Sunday, April 7, 2013

the last waltz

The Band finally released this triple album soundtrack to the documentary film of their triumphant farewell concert appearance seventeen months after the concert took place.  After Richard Manuel was seriously injured in a boating accident, Robbie Robertson came up with the idea of a big final show because he was tired of touring:   "When we did 'The Last Waltz', the idea was let’s close this chapter, we’ve got some issues that we need to sort out – some health issues, some personal things that were going on inside the group. Not a big problem for us as a group, but there were individuals having problems. And we thought, let’s get out of the way for a minute here. Get everything sorted out. Let’s see if we can’t help take care of one another a little bit. And then when we come back together, we’ll have a freshness and we can go in and really do some good work, we can help one another do some good work. In a band like The Band if one of the wheels is flat it just throws everything off. It’s not like, 'Hey we’ll just storm right through this.' This is not a singer and a guitar player band. It really was called The Band because everybody did something quite extraordinary in it.  So this was an opportunity to do that and all the guys were talking about different projects they wanted to pursue. Garth had something he was doing called 'The Queen of Angels' with some artist in Los Angeles, and he did some beautiful things with that. Rick wanted to do a solo album and Levon had talked about that as well. I had some other things I was experimenting with. So we thought, good, this is a good way to shuffle the deck, we’ll do this and when we come back we can get these things sorted out. And everybody went off to do these things and nobody came back. But over time it looked like I put together this idea of breaking up The Band and that’s why I’m saying that was never the plan at all. We did try some things together after that, and I just found that nobody was in a hurry to show up. And I thought, well you gotta read the writing on the wall here. If everybody just has other things to deal with or mental issues that they’ve got to straighten out with themselves, it’s going to take whatever time it’s going to take. So, for that you just say o.k., let’s get out of the way and let things take their natural course. And the natural course was that nobody was pushing in that other direction, which was the plan."

The show happened at Bill Graham's Winterland Ballroom on Thanksgiving Day 1976 with more than two dozen guest musicians.  The performances featured Rick Danko on vocals, bass, and fiddle; Levon Helm on vocals, drums, and mandolin; Garth Hudson on organ, accordion, synthesizer, and saxophones; Richard Manuel on vocals, piano, drums, organ, clavinet, and dobro; and Robbie Robertson on guitars and piano. The horn section included Rich Cooper on trumpet and flugelhorn; James Gordon on flute, tenor saxophone, and clarinet; Jerry Hey on trumpet and flugelhorn; Howard Johnson on tuba, baritone saxophone, flugelhorn, and bass clarinet; Charlie Keagle on clarinet, flute, alto, and tenor and soprano saxophones; Tom Malone on trombone, euphonium, alto flute, and bass trombone; and Larry Packer on electric violin. The horns were arranged by Henry Glover, Garth Hudson, Howard Johnson, Tom Malone, John Simon and Allen Toussaint. Guest personnel included Paul Butterfield on harmonica and vocal; Bobby Charles on vocal; Eric Clapton on guitar and vocal; Neil Diamond on guitar and vocal; Dr. John on piano, guitar, congas, and vocal; Bob Dylan on guitar and vocal; Emmylou Harris on guitar and vocal; Ronnie Hawkins on vocal; Bob Margolin on guitar on 'Mannish Boy'; Joni Mitchell on guitar and vocal; Van Morrison on vocal; Pinetop Perkins on piano on 'Mannish Boy'; Dennis St. John on drums on 'Dry Your Eyes'; John Simon on piano on 'Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral'; Cleotha Staples on harmony vocal on 'The Weight'; Mavis Staples on vocal; Roebuck "Pops" Staples on guitar and vocal; Yvonne Staples on harmony vocal on 'The Weight'; Ringo Starr on drums on 'I Shall Be Released'; Muddy Waters on vocals; Ronnie Wood on guitar on 'I Shall Be Released'; and Neil Young on guitar, harmonica, and vocal.  The concert was recorded by filmmaker Martin Scorsese and released as a concert film documentary, which has been acclaimed as one of the greatest concert films of all time.  In the interim the Band recorded their seventh studio album 'Islands' to fulfill their contract with Capitol; so that 'The Last Waltz' could be released on Warner Brothers Records.  

Helm revealed:   "As far as I was concerned, the movie was a disaster ... People tell me all the time they love 'The Last Waltz', I try to thank them politely and usually refrain from mentioning that for me it was a real scandal ... Maybe 'The Last Waltz' started back, you know, during some of the disenchantment that I felt when the songs didn't reflect what I thought was the true spirit of things. So by the time 'The Last Waltz' came up, it was no secret our collaboration and - I felt - that the quality of our music had suffered. I didn't hear us getting better. I heard us, you know, doing albums with old songs that we liked, as opposed to getting in and really trying to grow a fresh crop of songs. And so I certainly didn't want to end The Band. 'The Last Waltz', you know, didn't set right with me. But, you know, there comes a time when we all want to move on, and that's what we did."

Hudson looks back:   "When I did the interviews in 'The Last Waltz', I should have sat down and written it out. I didn't know; I avoided them. I was down at 6 a.m. in the morning. I went back and there were three or four rooms - like a motel - in this house, and I took a nap and they got done with all the other interviews.  I was there and knew I had to be there, though I hated and tried to avoid it. Finally they caught me and sat me down - at six in the morning. I didn't want to say anything."

Danko considers:   "'The Last Waltz' was truly a special moment. I've been a lucky guy to be in the right place at the right time. As for the best moment- I'm still waiting for it..."

'The Last Waltz' pranced up to number twenty-four in Sweden, twenty-three in Austria, sixteen in the US, fifteen in Norway, thirteen in Canada and the Netherlands, and number eight in New Zealand. 

'The Last Waltz'

full album:

Side one
1. "Theme from The Last Waltz"  3:28
2. "Up On Cripple Creek" Robertson  Levon Helm 4:44
3. "Who Do You Love"  Ronnie Hawkins 4:16
4. "Helpless"  Neil Young 5:47
5. "Stage Fright"   Rick Danko 4:25

Side two

1. "Coyote"  Joni Mitchell 5:50
2. "Dry Your Eyes"  Neil Diamond 3:57
3. "It Makes No Difference"  Rick Danko 6:48
4. "Such A Night"  Dr. John 4:00

Side three

1. "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" Levon Helm 4:34
2. "Mystery Train" Paul Butterfield, Levon Helm 4:59
3. "Mannish Boy"  Muddy Waters 6:54
4. "Further On Up the Road"  Eric Clapton 5:08

Side four

1. "The Shape I'm In"   Richard Manuel 4:06
2. "Down South in New Orleans"  Bobby Charles, Dr. John 3:06
3. "Ophelia"  Levon Helm 3:53
4. "Tura Lura Lural (That's An Irish Lullaby)" Van Morrison 6:02

Side five

1. "Life Is A Carnival"  Levon Helm, Rick Danko 4:32
2. "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down"  Bob Dylan 3:00
3. "I Don't Believe You"  Bob Dylan 3:23
4. "Forever Young"  Bob Dylan 4:42
5. "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down (reprise)" Bob Dylan 2:46
6. "I Shall Be Released" Bob Dylan, Richard Manuel 6:22

Side six

The Last Waltz Suite written by Robbie Robertson
1. "The Well"   Richard Manuel 3:27
2. "Evangeline"  Rick Danko, Emmylou Harris, Levon Helm 3:17
3. "Out of the Blue"   Robbie Robertson 3:03
4. "The Weight" Levon Helm, Mavis Staples, Pops Staples, Rick Danko 4:38
5. "The Last Waltz Refrain" Richard Manuel, Robbie Robertson 1:28
6. "Theme from The Last Waltz"   3:22

'The Last Waltz'


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