Culled from recordings of Bruce Springsteen's spring 1988 Tunnel of Love tour, Chimes of Freedom is a four-track EP that initially was released as a benefit for Amnesty International, appearing as he joined the fall 1988 Human Rights Now! tour. It was recorded and released quickly, easily qualifying as the speediest project Springsteen has ever completed. Unfortunately, it occasionally feels a little slapdash, but it's hard to criticize a four-song live charity EP for being haphazardly assembled, since that's in its nature. Nevertheless, Chimes of Freedom is a little unsatisfying, even though it's a good, brief sampler of the Boss live circa Tunnel of Love. And that's part of the problem. Tunnel of Love had a slicker production than a normal Springsteen record, featuring synths scattered throughout the record. Those arrangements were preserved on the live version of "Tougher Than the Rest," one of the best songs from the record, and it turns a little mushy in an arena setting. Similarly, the title track has its chiming opening refrain played on synths, and consequently it sounds a little stiff and dated. These faults are balanced by the remaining two cuts, the first released version of the excellent "Be True" and a reworking of "Born to Run" as an acoustic ballad. "Born to Run" has considerable power in this stripped-down setting, and "Be True" teems with life, pointing out how stiff its cousins sound on Chimes of Freedom. Neither of these tracks are major contributions to Springsteen's catalog, but they're nice additions for the die-hard fans who will be picking up the EP anyway.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine