Nevertheless, while St. Bono isn’t in the mix, locally reared pop stars Ke$ha and Miley Cyrus are. Appearing among names like Sting, Pete Seeger, Elvis Costello, Joan Baez, My Morning Jacket, Ziggy Marley, Queens of the Stone Age, Natasha Bedingfield, Brian Ferry, Adele, Bad Religion, Flogging Molly and Sinead O’Conner, Cyrus and Ke$ha are perhaps the most far-flung outliers in a ferociously broad assortment of artists to honor Dylan and Amnesty on Chimes.
I suppose that in an age when St. Bob puts out Christmas albums, something like Ke$ha caterwauling a weepy cover of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” makes sense. Even if said cover is mostly a capella … until the cello comes in. And even if the rather painstaking take on His Bobness (below) exists for inclusion on a Dylan covers compilation benefiting and honoring the 50th anniversary of Amnesty International — an organization whose “mission is to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.”
While songs often speak of humanity, songs themselves technically are not human beings, and are not subject to the same inalienable rights as you, me and all our brothers and sisters around the world. But if they were, Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” would probably make a plea for Amnesty against the faux-country-folk treatment Miley Cyrus gives it below.
Truth be told, while I’d much rather hear Bob Dylan try his hand at a cover of “Party in the U.S.A.,” Cyrus’ contribution to this compilation really isn’t that bad. Like, she actually kinda sounds like a musician when singing it. Which I can appreciate, seeing as how it leads right into Billy Bragg going Guthrie on a rendition of “Lay Down Your Weary Tune.”
And fuck, I’d rather hear Cyrus sing Dylan 76 times in a row, uninterrupted, than ever hear Lenny Kravitz’s bro’d-out, body-rock rendition of “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35” again. If you’re a Dylan diehard, make sure you get stoned enough to nod out by the time that track spins — it’ll infuriate you. It’s track 20, FYI. And, speaking of Miley Cyrus and getting stoned, according to Star magazine (Yes, I know) the former Hannah Montana star nearly overdosed on … marijuana?! Or maybe it was salvia. Ugh, kids these days. Listen, the place you go when you get stoned and paranoid is called The Realm of the Fear, and the creatures that dwell there are called Weed Demons. They are harmless and the place is actually kinda cool once you acclimate to it.
What isn’t cool are live recordings of My Chemical Romance covering “Desolation Row” and Sugar Land assaulting “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You.” Aerosmith’s Joe Perry taking on “Man of Peace” and actress Evan Rachel Wood’s jazz handling of “I’d Have You Anytime” are also among the release’s, uh, lesser moments. And a dry-heave upon hearing Dierk’s Bentley drawl out the first line of “Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)” inspired a knee-jerk, to-next-track mouse click. So let’s assume we can lump that one into Chimes’ bottom tier as well.
Of note, though Cage the Elephant isn’t exactly a band I care to hear croon about early-1960s racism and the racial and socioeconomic inequities of American justice, somewhat impressively, the band does manage to pull off a dreamy adaptation of “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.” Unfortunately there is no embeddable video for the track, so you’ll just have to take my word for it — it’s a much, MUCH better cover than it deserves to be.
The Chimes comp features a collab or two, too. But unless The Avett Brothers have managed to gain access to a recording studio in rock ’n’ roll heaven, we can assume that the group’s collaboration with Johnny Cash on a compilation-opening cover of “One Too Many Mornings” is thanks to the magic of engineering and overdubbing. Regardless, that track makes infinitely more sense than the pairing of Seal and Jeff Beck that kisses “Like a Rolling Stone” like a rose of WUT?
Oh, and Steve Earle is accompanied by Lucia Micarelli on a rendition of “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below).” It’s not bad, but like the original, I kinda wish they’d left the fiddle off the track. In fact, who among you is in favor of Dylan remixing Desire — a la Let It Be … Naked — to be fiddle-free? As it stands, that album is almost impossible to listen to via headphones. It’s shrill. As. Fuck. Just sayin’.
Anyway, all this Dylan-esque musical hodgepodgery is for a good cause, so if you support that, then link on over to Amnesty’s official site to pre-order the four-CD collection for $24.99 or the full digital download for $19.99. It’s official release date if Jan. 24. On the fence? That link also furnishes you with a Soundcloud player on which you can preview all 76 tracks in this multi-generational, star-studded treasure trove of tributes, adaptations, laughs and musical befuddlement.