Back in 2012, Amnesty International released the album Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan, a collection honoring Amnesty International’s fiftieth birthday. Eighty artists, from Miley Cyrus to Johnny Cash, cover Dylan tunes and the result is a mixed bag and an engaging tribute. Here are the top ten highlights.
Number Ten: “Love Minus Zero, No Limit” by Jackson Browne. This song has been covered plenty of times, and I don’t think this one is the best (I think Joan Baez’s is), but I just love the idea of a collaboration between Bob Dylan and Jackson Browne. Jackson Browne may not have the songwriting catalogue that Dylan does, but his heart is in this song.
Number Nine: “Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” by Cage The Elephant. This story is about a black woman who was murdered by two white men and the injustice that occurred with the trial proceedings. Both relay the same message, but with their own distinct styles. Dylan uses just his guitar and the tone of his voice to help us understand. Cage The Elephant employs half-whispers and background noises which create an eerie, almost psychedelic experience, that let’s us feel the injustice of this all.
Number Eight: “New Morning” by Darren Criss Featuring Chuck Criss of Freelance Whales. I’m not sure what or who could have inspired Dylan to sing this song, but he sounds genuinely carefree on this track. The cover version feels equally as light-hearted and pleasant; it is a love song after all. It feels like Dylan is experiencing a “new morning” with his true love and the Criss brothers are experiencing the same thing with their first loves.
Number Seven: “Property of Jesus” by Sinead O’Connor. Both versions have this defiant attitude about them that’s irresistible. Sinead O’Connor matches Dylan’s earnest brazenness and puts her own punk-rock twist on it, not an east task.
Number Six: “Buckets of Rain” by Fistful of Mercy. Once again, this cover changes the entire mood of the piece. Dylan’s version is understated and has melancholy undertones. When you listen to his version you feel like he’s remembering the things he loved about someone he’s just lost; when you listen to Fistful of Mercy’s cover, you feel like he’s celebrating someone he’s still got.
Number Five: “With God On Our Side” by K’naan. A rapper taking on a Dylan tune? I would never have thought of it. K’naan pulls it off though; his take on the song feels less rebellious and more playful.
Number Four: “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” by Miley Cyrus. This is probably the most earnest performance I’ve seen of Miley’s. She did this Dylan love song justice.
Number Three: “Abandoned Love” by Paul Rodgers and Nils Lofgren. The tones of these songs actually aren’t too different. They both seem to be a plea for a former lover to come back just one more time before they part for good. If there’s any difference it’s that Dylan’s plea feels whispered into his lovers ear while Rodgers and Lofgren seem to have put on a concert outside their former lovers apartment in hopes of getting one more shot at things.
Number Two: “Most of the Time” by Bettye LaVette. This isn’t an easy tune to cover because it has Dylan written all over it, but Bettye LaVette’s version has soul; you feel her pain. She also adds a comically timed curse, which lightens the mood for a brief moment.
Number One: “One Too Many Mornings” by Johnny Cash featuring The Avett Brothers. If this song were a movie, this would be an all-star cast. You just can’t go wrong with a Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and and Avett Brothers collaboration.