Before the Flood is a live album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan and The Band, released on June 20, 1974 on Asylum Records in the United States and Island Records in the United Kingdom. It is the seventeenth album by Dylan and the seventh by The Band, and documents their joint 1974 American tour. It peaked at number three on the Billboard 200,[citation needed] reached number eight on the popular album chart in the United Kingdom,[citation needed] and has been certified platinum by theRecording Industry Association of America.[1]


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Dylan and his new record label Asylum had planned professional recordings before the tour began, ten separate sessions in total: three in New York at Madison Square Garden on January 30 and 31; two in Seattle,Washington, at the Center Coliseum on February 9; two in Oakland, California, at the Alameda County Coliseum on February 11; and three in Los Angeles on February 13 and 14.[2] To compile the album, recordings were taken from the final three shows at the Los Angeles Forum in Inglewood, California, with only "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" from New York.[3]

The title of the album is thought to derive from the novel Farn Mabul by Yiddish writer Sholem Asch; Dylan had a personal relationship with Moses Asch, son of Sholem and founder of Folkways Records, a record label hugely influential in the folk music revival.[4] Another theory is that the title refers to the album arriving before the inevitable flood of bootlegs could saturate the underground market.

While Dylan and The Band had recorded the studio album Planet Waves prior to the tour, few of its songs were incorporated into the tour's setlist, and none are represented on Before the Flood. After the double album release, Dylan signed a new contract with Columbia Records in time for his next studio album, Blood on the Tracks, after returning label president Goddard Lieberson made a determined campaign to get Dylan back from Asylum.[5] The Band continued to record on their own forCapitol Records.

Subsequent reissues were on the Columbia imprint, and on March 31, 2009, a remastered digipak version of Before the Flood was issued by Legacy Records, Columbia now part of Sony Music Entertainment.

Critical reception[edit]Edit

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic [6]
Chicago Tribune [7]
Robert Christgau A+[8]
eMusic [9]
PopMatters 5/10[10]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide [11]
Sputnikmusic 4.5/5[12]

In a contemporary review for Creem magazine, music critic Robert Christgau felt that the Band followed Dylan in intensifying his old songs for the arena venue and stated, "Without qualification, this is the craziest and strongest rock and roll ever recorded. All analogous live albums fall flat."[8] In a less enthusiastic review, Rolling Stonemagazine's Tom Nolan said that Dylan's vocal emphasis and the Band's busy arrangements make for an awkward listen, although revamped versions of songs such as "It's All Right, Ma", "Like a Rolling Stone", and "All Along the Watchtower" are successful and sound meaningful.[13] Before the Flood was voted the sixth best album of 1974 inThe Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll.[14] Christgau, the poll's creator, ranked it second on his own list.[15]

In a retrospective review, Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune called the album "epochal",[7] while AllMusic described it as "one of the best live albums of its time. Ever, maybe."[6] Greil Marcus commented, "Roaring with resentment and happiness, the music touched rock and roll at its limits."[16] By contrast, Dylan himself later disparaged the tour, feeling that it was overblown. "I think I was just playing a role on that tour, I was playing Bob Dylan and The Band were playing The Band. It was all sort of mindless. The only thing people talked about was energy this, energy that. The highest compliments were things like, 'Wow, lotta energy, man.' It had become absurd."[17]In a retrospective review, Scott Hreha of PopMatters also felt that each act did not sound collaborative as on The Basement Tapes and that the album "remains a worthy but inessential item in Dylan's catalog—and both he and the Band have better live recordings available, especially the several volumes in Dylan's Bootleg Series."[10]

Track listing[edit]Edit

Sides one and four are performances by Bob Dylan and The Band; side two and tracks four through six on side three are by The Band; tracks one through three on side three by Dylan alone. "Blowin' in the Wind" is a splice of two separate performances. All dates from Los Angeles except as indicated. All songs written and composed by Bob Dylan, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Recording date Length
1. "Most Likely You Go Your Way"   02-14 (evening) 4:15
2. "Lay Lady Lay"   02-13 3:14
3. "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"   02-13 3:27
4. "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"   01-30 New York City 3:51
5. "It Ain't Me, Babe"   02-14 (evening) 3:40
6. "Ballad of a Thin Man"   02-14 (afternoon) 3:41
Side two
No. Title Recording date Length
7. "Up on Cripple Creek(Robbie Robertson) 02-14 (evening) 5:25
8. "I Shall Be Released"   02-14 (afternoon) 3:50
9. "Endless Highway" (Robertson) 02-14 (evening) 5:10
10. "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down(Robertson) 02-14 (evening) 4:24
11. "Stage Fright(Robertson) 02-14 (evening) 4:45
Side three
No. Title Recording date Length
12. "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right"   02-14 (evening) 4:36
13. "Just Like a Woman"   02-14 (evening) 5:06
14. "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)"   02-14 (evening) 5:48
15. "The Shape I'm In(Robertson) 02-14 (afternoon) 4:01
16. "When You Awake" (Richard Manuel, Robertson) 02-14 (evening) 3:13
17. "The Weight(Robertson) 02-13 4:47
Side four
No. Title Recording date Length
18. "All Along the Watchtower"   02-14 (afternoon) 3:07
19. "Highway 61 Revisited"   02-14 (evening) 4:27
20. "Like a Rolling Stone"   02-13 7:09
21. "Blowin' in the Wind"   02-13 + 02-14 (afternoon) 4:30


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