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Sean Daly's CD picks: 'Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan,' Diana Ross, Paul McCartney, Lionel Richie

Miley Cyrus, My Morning Jacket, et al

Album: Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan (Amnesty International USA)

Why we care: Benefiting Amnesty International USA, this 76-song Bob-a-palooza invites a crazy-wide spectrum of the pop universe to take a whack at covering Mr. Robert Zimmerman, from Adele crushing with Make You Feel My Love (stellar) to, um, Miley Cyrus' twangy pickin'-party take on You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go (not bad!).

Why we like it: An even bigger surprise than Miley? Ke$ha quits the club early and delivers a sad, stripped-down Don't Think Twice, It's All Right, sounding like a raspy coffeehouse singer from the '60s Village. Who knew?

Reminds us of: Everyone's a Dylan fan now.

Download these: I Shall Be Released (Maroon 5), New Morning (Darren Criss)

Grade: A

Diana Ross

Album: Diana Ross (1976): Expanded Edition (Hip-O Select)

Why we care: When the Divacious One plays the Mahaffey Theater in downtown St. Petersburg on Friday, the vibe will be over-the-top Vegas glitz and hits. She is an icon now, and she can ham it up however she likes. But in 1976, Ross was still a careful artist building a sparkly career. And her voice, though still curled and smooth and impossibly adorable, was more nuanced, able to be both vulnerable and defiant.

Why we like it: You get the heavy-breathing disco fun of Love Hangover, but the album's charms are in the smaller moments: Theme From Mahogany, a cover of Chaplin's Smile.

Reminds us of: This 'luxe edition includes remixes and a cover of Elton John's Harmony.

Download this: "Do you knooow where you're going to . . ."

Grade: A

Paul McCartney

Album: Kisses on the Bottom (Hear)

Why we care: With Diana Krall and her lush jazz band brush-stroking behind him, Sir Paul acknowledges his boyhood "family sing-songs," quaintly, quietly covering the pop songbook of the early 20th century: Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer's Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive, Irving Berlin's Always and more.

Why we like it: We're tired of aging rockers covering the Great American Songbook (coughRodStewartcough). But this is a sweet, small gesture with graceful, low-key cameos by Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder.

Reminds us of: The original track My Valentine is no doubt the sound of the Cute One, 'round midnight in the Macca manse, singing to his new blushing bride, Nancy Shevell.

Download this: Home (When Shadows Fall)

Grade: B

Lionel Richie

Album: Tuskegee (Mercury)

Why we care: Sixty-two years ago, Lionel Richie was born in Tuskegee, Ala. He has always had a dash of Southern-fried drawl in his R&B vocals, so this "countryfied" collection of hits shouldn't be a huge surprise.

Why we like it: It would have been nice to hear Richie write original material, but you can't fault the good vibes and tons of big-name cameos here. Jimmy Buffett joins him for All Night Long (big dumb fun), Blake Shelton gets mushy with Lionel on You Are (big slightly awkward fun). An Endless Love with Shania Twain generates zero heat, but a huge reworking of Hello with Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles might be better than the source.

Reminds us of: Pssst: Think Mother's Day.

Download this: Two wily old vets — Richie and Willie Nelson — kicking back on Easy.

Grade: B-

Sean Daly's CD picks: 'Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan,' Diana Ross, Paul McCartney, Lionel Richie 02/18/12 [Last modified: Saturday, February 18, 2012 3:30am]
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