” the somber, nearly claustrophobic strains of I Shall Be Released burst with the fiery force of spiritual transcendence.”
– John Metzger / Music Box
Jerry Garcia Band – I Shall Be Released – The Best Dylan Covers
I Shall Be Released is a 1967 song written by Bob Dylan.
The Band recorded the first officially-released version of the song for their 1968 debut album, Music from Big Pink, with Richard Manuel singing lead vocals, and Rick Danko and Levon Helm harmonizing in the chorus. The song was also performed near the end of the Band’s 1976 farewell concert, The Last Waltz, in which all the night’s performers (with the exception of Muddy Waters) plus Ringo Starr and Ronnie Wood appeared on the same stage. Additional live recordings by the Band were included on the 1974 concert album Before the Flood and the 2001 expanded CD reissue of Rock of Ages.
Dylan recorded two primary versions. The first recording was made in collaboration with the Band during the “basement tapes” sessions in 1967, and eventually released on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 in 1991. (A remixed version of this 1967 take was rereleased, along with a preliminary take, on The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete in 2014.) Of the initial demo, Rolling Stone’s Jann Wennerhad said, “Curiously enough the music in this song and the high pleading sound of Dylan’s voice reminds one of the Bee Gees.”
Dylan recorded the song a second time (with a significantly different arrangement and altered lyrics, and accompanied by Happy Traum) in 1971, releasing this new version on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II.
Garcia Plays Dylan is an album composed of various live performances featuring Jerry Garcia playing covers of Bob Dylan songs. It is culled from performances from 1973–1995, and features Garcia playing with Grateful Dead, Legion of Mary, Jerry Garcia Band, and Garcia-Saunders. Garcia takes lead vocals on all tracks.
It has a wonderful I Shall Be Released from he Warfield Theatre, San Francisco, CA (11/28/87):
I’ve read critics saying that Garcia’s general state was on the decline in 1987, maybe so, but this just add humanity and more vulnerability to the song. He sounds like the words go deeper, the meaning hits harder.
We have found two more very fine live versions:
Jerry Garcia Band – I Shall Be Released (live, 1990):
Jerry Garcia Band -I Shall Be Released (2 cam) 11-9-1991 Hampton, Va.