Chimes of Freedom: Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International is a 4 disk, 75 track set featuring dozens of interesting artists covering Dylan. I just got it a few days ago and I haven't had the time to fully digest it yet so I won't say much about the album as a whole but I did want to spend some time on one song: Miley "Hannah Montana" Cyrus' performance of "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go," a classic from Dylan's timeless Blood On The Tracks.
When the tracklist came out the internet went nuts over it including Miley Cyrus. "Ridiculous," said some, "ruins the entire set" said others. "God-awful," "threw up in my mouth" "what were they thinking?" "Bob Dylan should kill himself and then roll over in his grave," came the chorus of neighsayers (I might have actually made those quotes up, but for truth bloggers, pundits, fan-boys, and critics alike threw out a truckload of nastiness over the inclusion of the song). And all of that without anyone actually hearing the track.
I hate that kind of crap.
I mean I get it to an extent. Miley Cyrus is the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus, whose musical accomplishments can be summed up with the words "the world's most atrocious mullet." She's now more famous than dad with a starring role in her own Disney Channel show Hannah Montana where she plays a pop star with a dual identity. The show, her image, and her songs are all corporate owned, highly polished and perfectly designed to make the pre-teen set force their parents into forking out large chunks of cash at every opportunity. Her covering the master is not likely going to be any good.
However, if girls like Miley are to exist, and it seems a certainty that they are going to, isn't it better that they are singing actual good songs than the bland, talentless junk they usually sing? It seems to me that Miley's presence in this set will likely cause a larger volume of sales if she had not been included which means more money going to Amnesty International, which can't at all be a bad thing. Likewise lots of kids who have never heard of Bob Dylan are now going to be digging at least one song due to Ms. Cyrus and that's a great thing. Not to mention plenty of folks will get the album for Miley but might stick around to hear folks like Lucinda Williams, Diana Krall, Steve Earle, Billy Bragg and lots of other cool folks. Introducting youngsters to the music of Bob Dylan through a plethora of interesting musicians sounds like a win-win to me
As to the song itself, its passable. The instrumentation is pretty and Miley's voice is pleasant though devoid of the emotional resonance the song calls for. A quick relisten to Madeline Peyroux's version of the same song gives you an idea of what a passinonate, soulful take sounds like, and Miley is missing all of that. Still, its not nearly as terrible as the internet expected and while I won't be caught seeking out the track, I won't be skipping it over either.
What we need is more teeny-bopper, pre-processed, pre-packaged artist covering the likes of Bob Dylan and presenting truly great music to the next generation and the one after that too. Miley Cyrus is just one in a long line of cutesy starlets designed to sell-sell-sell, but if at least a part of what there selling are things of actual substance, I'm more than happy to let them be.