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The consensus on Bob Dylan's latest cinematic venture, Masked and Anonymous, is that it only comes to life when Dylan is on-screen performing with his band. The same can almost be said for the film's accompanying soundtrack album.

Just as the movie toys with the Dylan myth, the soundtrack is dominated by familiar Dylan classics done in startlingly unfamiliar ways. A Japanese take on "My Back Pages" by the Magokoro Brothers may be the most incongruous, but it gets serious competition from Francesco de Gregori's wheezy Italian replication of "If You See Her Say Hello," Turkish diva Sertab's wildly melodramatic "One More Cup of Coffee," and Articolo 31's Italian hip-hop recreation of "Like a Rolling Stone" - "Come Una Pietra Scalciata" (with the 1965 Dylan sampled for the choruses).

Various Artists
Once you get past the novelty appeal of hearing Dylan in foreign tongues, most of these tracks quickly wear thin. Only Los Lobos, with a Spanglish romp through "On a Night Like This," deliver on this concept. Then again, their track is the only Dylan cover recorded specifically for this project.

Even with his voice reduced to a perpetually hoarse croak, Dylan remains his own best interpreter, and his powerhouse band gets lowdown and mean on rocking versions of "Down In the Flood" and "Cold Irons Bound." Dylan even manages to make "Dixie" sound fresh, imbuing this tired relic of the Old South with some of the same casual, rustic command he and The Band brought to the Basement Tapes sessions.

Dylan is in such great form here that it's particularly frustrating that four of his eight performances in the movie are left off the soundtrack album. But their inclusion would have lent this album a sense of coherence, and maybe only a willful mishmash can convey the spirit of the film it represents. •

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