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The Last Waltz

[cover art]

[Last Waltz Logo] [Back cover] [CD cover] [4-CD box set] [DVD audio] [Ltd.ed. 3-LP box] [Autographed LP] [2002 poster] [40th anniversary edition] [Charts and ratings]

The Band's farewell gig was held at Winterland in San Francisco on Thanksgiving 1976. Guests from all periods of their career were invited to participate. The luminaries included Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, and Paul Butterfield. The four-hour concert was one of the most spectacular in rock history. Two hours of it were released on this 3-LP (now 2-CD) set. Utilizing horns one more time, this was the gig of the Band's life and one of the greatest in rock history. We are privileged that it exists in a form where we can hear it as often as we want.
--Rob Bowman, All-Music Guide

[Last Waltz guests] Note that the CD booklet for 2-disc version of The Last Waltz has only black and white photos while the booklet in the original LP had color photos. The entire undubbed concert was released as a 4 CD bootleg set in 1995. See also the pages for the Last Waltz video, the movie (Internet Movie Database) and the article on the different versions of the Last Waltz by Dror Warschawski and Jonathan Katz.

In May/April 2002, United Artists, MGM Home Entertainment, and Rhino Records re-released the film, a special edition DVD with a remastered and remixed soundtrack, and a remastered four-CD boxed set, all featuring performances from the concert that didn't make the original film or album. A 30-track audio DVD was also released in 2002.

The DVD contains not only the film but also previously unreleased "jam footage" featuring the Band and concert guests such as Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Neil Young, the Rolling Stones' Ron Wood, Dr. John, and Stephen Stills. Scorsese and Robertson provide scene-by-scene commentary for the DVD, and there are interviews with surviving Band members Levon Helm and Garth Hudson, concert guests Ronnie Hawkins and Mavis Staples, and various crew members and journalists who covered the event, along with a photo gallery and the original theatrical trailer for the film.

The four discs in the Last Waltz boxed set on Rhino ("dedicated to the memory of Rick Danko and Richard Manuel"), feature a variety of previously unreleased performances featuring Van Morrison, Dr. John, Paul Butterfield, and Emmylou Harris. New liner notes have been written by Rolling Stone magazine's David Fricke, and an 80-page booklet feature previously unseen photos, notes, and memorabilia.

Warner/Rhino released a two disc abbreviated version of the box set in September 2003, at about half the cost. This set doesn't include the bonus material, presenting instead just the 30 songs that were included on the original 3-LP release from 1978. It does, however, feature the same remix & remastering upgrade used for the 2002 box set and comes with a booklet containing photos & liner notes by David Fricke.

The original 30-track 3-LP box was also re-released in February 2003 by Rhino Handmade, as a limited-edition set (1500 copies) pressed on 180-gram virgin vinyl and featuring the new Robbie Robertson mixes included on Rhino's four-CD boxed set released in 2002. Each copy was individually signed by Robbie Robertson and included a lidded box and original booklet, facsimile of original concert poster, facsimile of original concert ticket, facsimile of original artist roster, facsimile of original round table placard, lacsimile of a Boris Levin painting, replica of original backstage badge, photo of each performer from the concert and a single-sheet reproduction of album cover signed by Robbie Robertson.

In November 2016, Rhino Records released four 40th anniversary editions of The Last Waltz, pairing the audio and video for the first time:

  1. 40th Anniversary Edition - Original soundtrack with newly remastered audio from the original master tapes on two CDs.

  2. 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition - Complete audio from the concert, including rehearsals and outtakes, plus the film on Blu-Ray.

  3. 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition Vinyl - Complete audio from the concert, including rehearsals and outtakes, pressed on 180-gram vinyl for the first time and presented in an ornate lift-top box.

  4. 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition - Limited to 2,500 copies, this version includes:

    • Complete audio from the concert

    • The film on Blu-ray

    • Second Blu-Ray disc including a rarely seen interview from the 1990s with Martin Scorsese and Robbie Robertson, photo gallery, and 5.1 audio mix of the original album

    • 300-page book, bound in red faux-leather with a full replication of Scorsese's shooting script, rare and previously unseen photos, set sketches, three foldout storyboards, a foreword by director Martin Scorsese, and an essay from screenwriter Mardik Martin.


Tracks - Triple LP and 2-CD sets

1. Theme From The Last Waltz MPEG3-file (94K)
2. Up On Cripple Creek MPEG3-file (94K)
3. Who Do You Love MPEG3-file (94K)
4. Helpless MPEG3-file (94K)
5. Stage Fright MPEG3-file (94K)
6. Coyote MPEG3-file (94K)
7. Dry Your Eyes MPEG3-file (94K)
8. It Makes No Difference MPEG3-file (94K)
9. Such a Night MPEG3-file (94K)
10. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down MPEG3-file (94K)
11. Mystery Train MPEG3-file (94K)
12. Mannish Boy MPEG3-file (94K)
13. Further on Up the Road MPEG3-file (94K)
14. The Shape I'm In MPEG3-file (94K)
15. Down South in New Orleans MPEG3-file (94K)
16. Ophelia MPEG3-file (94K)
17. Tura-Lura-Lural (That's An Irish Lullaby) MPEG3-file (94K)
18. Caravan MPEG3-file (94K)
19. Life is a Carnival MPEG3-file (94K)
20. Baby Let Me Follow You Down MPEG3-file (94K)
21. I Don't Believe You MPEG3-file (94K)
22. Forever Young MPEG3-file (94K)
23. Baby Let Me Follow You Down MPEG3-file (94K)
24. I Shall Be Released MPEG3-file (94K)
25. Last Waltz Suite:
(i) The Well MPEG3-file (94K)
(ii) Evangeline MPEG3-file (94K)
(iii) Out of the Blue MPEG3-file (94K)
(iv) The Weight MPEG3-file (94K)
(v) The Last Waltz Refrain MPEG3-file (94K)
(vi) Theme From The Last Waltz MPEG3-file (94K)

Tracks - Remastered 4-CD set

*: Previously unissued

Disc 1

  1. Theme From The Last Waltz - With Orchestra

    The Concert

  2. Up On Cripple Creek
  3. The Shape I'm In
  4. It Makes No Difference
  5. Who Do You Love - with Ronnie Hawkins
  6. Life Is A Carnival
  7. Such A Night - with Dr. John
  8. * The Weight
  9. Down South In New Orleans - with Bobby Charles
  10. * This Wheel's On Fire
  11. Mystery Train - with Paul Butterfield
  12. * Caledonia - with Muddy Waters
  13. Mannish Boy - with Muddy Waters
  14. Stage Fright

Disc 2

  1. * Rag Mama Rag
  2. * All Our Past Times - with Eric Clapton
  3. Further On Up The Road - with Eric Clapton
  4. Ophelia
  5. Helpless - with Neil Young
  6. * Four Strong Winds - with Neil Young
  7. Coyote - with Joni Mitchell
  8. * Shadows And Light - with Joni Mitchell
  9. * Furry Sings The Blues - with Joni Mitchell
  10. * Acadian Driftwood
  11. Dry Your Eyes - with Neil Diamond
  12. * The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show
  13. Tura Lura Lura (That's An Irish Lullaby) - with Van Morrison
  14. Caravan - with Van Morrison

Disc 3

  1. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
  2. * The Genetic Method/Chest Fever (excerpt from Movie Soundtrack)
  3. Baby Let Me Follow You Down - with Bob Dylan
  4. * Hazel - with Bob Dylan
  5. I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met) - with Bob Dylan
  6. Forever Young - with Bob Dylan
  7. Baby Let Me Follow You Down (Reprise) - with Bob Dylan
  8. I Shall Be Released (Finale)
  9. * Jam #1
  10. * Jam #2
  11. * Don't Do It
  12. * Greensleeves (from Movie Soundtrack)

Disc 4

    The Last Waltz Suite
  1. The Well
  2. Evangeline - with Emmylou Harris
  3. Out Of The Blue
  4. The Weight - with The Staples
  5. The Last Waltz Refrain
  6. Theme From The Last Waltz

    Concert Rehearsal

  7. * King Harvest (Has Surely Come)
  8. * Tura Lura Lura (That's An Irish Lullaby) - with Van Morrison
  9. * Caravan - with Van Morrison
  10. * Such A Night - with Dr. John
  11. * Rag Mama Rag

    Studio Ideas

  12. * Mad Waltz (Sketch track for "The Well")
  13. * The Last Waltz Refrain (Instrumental Version)
  14. * The Last Waltz Theme (Sketch Idea)

Review of the 4CD box set

"The road was our school. It gave us a sense of survival; it taught us everything we know and out of respect, we don't want to drive it into the ground... or maybe it's just superstition but the road has taken a lot of the great ones. It's a goddam impossible way of life" - Robbie Robertson, from the movie The Last Waltz, quoted in the box set.

Perhaps Robbie Robertson's greatest gift is how he can spin a myth, making the mundane into majestic fables. Outside of his songs, his greatest achievement in myth-making was the Last Waltz, where he doesn't necessarily overstate the amount of time the Band spent on the road, but he sure tried to make it all seem like something special, both in amount of time they spent on the road and what they've accomplished. And while he was right on the latter -- the Band did change the course of music, leaving behind records that still sound gloriously rich and out of time -- the former is a bit of a stretch since not only were the rest of the Band not exactly ready to stop touring (they would later reunite without him), it ignores the basic fact that touring is what working musicians do. They make music, they play for audiences, they keep rolling throughout the years, and many of the artists invited to participate in the Band's farewell concert -- Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, Van Morrison, Neil Young, the Staple Singers, Emmylou Harris, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan, who legendarily launched a neverending tour in the '80s -- lived the life of a working musician, performing live well past 50.

The Band was cut from the same cloth as this, but Robertson realized that the group wasn't doing themselves any good by staying on the road -- and the accompanying Martin Scorsese-directed film does suggest that the Band was indulging themselves way too much -- and that it was the perfect time to draw the curtain on the Band with a lavish concert that turned their entire career into a burnished myth, nearly as ancient and romantic as photographs from the Civil War. Hence, the Last Waltz, a farewell concert on Thanksgiving 1976 promoted by Bill Graham and turned into a timeless documentary by Scorsese, was released as a triple-album set in 1978 and finally reissued as a four-disc box set by Rhino in 2002, on its near-25th Anniversary (it's somewhere between 24 and 26, depending if you're counting performance or release, so 25 is a good compromise).

Many people call this the greatest rock movie and greatest live performance of all time. They're wrong. It could be argued that the film is among the greatest rock films -- convincingly so, actually -- but the music amplifies not just what was great about the Band, but also their greatest flaws. That is, their effortless virtuosity and wonderful organic sound is a joy to hear, yet it can be undercut by the literary pretensions of Robertson, which gives the songs and sometimes the performances an artificial, academic feel -- something that is accentuated here, since the music is being presented in an artificially romantic setting, where everything was heightened for the cinema; the Band even gives the entire enterprise a theme straight out of The Third Man. This resulted in something equally wonderful and affected, with each track having portions of both in different proportions.

On the whole, the sublime outweighs the missteps, particularly since the invited guests are by and large troubadours who enjoy playing -- Dr. John hauling out "Such a Night" (such a standard practice, it was later parodied on SCTV), Bobby Charles turning in the happiest performance of the evening with "Down South in New Orleans," Muddy Waters roaring through "Mannish Boy," Paul Butterfield playing mean harp, Van Morrison's joyous set, Dylan performing with an authority that suggests that he always thought he owned the Band. Other good moments are here -- Clapton croons his Band-supported album track "All Our Past Times" with appropriate melancholy; Neil Young turns out a sweet "Helpless"; Joni Mitchell's "Coyote" is alluringly allusive; even Neil Diamond's "Dry Your Eyes"; all are engaging -- but it doesn't add up to something transcendent, either in its original triple-album set or in this quadruple-disc box.

Part of the problem is that the concert is supplemented by a studio set -- entitled "The Last Waltz Suite," expanded to a full disc here -- that feels entirely out of place, even if it was designed to spotlight influences of the Band that weren't covered in the concert. Perhaps that's the reason why it feels so studied and affected, right down to the Staple Singers' celebrated version of "The Weight." This draws attention to one of the problems of the Band shining a spotlight on their influences -- they are treating their influences with a respective distance, not as if something that is still vital to them, making even appearances by ruffians like Hawkins seem like museum pieces. Much of the Band absorbed these influences, so some of the spirit echoes throughout their own performances, but that distance is still evident -- enough so that this music isn't transcendent, when it should be.

This is all evident in spades within the box of The Last Waltz, which is an admittedly handsome, loving production. It's not necessarily historically accurate -- the Band performed a full set before the guests show up, but here their songs are interspersed throughout the first three discs, a couple of songs are left off, and even "The Genetic Method/Chest Fever" doesn't have the latter part of the song. Still, this is as good as an historical release as imaginable, since it is expertly detailed, impeccably mastered, perfectly annotated, and filled with great liner notes and much unreleased material. None of the newly released material is revelatory -- the jams are negligible (everybody sounds like they just ate a bunch of turkey before they played), the rehearsals confirm that Van the Man really clicked with the band, the studio ideas fall flat, "Don't Do It" is as great as ever, everything inserted into the proper concert is welcome, even if it varies in quality -- but it's all good, all welcome for those that have bought the myth of the Band and, particularly, The Last Waltz.

But the box proves that the myth, in regards to the final concert, is not accurate -- for those listeners who didn't grow up with the music, or those that never thought this particular concert pulled the curtain down on a wonderful era, it's easy to wonder what all the fuss was about. Because the thing is, the people who sound the best here -- Dylan, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Levon Helm himself -- are the ones who didn't treat the road as a goddam impossible way of life, but as what a working musician does. The Last Waltz teeters between these two schools of thought, wanting to celebrate the end while blithely ignoring that musicians make music for a living -- and that's what keeps the music from truly captivating, from being essential, even if this set is perfectly assembled.

--Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All-Music Guide


  • Joe Willie "Pinetop" Perkins, keyboards
  • Staple Singers, vocals
  • Paul Butterfield, harmonica/vocals
  • Bobby Charles, vocals
  • Eric Clapton, guitar/vocals
  • Richard Cooper, horns
  • Neil Diamond, vocals/guitar
  • Mac "Dr.John" Rebennack, keyboards/percussion
  • Bob Dylan, vocals/guitar
  • James Gordon, horns
  • Emmylou Harris, vocals/guitar
  • Ronny Hawkins, vocals
  • Jerry Hey, horns
  • Howard Johnson, horns
  • Charlie Keagle, horns
  • Tom Malone, horns
  • Bob Margolin, guitars
  • Joni Mitchell, vocals/guitars
  • Van Morrison, vocals
  • Larry Packer, violin
  • John Simon, keyboards/horns
  • Dennis St.John, drums
  • Ringo Starr, drums
  • Muddy Waters, guitar/vocals
  • Ron Wood, guitar
  • Neil Young, vocals/guitar
  • Wayne Neuendorf, engineer
  • Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, engineer

The Last Waltz - The Band - (129:06) - 1978 - Warner Bros. 3WB-3146
Triple album in single sleeve with booklet enclosed.

A sampler (DJ) version was also released in 1978 (Warner Bros. PRO-737)
Compact disc (2 CD set): Warner Bros. 3146-2 (198?)
Remastered 4-CD set w/bonus tracks and 80 page booklet - 2002 - Rhino Records/ Warner Bros. 78278
DVD audio - 2002 - DVA Rhino 78260/ Warner Music Vision
Ltd. edition vinyl 3-LP 30-track set with guitar picks, photos and replicas of a poster, ticket and backstage pass - 2003 - Rhino Handmade RHM1 7801
2-CD abbreviated version of the remastered box set: Warner/Rhino 73925(2003)

AMG Rating: Best of Artist

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