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The Band: Live at the Academy of Music 1971

Levon Helm: Ramble at the Ryman

The Band: Three of a Kind

Robbie Robertson: How to Become Clairvoyant

Garth Hudson Presents a Canadian Celebration of The Band

Levon Helm: Electric Dirt

Garth and Maud Hudson: Live at the Wolf

Pulse

Dirt Farmer

Elliot Landy's Woodstock Vision

LP, CD and DVD Versions of the Last Waltz


by Dror Warschawski and Jonathan Katz

Updated by Dror Warschawski after an older version by Jonathan Katz.


The 6 audio versions of The Last Waltz:

1) 3 LPs (Warner Bros. 1978)

2) 2 CDs (Warner Bros. 1988)

3) 4 CDs Complete Last Waltz bootleg box set (Cool Daddy productions 1995)

4) 4 CDs Official Complete Last Waltz box set (Rhino 2002)

5) 1 audio DVD (Rhino 2002)

6) 1 DVD (MGM 2002)

A couple of years ago, Jonathan was asking: Can I get rid of one, two or more versions? Below we compare these six versions of the Last Waltz, more as a consumers' guide than a record review. And maybe we will decide during the process whether we can unload one or several of these.

3 LPs

3 vinyls, Jonathan comments:

Some might consider this purchase, as vinyl makes a come back [note the reissue of the "Brown Album"]. Some obvious arguments for this purchase are:

  1. The warm sound of vinyl, analog recordings. My not-too-discerning ear doesn't appreciate this argument. Plus, along with all of that warmth comes surface noise that my not-too-discerning ear can in fact too readily discern. My LPs have been played to death and did not age gracefully.
  2. You may be a collector. If so, I have pity on you - your music budget must be stretched more than mine.
  3. Mostly: The artwork. The large LP format booklet contains lots of photos from the concert and surrounding studio recordings. On the other hand, there has been ample internet exposure - photos of the Band and friends are plentiful.

Additional comments that apply equally to all official releases:

  1. You might like the post-concert production. Overdubs and studio "magic" rendered these "performances" pristine.
  2. There's music that is not available on the bootleg. In particular [my favorites], the Staples doing "The Weight," "Out Of The Blue," and Emmylou's "Evangeline."

2 CDs

2 CD box set, Jonathan comments:

The three LPs are condensed onto two CDs packaged in a multi-CD jewel box - the kind that can accommodate up to four CDs and wastes my ever dwindling space for CDs. Two individual jewel boxes take less space; better would be a double CD jewel box. Warner Bros. reproduced not one, but two booklets for this product; each in CD size and filling the vacant spaces that could be occupied by two other CDs. And everything is there - all the pictures from the original and all of the text, though in a different order. But unfortunately, all of the pictures are in black and white, and the smaller CD size format makes some of them worthless. Why Warner Bros. went to all the production costs to reproduce this CD set only to skimp on the photos seems schizoid, and is beyond me. I suppose some account-minded exec reviewed the bottom line and opted for black and white reproductions to cut costs. None-the-less, its nice to have the "clean" versions of all this, particularly in light of the shop-worn nature of my LPs. 

4 CDs The Complete Last Waltz (bootleg)

4 CD box set, Jonathan comments:

Bought from Generation Records.

The Packaging:

The four CDs are packaged in an old-fashioned album - not an "LP album," but an old-fashioned picture album in CD size. The tan cloth-covered album is inscribed on the front with the CLW logo in gold. On the inside flap is a penned number. [Mine is 1580 out of 3000 produced] The 100% recycled paper in the album is grainy and a sepia-like grey. Thirty-six pages of pictures and text precede the envelope-like pages that contain the CDs. These pages are filled with: 

  1. the text of the printed announcement that was handed out to the audience on arrival [not available on the 3LP or 2 CD Warner Bros. production], 
  2. a list of the players [including the horn section],
  3. a listing of the cuts with credits [though somewhat incomplete and with a few mistakes, but you get the picture],
  4. a Band discography [with a few mistakes and omissions], and
  5. six pages of text on The Band and The Last Waltz [nothing new here]. 

Also included are 18 black and white pictures from the concert. Pictures include members of The Band - with the horrific omission of Richard Manuel. [How could that happen!?] Also included are pictures of many, though not all, of the guests.

The packaging is a metaphor for the recordings. The sound is a "concert" sound [obviously I guess - but that's not so of the official release - obviously again, I guess]. You are at this concert, with all of its moments of sheer brilliance and with all of its warts. Similarly, the packaging has grainy pictures and a cloth [almost burlap] cover. The gold embossing of the CLW logo doesn't completely cover all of the cloth - but it clearly shines through the course weave.

While the CLW is an honest rendition of the concert experience, the official release is by contrast an honest rendition of Robbie Robertson's tribute to what he strived for in his musical offerings. The CLW contains grainy pictures on recycled paper, in contrast to the shiny paper of the official CD release or the color of the official LP release. Robbie Robertson's vision belongs in the studio, and it sounds like it - it strives for perfection. The CLW puts you in the audience at the concert - eat a turkey before you listen to it and you're practically there. I love this album - buy it if you can!

The Music:

I was previously concerned about the sound quality, and I had read that there was a real need for the post-concert overdubs. But, in general, the sound is good - its got an up-front presence and it sounds like a real concert. I've spent a lot of hours listening to a lot worse on bootlegs and traded tapes and enjoyed them [even though I hate LP surface noise]. This recording compares well to most bootlegs and is as good as many "official" releases of live material.

Its all here - everything that was played, and in the order in which it was played, including the "post-concert" jams and the last song this group [in its original composition] played together in front of a live audience - "Don't Do It." Notable are: all of their classics, "Acadian Driftwood" by the Canadians [including Levon], a great version of "Caldonia" by Muddy Waters, and all of the Bob Dylan set [including "Hazel"]. 

"Evangeline/The Last Waltz" didn't come across too well; Robbie had only finished writing it that day, but it makes a great contrast to "The Weight" which follows. "Evangeline/The Last Waltz" is awkward and tentative at best, with singers forgetting words and dropping out mid-song. Its a stretch that they don't reach [hence the perceived need for a studio version on the Warner Bros. release, and the opportunity to hear Emmylou]. When the group gets to "The Weight" they romp, and its great. It must have been a relief to get past the new number and it shows. I like "The Weight" with the Staples on the official release, but I like this more. These guys are great at what they do.

Its vintage The Band in their later years, and its good - real good. But I have to air this gripe. Contrast this performance to earlier live versions of the same songs [get a good bootleg of an early performance, or if you can't get anything else, spring for the Woodstock 1969 compilation that has a few of their songs]. The older performances are open - you can hear the individual players. There is room in that music, but no dead space. The notes that they don't play are as important as the notes that they do play. In 1976 the music is crowded - every nook and cranny is filled with a frill or trill. Its as if each of the players is elbowing the others for room to be heard. Its all great playing, but you can get jostled listening to it. Maybe these guys were all just too good. There's a similar comparison to be made. Listen to "Guitars Kissing And the Contemporary Fix " [or similar vintage material] and compare it to "Before The Flood." It's the same thing - there's no breathing room in "Before The Flood." The same songs in 1966 were open and the players were able to make a stronger musical statement because there was less to hear.

A few random comments by Jonathan:

Garth Hudson.

Its been said over and over, but its no less true, this guy does so much for this music in so many ways. Listen to "Stage Fright," listen to "Georgia On My Mind," listen to any of it - he's there sitting back and laying a foundation or he's up front dazzling you. He's a national treasure.

Levon Helm.

Somebody said that Levon's drumming can make you cry. He's great - but no drumming ever made me cry. On the other hand, his voice can do it to me at will. There's real heartbreak in his rendering of "Dixie," and he does it equally well in "Acadian Driftwood" so he can project his compassion to points less close to home. At least one native son of Arkansas can feel other peoples' pain.

Richard Manuel.

"King Harvest" doesn't quite make it here, the vocal drops out at points and the utter futility doesn't project like I've heard it before, or on the "Brown Album." On the other hand, its great to hear him do "Georgia" live, and he does it well. On "The Shape I'm In" [second number] he's in fine form, spitting out the latter lines [though The Band doesn't appear to be quite warmed up yet]. It's such a loss to us that he's gone.

Rick Danko.

I thought surely that his yodel in "Stage Fright" on the official release was an overdub. And maybe it was - but the one here is just fine. He contributes a fine vocal on "It Makes No Difference" too.

[photo]

Robbie Robertson.

There's a great picture of R.R. on page 30 (see right) - demonstrating what his playing could do to drive these songs. For my money, no lead guitarist anywhere puts more passion into a song when he cuts loose.

A few additional comments by Dror:

Surprisingly, not everything is there: it may be a minor issue, but the poems (that you can see in the movie) are missing, which proves that at least some editing has been done.

Additionally, and even for the songs that were already in the LP version, the versions here are sometimes different, not only in a different order, with a different (if any) mix, but also most are much longer. Compared to the OCLW, you get 3 more minutes of blues, 2 more minutes of Joni Mitchell, 2 more minutes of Bob Dylan, 2 more minutes of "I Shall Be Released" and almost 20 more minutes of Jams (see below for details)! As opposed to other versions, the timing for each song is indicated.

4 CDs The Official Complete Last Waltz

4 CD box set, Dror comments:

The Packaging:

The packaging is very nice, there are more pictures, larger and in color. There are also more details about the songs and performers, including the original flyer, a new long text by David Fricke who has interviewed many of the "survivors" and a short text by Robbie. The spelling of "Caldonia" is corrected (! It's a famous 50s number popularized by Louis Jordan, for example).

The Music:

1) Several songs are still missing: "Georgia On My Mind" (what a pity!), the live version of "Evangeline" without Emmylou Harris (bad?), "Chest Fever" (bad?) and "King Harvest" (bad? The OCLW has the rehearsal which is good).

2) Several songs can only be found here: "The Genetic Method/Chest Fever" and "Greensleeves" (excerpts from Movie Soundtrack, not that interesting, and you can find them on the DVD), "King Harvest", "Tura Lura Lural", "Caravan", "Such A Night" and "Rag Mama Rag" (Concert Rehearsal, great) and "Mad Waltz (Sketch track for "The Well")", "The Last Waltz Refrain (Instrumental Version) " and "The Last Waltz Theme (Sketch Idea)" (Studio Ideas, interesting).

3) More important, in my opinion, is that the versions of the songs are VERY DIFFERENT:

  1. the mastering has been redone (and it sounds great).
  2. the order is different from the LPs, it is closer but still not the "correct" order (exactly how it happened) which can only be found on the Bootleg CLW. Changing the order is not a faux pas though, the same was done for Rock of Ages for instance.
  3. more or less all the songs on the 4CDs box sets (the CLW and OCLW as mentionned previously) are LONGER. They sometimes contain one more verse, an extra guitar solo or even just a few more applauses or sentences in between songs or even at the end of a song. Some are still shorter in the OCLW than in the bootleg CLW, so some editing has been done. By the way, it's funny that the new version doesn't print the length of the songs when the old one did, as if they don't want us to realize how much editing was done, you have to do the math yourself to check.
  4. the most noticeable changes, compared to the LPs, are on: "Up on cripple creek", "Who do you love", "Such a Night", "Further on up the road", "Forever young", "Baby let me follow you down (reprise)" and "I Shall be released". It was already obvious from the movie that "Further on up the road" was cut in the LP to hide the incident (Eric Clapton's guitar strap falling during a solo, Robbie taking over, then Eric finishing). What a pleasure to hear an extra verse in "Forever Young", an extra guitar solo in "I Shall be released" etc...

1 audio DVD

The Packaging:

DISC CONTENT:
Multi-channel surround sound (48 khz/24 bit) - DVD-Audio players
Advanced Resolution Stereo (48 khz / 24 bit) - DVD-Audio players
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound (remix by Robbie) - DVD-Video players
Photo gallery (125 images) - all DVD players
Song lyrics - all DVD players
WB / Rhino 8122-78260-9 (2002)

The Music:

The content is similar to the good old 2CD or 3LP set. So it is by no means complete but it is a good compromise (concert + studio songs) and it is compensated by an excellent sound, especially if you have an audio DVD player and a six speaker setup (Mike Despeghel says: On "Cripple Creek", you can differentiate Rick, Richard and Levon during the chorus. The audio gives the feeling of being onstage. Doubtless, the highlight for me is Robbie and Garth alternating solos during the final moments of "It makes No Difference". And Garth's accordion during "Down South In New Orleans" which sounded buried previously, now shines). In addition, the order of the songs has been changed compared to the old versions, to get closer to the "correct order". The length of songs are not indicated.

1 DVD

1 DVD, Dror comments:

The Packaging:

117 min, issued in May 2002, with commentary by Robbie Robertson, director Martin Scorsese and featured musicians - Featurette: Revisiting The Last Waltz, rare, unseen footage and memorabilia - 8-page booklet written by Robbie Robertson.

Of course, compared to the pure audio versions, you get the images here (duh!) and also additional interviews etc... On the other hand, with respect to the packaging, most information on the content is not given in the booklet. You can find the full script of the movie here.

The Music:

1) Many songs are missing even compared to the 3 LPs version (Down South in New Orleans, Tura Lura Lural, Life is a Carnival, a shorter Bob Dylan set and a couple of studio songs: The Well and Out of The Blue) but some excerpts are only present in the DVD (The live poems are not even in the bootleg version, for exemple, but also excerpts from studio "Old time religion", "Sip the Wine", "Genetic Method" or "Greensleeves", the latter two being included in the OCLW). "Don't do it" is included, although it was not in the 2CD/3LP set. Overall it is a good selection (29 songs), with parts from the concert, the studio songs, the final jams etc...

2) Here again, some versions of the songs are quite different:

  1. Because musician introduction is mostly visual, they have often been cut out of the official audio releases but left in the DVD, hence the beginning of the songs are longer (Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Neil Young...). Similarly, as opposed to the 2 CD set, Eric Clapton's strap incident, because it is quite visual, is included. On the other hand, to keep the movie short, all the songs are cut shorter (for example "Don't Do It" is cut during the guitar solo). Here again, the length of the songs are not indicated.
  2. The order is not the one of the actual concert.
  3. Some mixing is different. For example in "Up on Cripple Street", you can hear the second voice much better than on the CD.
  4. The studio version of "The Weight" is not the same as on the DVD, as can be heard on Rick's verse.

Contents of Different Versions

  1. Concert songs on all versions, with timing. Timing in bold is for noticeably longer version
  2. Studio songs, with timing
  3. Concert songs not on the 3 LP and 2 CD versions
  4. Concert songs only on the Bootleg 4 CD version
  5. Studio songs only on the OCLW version
  6. DVD sections that are not on audio versions (either because non musical or unique)

 3 LPs

 2 CDs  4 CDs Bootleg  4 CDs Official 1 audio DVD 1 DVD

 The packaging:

- large and color pictures

- remastered but analog sound

- shorter song cuts, not in the right order

- timing included

- many concert songs missing but all the studio songs

 The packaging:

- small and black and white pictures

- remastered and digital sound

- shorter song cuts, not in the right order

- timing included

- many concert songs missing but all the studio songs

 The packaging:

- more, large and color pictures

- more text

- bootleg but digital sound

- complete song cuts, in the correct order

- timing included

- all songs from the concert, but no studio songs

 The packaging:

- more, large and color pictures

- more text

- RE-remastered and digital sound

- longer song cuts, in a different and close to correct order

- timing not included

- most songs from the concert, all the studio songs, some extras (rehearsals, sketches, movie excerpts...)

The packaging:

- Photo gallery, Song lyrics

- Multi-channel surround sound, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound

-songs in "close to correct" order

- timing not included

- many concert songs missing but all the studio songs

The packaging:

- not much in the booklet, but of course you get the images of the movie, additional comments etc...

-most introductions of songs are a little bit longer in the movie but all songs are shorter

-the songs are not in the right order

- timing not included

-not all the songs, but a good selection both from the concert, the studio songs, some extras...

 The music:

1. Theme From The Last Waltz

2. Up On Cripple Creek

3. Who Do You Love

4. Helpless

5. Stage Fright

6. Coyote

7. Dry Your Eyes

8. It Makes No Difference

9. Such a Night

10. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

11. Mystery Train

12. Mannish Boy

13. Further on Up the Road

14. The Shape I'm In

15. Down South in New Orleans

16. Ophelia

17. Tura Lura Lural

18. Caravan

19. Life is a Carnival

20. Baby Let Me Follow You Down

21. I Don't Believe You

22. Forever Young

23. Baby Let Me Follow You Down

24. I Shall Be Released

25. The Well

26. Evangeline

27. Out of the Blue

28. The Weight

29. The Last Waltz Refrain

30. Theme From The Last Waltz

 The music:

1. Theme From The Last Waltz 3:40

2. Up On Cripple Creek 4:35

3. Who Do You Love 4:16

4. Helpless 5:47

5. Stage Fright 4:25

6. Coyote 5:50

7. Dry Your Eyes 3:57

8. It Makes No Difference 6:48

9. Such a Night 4:00

10. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down 4:20

11. Mystery Train 4:59

12. Mannish Boy 6:54

13. Further on Up the Road 5:08

14. The Shape I'm In 4:06

15. Down South in New Orleans 3:06

16. Ophelia 3:53

17. Tura Lura Lural 4:15

18. Caravan 6:02

19. Life is a Carnival 4:19

20. Baby Let Me Follow You Down 3:00

21. I Don't Believe You 3:33

22. Forever Young 4:42

23. Baby Let Me Follow You Down 2:46

24. I Shall Be Released 5:25

25. The Well 3:27

26. Evangeline 3:17

27. Out of the Blue 3:08

28. The Weight 4:38

29. The Last Waltz Refrain 1:28

30. Theme From The Last Waltz 3:22

 The music:

1. Up On Cripple Creek 5:51

2. The Shape I'm In 4:27

3. It Makes No Difference 7:30

4. Life is a Carnival 5:00

5. This Wheel's On Fire 4:29

6. W.S. Walcott Medicine Show 4:30

7. Georgia On My Mind 3:16

8. Ophelia 4:32

9. King Harvest 4:50

10. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down 4:39

11. Stage Fright 4:21

12. Rag Mama Rag 4:16

13. Who Do You Love 5:10

14. Such a Night 4:37

15. Down South In New Orleans 3:38

16. Mystery Train 7:00

17. Caldonia 7:27

18. Mannish Boy 6:26

19. All Our Past Times 5:16

20. Further On Up the Road 5:19

21. Helpless 6:10

22. Four Strong Winds 4:32

23. Coyote 6:26

24. Shadows and Light 5:41

25. Furry Sings the Blues 6:04

26. Dry Your Eyes 4:38

27. Tura Lura Lural 4:30

28. Caravan 5:57

29. Acadian Driftwood 8:03

30. Intro 5:56

31. Chest Fever 5:29

32. Evangeline 6:00

33. The Weight 4:53

34. Baby Let Me Follow You Down 4:09

35. Hazel 4:00

36. I Don't Believe You 4:52

37. Forever Young 5:24

38. Baby Let Me Follow You Down (reprise) 2:47

39. I Shall Be Released 7:16

40. Instrumental Jam #1 12:27

41. Instrumental Jam #2 17:28

42. Don't Do It 6:53

The music:

1. Theme From The Last Waltz 3:52

2. Up On Cripple Creek 5:31

3. The Shape I'm In 4:10

4. It Makes No Difference 6:52

5. Who Do You Love 4:51

6. Life Is A Carnival 4:25

7. Such A Night 4:42

8. The Weight 4:50

9. Down South In New Orleans 3:11

10. This Wheel's On Fire 3:54

11. Mystery Train 5:04

12. Caldonia 6:08

13. Mannish Boy 6:41

14. Stage Fright 4:31

15. Rag Mama Rag 4:34

16. All Our Past Times 5:01

17. Further On Up The Road 5:30

18. Ophelia 3:45

19. Helpless 5:54

20. Four Strong Winds 4:37

21. Coyote 5:28

22. Shadows And Light 5:45

23. Furry Sings The Blues 5:09

24. Acadian Driftwood 7:07

25. Dry Your Eyes 4:16

26. The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show 3:39

27. Tura Lura Lural 4:10

28. Caravan 6:12

29. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down 4:35

30. The Genetic Method/Chest Fever 2:41

31. Baby Let Me Follow You Down 2:56

32. Hazel 3:41

33. I Don't Believe You 3:29

34. Forever Young 5:51

35. Baby Let Me Follow You Down (Reprise) 2:59

36. I Shall Be Released 4:50

37. Jam #1 5:32

38. Jam #2 9:10

39. Don't Do It 6:19

40. Greensleeves 1:37

41. The Well 3:33

42. Evangeline 3:10

43. Out Of The Blue 3:20

44. The Weight 4:36

45. The Last Waltz Refrain 1:32

46. Theme From The Last Waltz 3:28

47. King Harvest 3:52

48. Tura Lura Lural 3:52

49. Caravan 6:30

50. Such A Night 5:24

51. Rag Mama Rag 3:52

52. Mad Waltz 5:30

53. The Last Waltz Refrain 0:50

54. The Last Waltz Theme 3:34

 The music:

1. Theme From The Last Waltz

2. Up On Cripple Creek

3. The Shape I'm In

4. It Makes No Difference

5. Who Do You Love

6. Life Is A Carnival

7. Such A Night

8. Down South In New Orleans

9. Mystery Train

10. Mannish Boy

11. Stage Fright

12. Further On Up The Road

13. Ophelia

14. Helpless

15. Coyote

16. Dry Your Eyes

17. Tura Lura Lura

18. Caravan

19. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

20. Baby Let Me Follow You Down

21. I Don't Believe You

22. Forever Young

23. Baby Let Me Follow You Down (Reprise)

24. I Shall Be Released

25. The Well 3:33

26. Evangeline 3:10

27. Out Of The Blue 3:20

28. The Weight 4:36

29. The Last Waltz Refrain 1:32

30. Theme From The Last Waltz 3:28

 The music:

1. Cutthroat / Don't Do It 2:57

2. Theme From The Last Waltz / Main Title

3. A Celebration

4. Up on Cripple Creek 3:34

5. The Skylight Lounge / The Shape I'm In 2:50

6. Who Do You Love 4:08

7. Canadian Overcoats / It Makes No Difference 4:39

8. Introduction to The Canterbury Tales (poem by Michael McClure) 0:25

9. Such a Night 3:29

10. Helpless 5:26

11. Stagefright 3:45

12. A Name for the Band

13. The Weight 4:22 /
Old time religion 0:51

14. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down 4:03

15. An Adult Portion

16. Dry Your Eyes 3:05

17. Women on the Road

18. Coyote 4:54

19. Sonny Boy Williamson

20. Mystery Train 3:51

21. Rock 'n' Roll Melting Pot

22. Mannish Boy 4:22

23. Further on up the Road 4:56

24. Tour of Shangri-La / Sip the Wine 1:17

25. Evangeline 3:03

26. Genetic Method 1:22 / The Music Teacher

27. Ophelia 3:03

28. Traveling Tent Shows

29. Caravan 4:57

30. Loud Prayer (poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti) 1:11

31. Forever Young 4:21

32. Baby Let Me Follow You Down 3:06

33. I Shall Be Released 3:49

34. Theme From The Last Waltz 3:22 / End Credits / Greensleeves 1:54

Bonus. Jam #2 11:42 (incomplete)

 

One more thing: Can I get rid of one or several versions?

- Maybe the LPs? But what about the artwork?

- The official release with only 2 CDs? YES!!!

- The Official AND Bootleg Complete Last Waltz? Not on your life!

-The DVD and audio-DVD? An excellent complement...

-- Dror Warschawski and Jonathan Katz


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