The Never Ending Tour extended: I shall be released 1975 to 2008

I don’t know what it means either: an index to the current series appearing on this website.

The Never Ending Tour Extended: This series primarily uses recordings selected by Mike Johnson in his inestimable masterpiece The Never Ending Tour, and looks at how those performances of individual songs change as time goes by.   The selection of songs from the series, and the commentary below, are by Tony Attwood.

In this article we’re looking at I shall be Released which first appeared on the tour on 30 October 1975 and was retired (at least so far) on 7 June 2008 after 491 live performances.  I’ve also included the recording of Dylan singing with Norah Jones, which is not strictly a NET recording, but interesting nonetheless.

Our earliest recording from the tour comes from 1988 The 60s revisited

Hearing this again today was a real shock.  I guess when publishing Mike’s articles I was just focussed on the music from the tours, not thinking back to the original recordings.  But today playing the original, I am absolutely knocked back off the chair.

I have no doubt (for myself and course it is just me) the original is a billion times better. that the live version above.  The message is one of hope not of desperation.

So the question arises what would Bob do after that?  Well we actually have a recording from 1989 – one year on from the piece at the start of the article.   It hasn’t actually got back to the lightness of the album version, but it is not so depressed as the year before.  A fire in the sun   Maybe Bob thought he had gone too far the year before.  Certainly the bass and lead guitars are given the freedom to have a lot of fun.

Now we jump forward to 1995:  Beyond Prague, London Calling.  Sorry about the volume change here, obviously I just run the recordings as we have them, without any adjustments.   The song starts after about 55 seconds.  And just in case one is tempted to say that Bob is edging further back to the original, do go back and have a listen to the album version above.  It’s still a long way away from where we have got to in 1995.

There is still that desperate wearyness in the singing, but we do have vocal harmonies which means either Bob went back to his original recording or else has a perfect memory for what he did in the studio.

2000: Back to Bedrock II

This next is from 2000 and yes we are now moving back to the original in the instrumental break.

2003: No flash in the pan

Now we have one of Bob’s favourite techniques wherein he has the freedom to play with the music while singers in the band keep the elements of the song in place, just so we know where we are.

And certainly, we have travelled a very long way from 1988.

We do have one other recording of Bob playing and singing “I shall be released” with Norah Jones – and it looks like she wasn’t really sure what they were going do.   But she played the part like a real trouper.  This appears to be from the 10th Anniversary Concert at Bennaroya Hall in Seattle

Other articles in this series…


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