Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan honors 50 years of the work of Amnesty International, a Nobel Peace Prize winning organization that was founded the same year Bob Dylan began his storied career as a singer/songwriter. For the past 50 years Amnesty International has fought for basic human rights around the globe, and Dylan’s musical legacy has provided a soundtrack to those struggling to be free. The four-disk album features a stellar and diverse group of artists across the generational and musical spectrum. The performers include many of Amnesty International's longtime supporters from teen pop star Miley Cyrus to 92 year old folk music legend Pete Seeger, who sings an apropos Forever Young with a chorus of children.
The title of this impressive album is drawn from the fourth track on the 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan, which was released a year before the protests against the Vietnam War began in earnest. Chimes of Freedom was written shortly after the release of Dylan’s iconic The Times They Are a-Changin, which gave a voice to the Baby Boomers who were then coming of age. The title is also a reflection on the freedom fighting that Amnesty International has done over the years.
The diverse group of musicians spans a variety of genres, so the album is full of surprises. The fact that people from so many different backgrounds worked on the compilation speaks volumes of the support that Amnesty International has in the music community and the impact that Dylan’s music has had on today’s artists. It was very interesting to hear musicians that I usually don’t listen to, such as Gaslight Anthem, Queens of the Stone Age, My Chemical Romance and Miley Cyrus, as well as those that I know quite well, like Lenny Kravitz, Elvis Costello, Michael Franti and Steve Earle. This album is worth listening to from start to finish, whether you’re a fan of the artists or not. Overall, the songs are performed well and pay homage to Dylan while letting each musician incorporate their own style into the songs. There are very few covers that aren’t up to snuff, but given that the album is 75 tracks and over five hours in length, a full listen should be in order.
The album can be purchased at http://music.amnestyusa.org on four CDs for $24.99 or you can purchase individual tracks for $1.29 each.
Having spent five hours listening to the entire album, here are 10 of the best tracks among the 75, although if you dive in, you’ll surely find that these are just the tip of the iceberg.
Blind Willie McTell - Tom Morello, The Nightwatchman
Most of the Time - Betty Lavette
Love Sick – Mariachi el Bronx
Outlaw Blues – Queens of the Stone Age
Heart of Mine – Blake Mills
Lay Lady Lay – Angelique Kidjo
The Times They are a Changin’ – Flogging Molly
It’s All Over Now Baby Blue – Bad Religion
Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright – Kronos Quartet
Like a Rolling Stone - Seal with Jeff Beck
You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go – Miley Cyrus