Bob Dylan: Good songs for a good cause

Bob Dylan is a songwriting machine and an American icon. However, I’ve always believed that his best songs were sung by “Anybody But Bob.” “Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan” continues this streak through four discs, 73 songs and over five hours of music. The massive compilation, which runs around $20 at retail, celebrates the 50th anniversary of Amnesty International, and all proceeds from sales of the album will benefit the charity.

Amnesty International, founded in London in 1961, advocates for human rights worldwide and was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1977 for the group’s campaign against torture.

Born May 24, 1951, as Robert Zimmerman, Bob Dylan is considered by many people to be the quintessential songwriter of the 1960s, and many of his songs are now synonymous with civil rights and the anti-war movement. Songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are A-Changin'” became generational anthems. Originally a coffee shop folk singer, the moment when Dylan turned electric at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 is a hallmark in the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Upon inducting Dylan into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, Bruce Springsteen said, “Bob freed your mind the way Elvis freed your body. He showed us that just because music was innately physical, did not mean that it was anti-intellectual.”

Even if you think you’ve never heard a Bob Dylan song, chances are you have. Guns ‘n’ Roses? They didn’t write “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower?” That’s a Bob Dylan song. “Everybody must get stoned?” That’s Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.”

Ranging from Adele to Ziggy Marley, the collection covers almost every genre of music imaginable; pop music, rock, punk, reggae, soul, country and world music are all represented in Dylan’s music.

“Chimes of Freedom” offers something for every musical taste and the biggest surprises come from Miley Cyrus and Ke$ha. Cyrus trades in her pop leanings for a more traditional take on “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” and Ke$ha ditches the auto-tune for a highly emotional version of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”  Rise Against turns “Ballad of Hollis Brown” into a thundering rage, and my personal favorites are Flogging Molly’s cover of “The Times They Are A-Changin'” and Gaslight Anthem’s version of “Changing of the Guard.”

The only drawback to “Chimes of Freedom” is that there’s just too much material to handle in one sitting. But with all proceeds from the album going to charity, the album offers enough to interest just about any listener, and it also offers an excellent opportunity to sample a wide variety of music genres.