Running The Numbers: The Four-Disc, 73-Track Bob Dylan Covers Comp With Miley, Ke$ha, Lenny, And Many Others

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Today Amnesty International releases Chimes Of Freedom, a really, really huge compilation of bob Dylan covers by artists both canonized and obscure. Trying to analyze such a huge undertaking can only be done in one way: Mathematically.

Amount of music in this collection: 73 songs on four CDs, totaling 313 minutes and 24 seconds. (You get three additional songs if you buy it digitally, for an additional eight minutes' worth of music.)

Number of songs by Pazz and Jop winners: Five: Adele (2011 singles poll); Elvis Costello (1978 and 1982 albums poll); Pete Townshend (The Who, 1971 albums poll); Lucinda Williams (1993 albums poll); Dylan himself (1975, 1997, and 2001 albums poll).
     Most ass-kicking: probably Lucinda's alt.slowjam cover of "Tryin' to Get to Heaven," but Adele brings the heat with her live "Make You Feel My Love."
     Least ass-kicking: Townshend's wobbly "Corrina, Corrina," which sounds like he just woke up, but not in a good way.

Number of songs by dead people: One. (Johnny Cash, accompanied by the Avett Brothers, leads things off with a slow bluegrass version of "One Too Many Mornings.")

Number of songs lasting longer than seven minutes: Five.
     Longest: The Belle Brigade's 6/8 time indie-folk take on "No Time to Think," which to be fair has a ton of verses.

Number of songs lasting less than three minutes: 10.
     Best: Carolina Chocolate Drops ripping "Political World" a new one.
     Weirdest: Daniel Bedingfield doing a James Blake/Tom Waits version of "Man in the Long Black Coat."
     Most insufferable: Sting's "Girl From the North Country," which sounds exactly the way you think it does.

Album most represented: The Times They Are A-Changin' and Bringing It All Back Home, with seven songs represented from each. In an upset, there are only two covers from Highway 61 Revisited; somewhat surprisingly, no one covered anything from "Love and Theft" or Modern Times. In a non-upset, Saved and Under the Red Sky are both unrepresented on this set. (Also it's not exactly surprising that no one covers "Neighborhood Bully," given that a full-on celebration of Israeli policies wouldn't seem to fit with Amnesty International's mission.)

Three most surprisingly good Bob Dylan impressions, in order: 1. Mick Hucknall grinding it out on "One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)" (the problem was never with Mick's voice, was it?); 2. Marianne Faithfull, "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down"; 3. Maroon 5, "I Shall Be Released."

Most unfortunately devoted to the original material: Lenny Kravitz doing (wait for it) "Rainy Day Women #12 & #45." Same trombone, same drums, same approach, same everything.

Songs you never need to hear even once in your life because they will make you bleed at the eyes and ears: Only a couple, but Pete Seeger's declamatory cover of "Forever Young," backed by a children's chorus called the Rivertown Kids, up there. I love Seeger and everything he stands for, but this is why the word "nadir" exists.


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