Los Angeles Forum 1974 (Mid Valley Sampler)
Bob Dylan made very few live appearances in the late sixties and early seventies such as the Isle of Wight in 1969, the Bangladesh benefit in 1971 and a guest appearance with The Band at the Academy Of Music in New York on New Year’s Day 1972.
In 1973 Dylan moved to a new label, Geffen Records. Reuniting with The Band, who were in a creative funk after several successful albums, they released Planet Waves and a two month long tour was scheduled for early 1974. Since this was Dylan’s first tour of the US in eight years and couldn’t possibly accommodate all the ticket requests, the souvenir live album Before The Flood was released. And while the intention was to promote the new album with several new songs being played live (and even a new song that didn’t make the album “Nobody ‘Cept You,”) they were all dropped during the tour. By the time they reached the last shows in Los Angeles they were playing only older, well known songs.
The professional recording has been out before, found on The Daytime Black on Q Records (QR 23/24), re-released three years later as Saint Valentine’s Day on the “TMOQ Japan” label and Special Night-Special Guest on American Concert Series (ACS 018) contains the complete Live Aid appearance plus selections from these two concerts. Complete Before The Flood (Seymour Records SR-003/4/5/6) is a careful edit between what circulated from the professional recording and audience tapes to produce complete shows.
Genuine Collectors Item is a cheap budget release on Mid Valley containing a copy of the download of the two Valentine’s day shows, the last two of the tour. This is the soundboard tape as it appears on Wolfgang’s Vault and compared to previous releases sounds much brighter and clearer. “Most Likely You Go Your Own Way” from the afternoon show is still missing, but this has a lot of other material that was missing. Mid Valley could have edited in the missing opening from the afternoon show for completeness, but otherwise this is a commendable effort. The artwork is devoted to the old TMoQ cartoon pigs with no mention of the contents except for a simple insert with a tracklisting. Perhaps this is meant to duplicate the experience of buying vinyl bootlegs in the seventies.
The Forum, Los Angeles, CA – February 14th, 1974 (afternoon)
Disc 1 (58:40): Lay Lady Lay, Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35, It Ain’t Me Babe, Ballad Of A Thinman, Stage Fright, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, King Harvest, When You Awake, I Shall Be Released, Up On Cripple Creek, All Along The Watchtower, Ballad Of Hollis Brown, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
Disc 2 (56:40): She Belongs To Me, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, The Times They Are A-Changin’, Just Like A Woman, It’s Alright Ma, Rag Mama Rag, This Wheel’s On Fire, The Shape I’m In, The Weight, Forever Young, Highway 61 Revisited, Like A Rolling Stone, Blowin’ In The Wind
The new master tape sounds much brighter than what has been released before. It is still missing the first song of the night “Most Likely You Go Your Own Way” but does have The Band’s song “The Shape I’m In” which was missing before. So this is as complete as the soundboard recording will presumably ever get.
The tape cuts in with Bob Dylan’s Valentine Day’s greeting to the audience before playing “Lay Lady Lay,” strange song to be playing on the holiday. The set list was pretty much established two weeks into the tour and there is very little variation between these two concerts.
Dylan barks and shouts the lyrics with unbridled power for which he had been criticized before. He also takes liberties with the vocal line which can pass as self parody in some respects. This dynamic is effective in the loud and heavy arrangements of “It Ain’t Me Babe” and “Ballad Of Hollis Brown” in the first half. “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” made its live debut on this tour in stunning arrangements.
The first five songs on disc two are Dylan’s acoustic set where he presents himself naked to the audience. Three of the songs, “She Belongs To Me,” “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” and “Just Like A Woman” were staples from the 1966 acoustic set. “It’s Alright Ma” is the closing solo number and the most pertinent political statement of given the Watergate scandal and the looming resignation of President Nixon that August.
The Band play four songs. “Rag Mama Rag” is followed by “This Wheel’s On Fire” which would be dropped in the evening show. The beginning of “The Weight” is still missing from the tape so the master tape must be defective. The finale of the show starts with a rocking version of “Forever Young,” the only song from Planet Waves to survive the tour.
The Forum, Los Angeles, CA – February 14th, 1974 (evening)
Disc 3 (66:46): Most Likely You’ll Go Your Way, Lay Lady Lay, Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35, It Ain’t Me Babe, Ballad Of A Thinman, Stage Fright, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, King Harvest, When You Awake, I Shall Be Released, Up On Cripple Creek, All Along The Watchtower, Ballad Of Hollis Brown, Mr. Tambourine Man, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
Disc 4 (70:08): She Belongs To Me, Times They Are Changin’, Just Like A Woman, Gates Of Eden, Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right, It’s Alright Ma, Rag Mama Rag, Endless Highway, The Shape I’m In, The Weight, Forever Young, Highway 61 Revisited, Like A Rolling Stone, Maggie’s Farm, Bob Dylan gets Bill Graham on stage, Blowin’ In The Wind
The evening show, and the final of the tour, is much better served in this set. Not only is the sound quality superior to what has circulated before but it is much more complete. The old soundboard source has “Most Likely You Go Your Own Way” but is missing “Lay Lady Lay” to “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35,” and “Ballad Of A Thinman.” Most of Dylan’s solo set was missing with the exception of “Just Like A Woman,” “Don’t Think Twice,” and “It’s Alright Ma.” The rest of the show from “Rag Mama Rag” to the end is also from the soundboard source. This new source offers all the gaps in the soundboard and yields a new song, “I Shall Be Released,” not found on either the old soundboard or audience tape (and is missing from the Seymour release).
The tape fades in at the beginning of “Most Likely You Go Your Own Way” which is the same one featured in the Biograph boxset. As good as the opening songs are, The Band’s first set is very enjoyable. Rick Danko injects sympathy and humor in “Stage Fright” and Levon Helm adds his southern gothic doom in “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Danko and Helm take turns singing in “King Harvest.” The clarity of the recording allows for ever word to be audible to present the dramatic narrative of the masterpiece.
The first half normally ended with three Dylan songs with The Band accompanying but a fourth song, “Mr Tambourine Man,” is added for the tour finale. This is a full electric arrangement notable for Garth Hudson’s accordion adding a French musette feel to the piece.
“Gates Of Eden” is added to Dylan’s solo set in the beginning of the second half and in The Band’s set “This Wheel’s On Fire” is replaced by “Endless Highway.” In the finale set they play the same songs as in the afternoon with the addition of “Maggie’s Farm.” Before they play the encore “Blowin’ In The Wind” Dylan brings promoter Bill Graham on stage to think him for his efforts. In general this is a good production by Mid Valley for the price.