Robbie Robertson on his best albums, from The Band to Dylan

The "mathematical guitar genius" on his greatest work

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Northern Lights – Southern Cross
Recorded at their new West Coast home base of Shangri-La, this has a strength and unity that belies the fact that The Band are beginning to fracture. It’s the last Band LP of new material and features two of Robertson’s most moving songs, “It Makes No Difference” and “Acadian Driftwood”.

Islands [1977] was outtakes and B-sides, really, just completing an obligation to the record company. Shangri-La was just another home-made studio situation. We lived near it in Malibu so it was convenient, especially if we were working late at night. We had privacy and it worked fine. It’s still there – Rick Rubin records a lot there. While we were making the album we were doing pretty good, but the writing was on the wall. The end was on the horizon. Things were drifting. It was becoming a little bit harder to coordinate what we needed to do, people came in late or wouldn’t show up, and it felt like the interest level in what we were doing was fading. And it continued to do so after that, which is when I decided I wanted to do The Last Waltz.



The Last Waltz
(Warner Bros, 1978)
A mighty document of The Band’s star-studded final concert on Thanksgiving Day 1976, the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese’s legendary concert film remains a high-water mark for live albums. Features crackling performances from Dylan, Van Morrison, Neil Young et al.

The show was pulled together in a brief period. It’s a miracle it happened the way it did, it took everything we had. The planets were aligned, because there were a million things that could’ve gone wrong but it was meant to be. Everyone played real good and rose to the occasion in an extraordinary way. Of course, one of the big things besides the talent on the screen was having Martin Scorsese supervising the movie. It set a barometer for a decent live music film. Afterwards I had to concentrate on the movie so [John Simon] did most of the LP mixing. A few years ago when they re-released The Last Waltz in 5.1 I went in and remixed the record and added 24 outtakes. It was vinyl in the old days and you couldn’t fit everything on. I did it all over again as I was never completely satisfied with it and now I am.


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