Dylan's Radical Rearrangements of Classics Give Songs Renewed Meaning and Relevance
The live reunion of Bob Dylan and The Band during 1973-74 yielded one of the decade's most celebrated, dynamic, and astonishing tours. Captured on Before the Flood, the results portray the two artists' shared chemistry as well as Dylan's instinctive ability to challenge audiences, his group, and himself via inventive rearrangements of classics that simultaneously ward off nostalgia and renew with meaning. Said by noted critic Robert Christgau to be "at its best, [the] craziest and strongest rock and roll ever recorded," Before the Flood crackles with intensity, relevance, and unhinged performances.
There's so much new information here, this already-iconic album only gains in stature. Before the Flood now unquestionably takes its place as one of the ten-best concert releases ever made. Notes are rounded, Garth Hudson's organ claims a tube-like glow, Levon Helm's drumming possesses its own space, voices are perceptible all the way down the singers' throats, and Dylan's awe-inspiring phrasing resonates with palpable urgency. Audiophiles and Dylan fans, prepare to be astonished.
Arriving at a crucial time for both Dylan and The Band, Before the Flood is the furthest thing possible from a nostalgia trip. It's where Dylan begins his now-trademark feat of turning songs upside-down, taking risks, challenging expectations, and leaving audiences riveted to the edge of their seats in anticipation of what might come next. He sings with unabated passion, the moods spanning bitterness to jubilation. And his willingness to play fast and loose with the music gives way to compelling shifts, under-the-surface textures, complementary intricacies, and a sense of newness and discovery on par with that of an adventurer embracing total freedom.
Before the Flood buries any notion of limits, safeguards, or borders. It is an open map, each song a route begging for exploration without need or concern for exactness or an appointed leader. Collaborative in every sense, it's a portrait of six inimitable musicians feeding off one another, trusting in their past history as they hurdle towards uncharted territory, using soulfulness as a compass and opportunity as their vehicle.
Wholly different than the live episodes heard on Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert, Before the Flood is equally seminal and, from the perspective of witnessing an artist dare not only his audience but himself to break through to a new plane, even better. Utterly astounding.