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The album was partly recorded on May 23, 1976, during a concert at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins, Colorado; the penultimate show of the tour, the concert was also filmed and later broadcast by NBC as a one-hour television special in September. (Hard Rain's release coincided with this broadcast). Four tracks from the album ("I Threw It All Away," "Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again," "Oh, Sister," and "Lay, Lady, Lay") were recorded on May 16, 1976 in Fort Worth, Texas. Neither the album nor the television special was well received.
"Although the band has been playing together longer, the charm has gone out of their exchanges," writes music critic Tim Riley. "Hard Rain...seemed to come at a time when the Rolling Thunder Revue, so joyful and electrifying in its first performances, had just plain run out of steam," wrote Janet Maslin, then a music critic for Rolling Stone. In his mixed review for Hard Rain, Robert Christgau criticized the Rolling Thunder Revue as "folkies whose idea of rock and roll is rock and roll clichés."
A representation of the earlier 1975 portion of the Rolling Thunder Revue was released in 2002 on The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue.
Despite heavy promotion that placed it on the cover of TV Guide, NBC's television broadcast of the May 23rd concert drew disappointing ratings. The album peaked at #17 in the US and #3 in the UK. Hard Rain eventually earned gold certification.
In August 2010, a source close to Dylan told Rolling Stone that Hard Rain would be issued on DVD in the near future.
All songs by Bob Dylan, except where noted.
- Side one
- "Maggie's Farm" – 5:23
- "One Too Many Mornings" – 3:47
- "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" – 6:01
- "Oh, Sister" (Dylan, Jacques Levy) – 5:08
- "Lay Lady Lay" – 4:47
- Side two
- "Shelter from the Storm" – 5:29
- "You're a Big Girl Now" – 7:01
- "I Threw It All Away" – 3:18
- "Idiot Wind" – 10:21
- Additional musicians
- Gary Burke - drums
- T-Bone Burnett - guitar, piano
- David Mansfield - guitar
- Scarlet Rivera - strings
- Mick Ronson - guitar
- Steven Soles - guitar, background vocals
- Rob Stoner - Bass, background vocals
- Howard Wyeth - drums, piano
- Technical personnel