probably I’d be safer sticking to Hey Mr Tambourine Man… (that’s Nick isn’t it!)

    Best Wishes

  15. Just found some Pink Floyd footage, Animals live. Wow wow. God’s favourite rock band.

  16. Calendar update… ahem, ahem… whose birthday is on the 14th of February?

    Birthday Greetings to Kevin Keegan, Lois Maxwell & Alan Parker.

    Oh yeah, almost forgot.

    There’s also some exile, who goes by the name of Rudders…

    Have a good one Mark.

  17. To Rudders (“British by Birth, Welsh by the Grace of God” 😉 ):

    Penblwydd Hapus i Chi!

  18. Yesterday, “Money” came on the radio and my 8 year old daughter started singing it. I was bit surprised but she told me that she knows that song and likes it. When the guitar solo came in, she chimed in that she wants to play like that. So I pulled out my copy of PULSE and showed her the master playing the song. She enjoyed it quite a bit that we watched a few other numbers as well. Then she broke my heart when she asked if we can go see Pink Floyd play live. Well we know the answer to that one.

    I have to add that watching PULSE again just showed me what kind of machine a PF show really was. As a fan you kinda take for granted everything that goes into putting the show together but man what a production that was to put on.



  19. It’s the music you love when you are 17 that sticks with you all your life. Of that music, only Beethoven, Bach, Jethro Tull, The Beatles, The Talking Heads and R.E.M. and has stayed with me. I came to Dylan much later. I always avoided him when I was young because I associated him with the politics that I disliked. After a few listens to “Blood On The Tracks”, I decided it was one of the greatest pop music albums ever made.

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