Before the Flood

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This article is about the Bob Dylan album. For the period in Christian and Jewish theology, see Antediluvian. For the Doctor Who episode, see Before the Flood (Doctor Who).
Before the Flood
A crowd of concert-goers holding up candles in the dark
Live album by Bob Dylan and The Band
Released June 20, 1974 (1974-06-20)
Recorded February 13–14, 1974, in Los Angeles, except track 4: January 30, 1974, in New York
Genre Rock and roll
Length 92:38
Label Asylum
Producer Bob Dylan and The Band
Bob Dylan chronology
Planet Waves
(with The Band)
Before the Flood
(with The Band)
Blood on the Tracks
The Band chronology
Planet Waves
(with Bob Dylan)
Before the Flood
(with Bob Dylan)
The Basement Tapes
(with Bob Dylan)

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,[1] reached number eight on the popular album chart in the United Kingdom,[citation needed] and has been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.[2]


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, at the Seattle 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.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6] The Band continued to record on their own for Capitol 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 Recordings/Columbia, now part of Sony Music Entertainment.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[7]
Chicago Tribune 4/4 stars[8]
Christgau's Record Guide A[9]
Creem A+[10]
MusicHound Rock 2/5[11]
PopMatters 6/10[12]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3.5/5 stars[13]
Sputnikmusic 4.5/5[14]

In a contemporary review for Creem magazine, 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."[10] In a less enthusiastic review, Rolling Stone magazine's Tom Nolan said 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.[15] Before the Flood was voted the sixth best album of 1974 in The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll.[16] Christgau, the poll's creator, ranked it second on his own list.[17]

In a retrospective review, Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune called the album "epochal",[8] while AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine described it as "one of the best live albums of its time. Ever, maybe."[7] Greil Marcus commented, "Roaring with resentment and happiness, the music touched rock and roll at its limits."[18] 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."[19] In a retrospective review, Scott Hreha from 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."[12]

Track listing[edit]

Sides one and four are performances by Bob Dylan backed by 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 by Bob Dylan, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Recording date Length
1. "Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)"   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





  1. ^ AllMusic website retrieved 26 October 2015.
  2. ^ "RIAA – Searchable database: Before the Flood". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
  3. ^ Shelton, Robert. No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan. 1986, ISBN 978-0-688-05045-0, pp. 436-437.
  4. ^ Bjorner's Files Still on the Road
  5. ^ Gray, Michael. The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. 2006, ISBN 978-0-8264-6933-5, p. 43.
  6. ^ Shelton, p. 378.
  7. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Before the Flood at AllMusic
  8. ^ a b Kot, Greg (October 25, 1992). "Dylan Through The Years: Hits And Misses". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
  9. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Bob Dylan". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the '70s. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0306804093. 
  10. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (October 1974). "The Christgau Consumer Guide". Creem. Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
  11. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel (eds) (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Visible Ink Press. p. 371. ISBN 1-57859-061-2. 
  12. ^ a b Hreha, Scott (June 25, 2009). "Bob Dylan: New Morning / The Basement Tapes / Before the Flood / Dylan & the Dead". PopMatters. Archived from the original on January 22, 2014. Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
  13. ^ Rolling Stone Album Guide
  14. ^ Thomas, Adam (April 14, 2009). "Review: Bob Dylan – Before the Flood". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
  15. ^ Nolan, Tom (August 29, 1974). "Before the Flood". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
  16. ^ "The 1974 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. New York. January 20, 1975. Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
  17. ^ Christgau, Robert (January 20, 1975). "Our Own Critics' Poll". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
  18. ^ Marcus, Greil (1997). Mystery Train Images of America in Rock & Roll Music. New York: Plume. p. 221. ISBN 978-0-452-27836-3. 
  19. ^ Dylan, Bob, in conversation with Cameron Crowe. Biograph. 1985, Columbia Records C5X 38830 vinyl edition, liner notes, p. 22.
  20. ^

External links[edit]