The Band's 'Last Waltz' Takes Another Bow

Robbie Robertson at work on remixed, augmented DVD release of country rockers' swan song.

The 1978 Martin Scorsese documentary of the Band's 1976 farewell concert, "The Last Waltz," has long been considered one of the best rock films ever made. Now Band guitarist/songwriter (and film producer) Robbie Robertson hopes to make it even better.

Robertson is adding interviews of himself (done by Scorsese) to the movie's DVD release. He's remixing "The Last Waltz" in Surround Sound and contemplating adding such footage as a scene of himself writing the film's theme music.

Robertson is also cleaning up the audio for a re-released soundtrack, having never been pleased by the original.

"I was happy with the movie's sound but I was never happy with the album because I couldn't do it myself," he said last week. "The movie was so demanding that I told somebody I worked with, 'While I'm mixing the movie, you can engineer and mix the record,' and it just wasn't done properly."

The remastered soundtrack will likely feature additional songs with Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters and Van Morrison.

"A lot of stuff we didn't use on the record because it was already three albums long," Robertson said. "But now some amazing things from rehearsals are gonna make the package really terrific."

Robertson originally wanted the "The Last Waltz" re-release to come out by Thanksgiving to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the concert. But because of the digital editing and remastering that remain, the package won't be out until at least next spring, he said.

Aside from "The Last Waltz," Robertson is working on a new Band box set to replace the out-of-print 1994 three-disc, 56-track collection Across the Great Divide, which also displeases him.

"I didn't like the way it was laid out. It was uninteresting," he grumbled. "And the record company couldn't find the masters of a lot of things, so they just took them off secondary places. The integrity in what should have been done with the thing wasn't taken care of properly."

The new Band box should be available by 2002 and will include material Capitol Records unearthed while assembling the recently released Band reissues.

"The people there that specialize in lost tapes started finding all these outtakes and alternative takes I don't even remember doing," Robertson said. "The more material they found, the more I thought to myself, 'Now I want to do the definitive Band collection with lots of surprises and things I didn't even know existed.'"