Most folks don’t realize that the Capitol release of the Last Waltz isn’t an accurate representation of what went down at The Band’s last concert on November 25, 1976 at the Winterland Ballroom. Robbie Robertson took the tapes of the concert into the studio where most of the vocals and some of the music were overdubbed. Not only that, a number of tunes from the show – including a Richard Manuel-sung cover of Georgia On My Mind – were left on the cutting room floor.
Luckily, the master tapes have circulated completely unadulterated. What we’ve got for you today is the complete, dub-free, raw soundboard of the entire Thanksgiving evening show from 1976 at Winterland, running about 241 minutes. Robbie Robertson can save his version, this recording makes you feel as if you are at the show. We especially dig the urgent vocals on King Harvest and the powerful original take of Rag Mama Rag.
READ ON for a full list of the 17 tracks omitted from the official Capitol release, as found on The Trader’s Den website…
1. This Wheel’s on Fire
Co-written with Dylan and found on Music From Big Pink, this version gets a deluxe orchestra and horn arrangement by Allen Toussaint.
2. The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show
From Stage Fright, Toussaint also arranges the horns to give this a better effect.
3. Georgia on My Mind
No one can draw on their own personal sadness when singing a melancholy number better than Richard Manuel. The omission of this track from the official release is unpardonable.
4. King Harvest
Another favourite sadly left off The Last Waltz.
5. Rag Mama Rag
Dixieland seems to be the theme here. This is a radical departure from the studio version with Howard Johnson leading a horn section of clarinets and tubas with a good measure of honky tonk piano thrown in for good measure. Listed with Robbie Robertson as singer, but it sure sounds like Levon Helm to me.
Not many realise that this number is a Louis Jordan cover. Muddy Waters gets the call to do the lead vocal. Paul Butterfield adds some great harp playing to this version but isn’t listed.
7. All Our Past Times
Eric Clapton entered the proceedings with this number from his No Reason To Cry album and splits the lead vocal with Rick Danko.
8. Four Strong Winds
Neil Young covers this Ian Tyson song. It’s more interesting than “Helpless” which made the official album.
9. Shadows & Light
Joni Mitchell may be a great songwriter but she’s not a terribly strong performer. Left off the album with good reason.
10. Furry Sings the Blues
Joni Mitchell again.
11. Acadian Driftwood
A strong version with help from Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.
12. Chest Fever
Although this track was always a concert highlight, it just doesn’t work here. The heavy focus on horns instead of Robertson’s guitar takes all the guts out of it. The Band also seems uncomfortable with the arrangement. With these factors and its 12-min length, I can understand why it was excluded.
Bob Dylan gives a simplistic reading of this cut from Planet Waves.
14. I Shall Be Released
Dylan and Richard Manuel share the vocals.
15. Instrumental Jam #1
This 12-min jam starts off with a drum duel between Ringo and Levon Helm before turning into a boogie-style guitar showcase with Ron Wood, Clapton, Young, Stephen Stills and Robertson.
16. Instrumental Jam #2
This is a slow blues featuring Garth Hudson’s keyboards and lasting over 17 mins.
17. Don’t Do It
The closing song of the show and an unforgivable exclusion from the official release for that reason alone. A set meant to close out a band’s career should have contained their final notes.