I was walking through an English village one day when I saw a beautiful church. As I approached, I saw the vicar outside the door. “It’s a lovely church, vicar.” I said. “It’s Norman.” he replied. “It’s a lovely church, Norman.” I answered.
Today’s double live album features Bob Dylan for the first time, with his first live album, and his 1974 release Before The Flood, with The Band and documents their 1974 North American tour.
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.
Now I love me some Dylan, in particular this era of Dylan has some of my favourite Bob songs and live recordings. I bought Hard Rain before I purchased this and, as much as I love Hard Rain, Before The Flood just knocks that album down to the canvas and leaves it there. The passion and the energy from both artists is audible on the record, and it’s one of the few live albums that put you in the front row of the show.
The Band and Dylan have always been a great match, they seem to thrive of each other’s talents and push themselves to produce the best they can. The Band’s numbers here are equal in quality to Bob’s and, without the horn section from their previous Rock of Ages album, the stripped down sound makes the songs even tighter. As for Bob, we’ll his songs have never sounded better or more vicious; the sneer in his voice on the opening track let’s you know what you are in for and the intensity is kept up throughout the rest of the album, even when he does a few acoustic numbers the anger is still there.
Is it excessive? No, of the 21 songs there’s only the 7 minute Like A Rolling Stone that is even close to be classed as excessive. The 90+ minute album flies by. Would I listen to it again? Most definitely. It’s a great time capsule of two great artists pushing each other on to do great things, (unlike the dreadful Dylan/Grateful Dead collaboration in the 80’s!). Would I recommend it? That’s another yes. You owe it to yourself to check this album out, I don’t think Dylan has sounded so good. Is there a drum solo? No.
This album is a 9.5/10 and is only bettered by the subsequent Bootleg Series of recent years. A quality live album by two quality acts. Stay safe folks and TTFN.