New Release (Shangri-La/Fontana)
If you only had this collection to go on, you might suppose that Bob Dylan was a guy who wrote great lyrics but whose music just wasn’t all that interesting. More than half of the 76 artists on this massive four-CD set — including heavyweights like Sting, Adele, Dave Matthews, Elvis Costello, and Diana Krall — treat the songs as museum pieces, turning in somber, hyper-respectful versions that suck the life out of the material. (The Pajama Club, who transform “She Belongs to Me” into U2’s “With or Without You,” may be the silliest of the lot; Ke$ha’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” is by far the weirdest, but it’s also terrible.) Then throw in another handful (Rise Against, Flogging Molly, Bad Religion) who flash their punk cred by treating the songs as inappropriate hoedowns (or, in the case of Lenny Kravitz’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” and Queens of the Stone Age’s “Outlaw Blues,” appropriate hoedowns that still aren’t as lively as the originals). Aside from a few ringers — notably the Belle Brigade, who find the L.A. pop thread in “No Time to Think”; Sinéad O’Connor, who wails righteously on “Property of Jesus”; and Angelique Kidjo, who adds a certain something to “Lay Lady Lay” by not changing any words — it’s mainly Dylan’s peers and contemporaries (Lucinda Williams, Taj Mahal, Eric Burdon, Patti Smith) who come through unscathed.
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