Dylan Covers Week No 4 : I Shall Be Released - the Band
There were two major moments of change in Bod Dylan's musical life. One is when he recorded the album "Bringing it all back Home" in late 1964, and went "electric" , to some betraying his folk music origins. The other was the occasion of his motorcycle accident in July1966, after which he holed up for over a year in a big pink house near Woodstock, recuperated and wrote and recorded a whole raft of new songs which were released as bootlegs (albums not officially released by an artists contracted record company) which were ten years officially released as "The Basement Tapes". For company and as backing musicians, also holed up with him, were his current backing band, formerly the Hawks as in Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, consisting of Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson.
Bizarrely (because they were Canadian), the Band is one of the groups that seems to represent the heart and soul of ordinary America. The ordinary working man. The history. They were called the band because they backed Bob Dylan on a couple of sixties tours, plus on the legendary Basement Tapes. People said "who are they?" and others answered "oh you know - the band" meaning the guys who used to back Bob Dylan. And eventually the name stuck. I've only got one of their albums, yet strangely, I'm not sure why, I know all their names, an honour reserved for only a handful - say ten or so - bands over the years. They sort of sneak up on you, sound a bit ordinary, and soon they're in your brain. Like this song from the Basement Tapes sessions, which was released on the Band's album from the same sessions: "Music from Big Pink".
This is a song about a man in prison, but what lingers is a massive sense of loneliness, this "lonely crowd". Richard Manuel's high lead vocal is suffused in sadness and regret, and as the drum rolls reflect the military attention of the guards, and the piano seems to be the ticking of the slowly passing sentence, he ruminates
"They say everything can be replaced they say every distance is not near so I remember every face of every man who put me here..."
and tries to achieve redemption
."...they say every man needs protection they say that every man must fall yet I swear I see my reflection somewhere so high upon this wall...."
ad we realise that this prison might be a metaphorical one. And aren't we all torn between thinking we are at fault for our missed chances or that it's down to everyone else?
"....now yonder stands a man in this lonely crowd a man who swears he's not to blame all day long I hear him shouting so loud just crying out that he was framed
I see my light come shining from the west down to the east any day now, any day now I shall be released."
He's saying that what we really need to do to get free, is to forgive ourselves.