|Released by Columbia Records, June 20, 1974
The Dylan songs:
Most Likely You Go Your Way (and I'll go mine)
Lay Lady Lay
Rainy Day Women 12 & 35
Knockin' on Heaven's Door
It Ain't Me Babe
Ballad of a Thin Man
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right (acoustic)
Just Like a Woman (acoustic)
It's All Right Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) (acoustic)
All Along the Watchtower
Highway 61 Revisited
Like a Rolling Stone
Blowin' in the Wind
The Band Songs:
Up On Cripple Creek
I Shall Be Released
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
The Shape I'm In
When You Awake
All but one of the numbers were taken from their February 13-14 shows at the LA Forum. Ticket prices were high, but the shows still sold out. Unlike Dylan's previous tour back in 1966, when crowds met him with a cascade of jeers and screamed JUDAS at him, in 1974 his fans were ecstatic. Regardless of the music's quality, the mere "event" proved enough. After all the children of Dylan had reached their 20s and 30s. The Beatles were a memory. Nixon was on his way out. The protests came to a halt. Elvis set up shop in Vegas. Times were changing.
The rock concert scene had changed considerably as well. Major acts like The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin played arenas and reveled in working their fans into a frenzy. While Dylan offered some new arrangements of his familiar hits, the tracks are often loud with Dylan shouting more than singing at times. On "Most Likely You Go Your Way" he sounds as if he's trying to overpower the Band and the crowd.
The album ends on a soaring note with "All Along the Watchtower" a favorite of Dylan's to play to this day. Robbie Robertson's guitar on "Blowin' in the Wind" transforms a folk song into a rock anthem. That's a memorable moment.
Before the Flood begs the question: What makes for a great live album. Is a true live album one that plays the entire concert from beginning to end? Should those with selected cuts be critiqued differently?
A good rapport with the audience can translate to a great record. Live albums from Sam Cooke, Bruce Springsteen, and James Brown all have that audience connection thing going. Sometimes the historical moment adds drama, as in Dylan's Royal Albert Hall concert. or Johnny Cash at San Quentin. Nirvana's 1994 Unplugged album achieved an intimacy with audience- whether present, watching at home, or listening on headphones. Some live LPs can capture the virtuosity and unpredictability of a live performance you might get from the The Allman Brothers Band or the Grateful Dead.
Granted, Dylan was bound to sound a little rusty after being off the road for so long. While Before the Flood isn't one for the ages, listening to it makes the moment come alive - and that's something.