Before the Flood (album)

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Before the Flood
A crowd of concert-goers holding up candles in the dark
Live album by
ReleasedJune 20, 1974 (1974-06-20)
RecordedFebruary 13–14, 1974, in Los Angeles, except track 4: January 30, 1974, in New York
ProducerBob Dylan and The Band
Bob Dylan chronology
Planet Waves
Before the Flood
Blood on the Tracks
The Band chronology
Planet Waves
Before the Flood
The Basement Tapes

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 was Dylan's first live album, although live recordings of earlier performances would later be released. It is the 15th album by Dylan and the seventh by the Band, and documents their joint 1974 American tour. It peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200,[1] reached No. 8 on the popular album chart in the UK,[2] and has been certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.[3]


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.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6] Another theory is that the title refers to the album arriving before the inevitable flood of bootlegs could saturate the underground market.

Dylan and the Band had recorded the studio album Planet Waves prior to the tour. In "Wedding Song", the final recording on the album, He sings, "We can't regain what went down in the flood". Few of the album's 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.[7] 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
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[8]
Chicago Tribune4/4 stars[9]
Christgau's Record GuideA[10]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music3/5 stars[12]
MusicHound Rock2/5[13]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3.5/5 stars[15]
Tom HullA–[17]

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."[11] 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.[18] Before the Flood was voted the sixth best album of 1974, in The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll.[19] Christgau, the poll's creator, ranked it second on his own list.[20]

In a retrospective review, Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune called the album "epochal",[9] while AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine described it as "one of the best live albums of its time. Ever, maybe."[8] Greil Marcus commented, "Roaring with resentment and happiness, the music touched rock and roll at its limits."[21] 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."[22] 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."[14]

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 tracks are written by Bob Dylan except where noted; all dates from Los Angeles except where noted.

Side one
No.TitleRecording dateLength
1."Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)"02-14 (evening)4:15
2."Lay Lady Lay"02-133:14
3."Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"02-133:27
4."Knockin' on Heaven's Door"01-30 New York City3:51
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.TitleRecording dateLength
1."Up on Cripple Creek" (Robbie Robertson)02-14 (evening)5:25
2."I Shall Be Released"02-14 (afternoon)3:50
3."Endless Highway" (Robertson)02-14 (evening)5:10
4."The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (Robertson)02-14 (evening)4:24
5."Stage Fright" (Robertson)02-14 (evening)4:45
Side three
No.TitleRecording dateLength
1."Don't Think Twice, It's All Right"02-14 (evening)4:36
2."Just Like a Woman"02-14 (evening)5:06
3."It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)"02-14 (evening)5:48
4."The Shape I'm In" (Robertson)02-14 (afternoon)4:01
5."When You Awake" (Richard Manuel, Robertson)02-14 (evening)3:13
6."The Weight" (Robertson)02-134:47
Side four
No.TitleRecording dateLength
1."All Along the Watchtower"02-14 (afternoon)3:07
2."Highway 61 Revisited"02-14 (evening)4:27
3."Like a Rolling Stone"02-137:09
4."Blowin' in the Wind"02-13 + 02-14 (afternoon)4:30





Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[23] Gold 100,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[24] Platinum 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ AllMusic website retrieved 26 October 2015.
  2. ^ "Official Chart History". Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  3. ^ "RIAA – Searchable database: Before the Flood". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
  4. ^ Shelton, Robert. No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan. 1986, ISBN 978-0-688-05045-0, pp. 436-437.
  5. ^ Bjorner's Files Still on the Road
  6. ^ Gray, Michael (2006). The Bob Dylan encyclopedia (Updated and rev. ed.). New York, NY [u.a.]: Continuum Internat. Publ. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-8264-6933-5.
  7. ^ Shelton, p. 378.
  8. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Before the Flood at AllMusic
  9. ^ a b Kot, Greg (October 25, 1992). "Dylan Through The Years: Hits And Misses". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  10. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Bob Dylan". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the '70s. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80409-3.
  11. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (October 1974). "The Christgau Consumer Guide". Creem. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  12. ^ Larkin, Colin (ed.) (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th edn). London: Omnibus Press. p. 853. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  13. ^ 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.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Rolling Stone Album Guide
  16. ^ Thomas, Adam (April 14, 2009). "Review: Bob Dylan – Before the Flood". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  17. ^ Hull, Tom (June 21, 2014). "Rhapsody Streamnotes: June 21, 2014". Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  18. ^ Nolan, Tom (August 29, 1974). "Before the Flood". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  19. ^ "The 1974 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. New York. January 20, 1975. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  20. ^ Christgau, Robert (January 20, 1975). "Our Own Critics' Poll". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  21. ^ Marcus, Greil (1997). Mystery Train Images of America in Rock & Roll Music. New York: Plume. p. 221. ISBN 978-0-452-27836-3.
  22. ^ Dylan, Bob, in conversation with Cameron Crowe. Biograph. 1985, Columbia Records C5X 38830 vinyl edition, liner notes, p. 22.
  23. ^ "British album certifications – Bob Dylan – Before The Flood". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
  24. ^ "American album certifications – Bob Dylan – Before The Flood". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved May 13, 2020.

External links[edit]