Mitchell: Stellar covers of Dylan mark Amnesty International’s 50th

Chimes Of Freedom: The Songs Of Bob Dylan, Honouring 50 Years Of Amnesty International (Fontana)

Bob Dylan released his self-titled debut album in 1962, the same year that Amnesty International started and hence the “50 Years” that graces this anthology that celebrates both the folk rock bard and the egalitarian Amnesty International.

Probably no other songwriter on the planet has been covered by other artists more than Dylan. Some, such as The Byrds, The Hollies, McGuiness Flint, Odetta, all released albums dedicated only to Dylan songs while there are many Dylan tribute albums already released. It would be very easy to compile the best and better of these already existing tunes for a collection like Amnesty International’s celebration but such is not the case here. Everyone of the renditions here are from brand new recordings that feature mega stars, as well as a few lesser known recording artists.

This collection also comes as a two-disc set but fans will want to spring for the full four-CD set as the covers here are almost always uniformly strong—not forgetting that all proceeds go to the charitable organization Amnesty International.

I have only heard the two-disc set so far, yet there are still too many highlights to mention just from this truncated version which has the mellower tunes made for great coffee house listening (as a lot of this version is sold in Starbucks).

One of the best tracks here is one of the few rockers with Patti Smith’s jangly rock guitar-driven Drifter’s Escape that should become a hit from this anthology. Canada’s K’NAAN offers a trippy folk-hop version of the topical With God On Our Side, while Maroon 5 offer a deluxe take of I Shall Be Released that beautifully channels 1970s The Band (the great group that Dylan often collaborated with).

Other fine tunes come from Mark Knopfler, Steve Earle, Seal w/ Jeff Beck, Ziggy Marley, Diana Krall, My Morning Jacket, Johnny Cash, Adele and too many more to list. The only weak track of the 35 songs on the two-disc set is by Sting who sounds effete and overly precious on Girl From The North Country. But this collection cries out to be bought in the four-disc compilation that will go even further to help the great work done by Amnesty International.


The Fray: Scars &

Stories (Epic)

The Fray are shaping up to be just a minor player on the rock scene. With this third studio album the groups limitations are all too evident with songs that just do not stick with you the way their signature and debut hit did, titled How To Save A Life.

Scars & Stories has made its debut in the top 10 album sales chart but their single, Heartbeat,isn’t igniting the airwaves and is at the lowest end of the charts. The group hired ace producer Brendan O’Brien who puts a professional sheen on these would-be arena ballads and U2 meets Coldplay mid-tempo rockers, but again the melodies are weak and the hooks are blunt.

The Fray try a little psychedelia with backwards guitar on The Wind and a hint of funk rock on Turn Me On, but none of these demand repeated hearings. Confirmed fans may find something to appreciate here but I don’t which had me thinking about the double meaning of the group’s name The Fray. That is, to enter the fight or unravel and it seems more so the latter.


Celtic Woman: Believe (Manhattan/EMI)

Celtic music, to the legions of fans around the world, is best enjoyed at the kitchen party but the producer and main man behind Celtic Woman, David Downes is trying to franchise the genre for big bucks.

His are big, blowsy, cinematic productions with several singers, musicians and dancers—sorta like a generic version of Cirque de Soleil—in an ersatz Celtic style.

That is why the ‘act’ is called Celtic Woman instead of Celtic Women as Downes can hire, fire and substitute generic role players for his extravaganza without anyone really noticing or caring.

It is true the choral aspect here offers sweet and sexless versions of traditional tunes such as The Foxhunter, The Water Is Wide, Black Is The Color (Of My True Love’s Hair), Ave Maria, etc., but Downes also offers his mediocre songs that aren’t up to par probably just to gather more royalty cheques.

Meanwhile, what dyed-in-the-wool Celtic lass would not want to sing Chris DeBurgh’s A Spaceman Came Travelling?

And the album title, Believe, is trying to believe in what? I suppose the quasi-spirituality implied in Paul Simon’s Bridge Over Troubled Water and the anthemic Rogers and Hammerstein show tune You’ll Never Walk Alone provide the pinch of new age romanticism that is part of the mix and fantasy.

I prefer Celtic music with less farce and more authenticity.




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