THE LAST WALTZ DIRECTOR:Martin Scorese PRODUCER: Robbie Robertson MGM ENTERTAINMENT 1003426 THE BAND The last Waltz REISSUE PRODUCER: Robbie Robertson ORIGINAL PRODUCER: Robbie Robertson Warner Bros.
No beloved rock band has retired with more class than the Band, who called it quits on the original, 16-year incarnation of the group with The Last Waltz, a superstar-studded celebratory concert on Thanksgiving Day 1976. Band leader Robbie Robertson designed the event not only as a celebration of his group but of its father figures and brethren in the various styles that came together to make American music; in effect, the concert was also a goodbye to the common spirit of the late '60s, as the Band's generational peers—including Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young, among other onstage guests—were also moving on to more insular careers. A quarter-century on, it is more of a blessing than ever that Martin Scorsese was on hand to film the concert and various illustrative backstage and soundstage interludes. The movie and the corresponding live album have languished in the years following their rather desultory reissues on VHS and CD, but MGM and Rhino have finally given The Last Waltz the landmark treatment it deserves: The restored film has seen a new theatrical release this spring, with a deluxe DVD-Video to accompany at retail; also out is a lovingly remastered, expanded four-CD boxed set (as well as a version of the title on DVD-Audio). The Last Waltz DVD-Video restores one of the greatest rock films ever, with treasurable performances by the Band alone (including the definitive take on "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down") and in tandem with such guests as Dylan ("Baby, Let Me Follow You Down") and Muddy Waters ("Mannish Boy"). The DVD-V extras include audio commentaries by Scorsese and the musicians, plus a behind-the-scenes "featurette." The richly illustrated and annotated CD boxed set includes all the music from the original three-LP release, plus previously unreleased concert tracks and various outtakes that reveal Robertson and bandmates Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko, and Richard Manuel in rehearsal. As with the film soundtrack, the music on the CD has been remixed as well as remastered, with the sound vastly improved over the original abysmal CD issue. There are many bittersweet aspects to experiencing The Last Waltz —not the least of which is the passing of Manuel and Danko. Ultimately, though, it's a rock'n'roll totem that never grows old.—BB