Track of the Day: 'I Shall Be Released' by Jeff Buckley

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

A reader sends a twofer for the cover series:

1) “Love in Vain,” The Rolling Stones (originally by Robert Johnson). The Stones have done a number of incredible blues covers, but this one really sticks. Though it’s a masterpiece out of the studio on Let it Bleed, the most magical versions of the song are, I think, from live sets—especially when Mick plays lead. The link I send along with this email is one of the clearest examples of what made the Keith/Mick dynamic so special: Mick showcases his magnificent soloing ability while Keith glues the thing together with a hypnotic, rhythmic backing riff.

2) “I Shall Be Released,” Jeff Buckley (written by Bob Dylan, recorded first by The Band). Buckley’s live cover (off Live at Sin-é) is a simpler rendering than The Band’s version: just his electric guitar and his voice. And it is hard to imagine a more effective showcase of his talent, as his soaring vocals carry the song to new heights. This cover is worth a listen for its sense of catharsis—and for the reminder that when Jeff Buckley passed, the world lost a legend in his prime.

But nothing beats Buckley’s “Hallelujah.”

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