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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Beatles: Let It Be


THE BEATLES: LET IT BE (1969-1970)

1) Two Of Us; 2) Dig A Pony; 3) Across The Universe; 4) I Me Mine; 5) Dig It; 6) Let It Be; 7) Maggie Mae; 8) I've Got A Feeling; 9) One After 909; 10) The Long And Winding Road; 11) For You Blue; 12) Get Back.

I am going to go for a little change of protocol here. Technically, Let It Be was the last original Beatles album, since it was released on May 8, 1970, exactly one month after the infamous McCartney press release about his leaving the band. It was also the last album on which three out of four Beatles (no Lennon) recorded a new version of an older song (George's ʽI Me Mineʼ, with the final sessions dated to January 1970), and most of the mixing was done in March/April 1970 by Phil Spector. Naturally, most discographies and review sets place it at the end of the line. Be­sides, it's called Let It Be. The title track is called ʽLet It Beʼ. How could there be a more perfect title and a more perfect title track for the Beatles' swan song?

But, ironically, the first rehearsal of ʽLet It Beʼ took place on January 3, 1969, at a time when tension was already running high, but there was no thought yet of an actual break-up — and the song was never intended as a musical testament, as it is quite easy to see from the lyrics. On the contrary, it is a pacifying piece, maybe even a subconscious plea for everybody to just take it easy. Which no one did, unfortunately, because by early 1969, Paul's «take it easy» was unequivocally under­stood by everyone as «take it easy and just do as I say», whether he really meant it or not.

The «finished» album may have come out in 1970, but in 99% of all possible ways and manners, it belongs in early 1969; and props must be given to Spector for preserving much of the attitude of early 1969. Upon release, Let It Be was heavily criticized for sounding ragged and unfinished, but that is exactly what the Beatles' musical grip was at the time — ragged and unfinished. If you ever saw the movie, you might even get the feeling that the Beatles themselves were quite ragged, although much of this has to do with the cold London climate and the necessity of getting up ear­ly in the morning to participate in the filming.

I have no reason to doubt that Paul's complex plan to revitalize the band was undertaken with the best of all possible intentions. Unfortunately, it just proved what many might have felt all along: namely, that being a genius composer does not automatically make you eligible for «smart poli­tician». Probably the most correct strategy at the time, if one really wanted to preserve the band as a single entity, was to take a break — let everybody's nerves cool down after the already hea­ted White Album sessions, invent alternate outlets for everybody's individuality, maybe even settle on part-time solo, part-time collective careers. Instead, less than two months after The Bea­tles was finally launched, Paul was pressing the band back in the studio, and how.

The idea of getting «back to the roots», playing much of the material «live in the studio», like they did in 1963, without giving in to studio trickery where each band member would sit in his own cubicle, turned out to be disastrous. For one thing, it'd been a long, long, long time since they ever did anything like that — two or three years at least. Listening to the early takes of Let It Be material, or watching the Twickenham footage in the movie, shows just how painfully rusty, and, at times, quite sloppy the results came to sound. For another, it actually involved spending more time in the presence of each other, and an increased necessity of compromising — some­thing that was much more easily done in 1963 than in 1969.

And finally, it was just plain wrong. It is one thing to abandon an idea that did not work, and re­trace one's steps back to the previous level when things were going all right. But the concept of «getting back to the roots» from a level that you have perfectly mastered is nothing short of ridi­culous. (Four years later, a similar change of mind would forever destroy the «hipness» of Eric Clapton). Simply put, Paul's plan was completely doomed from the start, and it also laid to rest whatever hopes there might have been of the Beatles eventually sorting out their mutual problems. In a way, Paul did kill the Beatles with the «Get Back» project — injecting a lethal dose of cama­raderie instead of a careful, step-by-step treatment.

Still, the Beatles could be fairly great even at their collective worst, and for demonstrating that, we have to say a big thank you to Phil Spector. These days, mostly due to active counter-pro­paganda on Paul's part, his role in the album is usually remembered as that of «the guy who put those corny strings on ʽThe Long And Winding Roadʼ, but I am completely on John's side of the debate: strings or no strings, Spector took the chaotic, confusing, incoherent mass of tapes from the January 1969 sessions and made the best of them. And, furthermore, he did not merely select the «cream of the crop» — he somehow managed to convey the dishevelled, tense spirit of the sessions, while at the same time avoiding showing us all of their blandness. In other words, Let It Be manages to be a glorious mess, as compared to the depressing mess that we can now officially observe in the outtakes included on Anthology 3.

Paul's original idea was to record the final version live, and Spector actually respected that intent: although only four songs were included from the «Rooftop Concert» — the culmination of the whole enterprise — there is certainly a live feel to the entire album, conveyed by the inclusion of snippets of dialog, pseudo-announcements ("I Dig A Pygmy, by Charles Hawtrey and the Deaf Aids! Phase One, in which Doris gets her oats!"), and little odd bits like the band launching into an accappella comic rendition of ʽDanny Boyʼ at the end of one of the rooftop numbers. Throw in such snippets as ʽMaggie Maeʼ and a little slice from the large ʽDig Itʼ jam that introduces ʽLet It Beʼ, and the informal, messy feeling is complete.

It does not necessarily help, because the ʽDig Itʼ jam is pointless, ʽMaggie Maeʼ is just a moment of occasional silliness, and the jokes and adlibs are only funny for the first time. But it provides some authenticity. There is no way that Let It Be could ever demand to be included into a Beatles  «Top 3» or something like that, anyway — so, if this is going to be a relatively minor release, one might as well throw on something special that would indirectly hint at why it is a minor release. Sure, the best explanation would probably have to be the heated McCartney / Harrison studio ex­change, captured in the movie, but that's carrying it a bit too far. We're happy enough with Len­non's self-ironic "thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audi­tion" at the end of the album. Would there ever have been a reason for asking that question on any previous record?

Still, there are at least three fully accomplished, well-produced, «completed» Beatles classics on the record — one of John's (ʽAcross The Universeʼ) and two of Paul's (the title track and ʽThe Long And Winding Roadʼ), which is already more great stuff than there is on... er, Yellow Sub­marine. John's song is intentionally «transcendental», and probably the quintessential «trans­cen­dental» Beatles song altogether — again, not without irony, considering how this stately, grace­fully flowing, humbly meditative anthem was written and recorded at the height of the Beatles' personal quibbles and quabbles. Discussing the religious ecstasy of ʽLet It Beʼ is hardly necessa­ry, although I must mention that this particular version is my personal favorite, compared to the sin­gle release and the movie take — because of Harrison's decision to make the solo a little more dynamic and «screechy» by going all the way up before elegantly coming down again.

As for ʽRoadʼ, well... frankly speaking, the song is not one of my favorite McCartney ballads anyway, so it is hard for me to say whether it works better or worse with Spector's strings or with­out them. It's got plenty of romantic pathos in its original incarnation anyway, so if it is the «cor­niness» that annoys the listener, it's right there from the beginning. If, however, it is the amaze­ment at yet another impeccable piano/vocal combination from Macca's heart that you're after, the strings arrangement hides neither part of it from you.

Of the «rooftop» numbers, ʽGet Backʼ is the only one that approaches the same level of accom­plishment, and for good reason: the band must have spent plenty of time working on the song in the studio, to get locked in such a tight, ideally directed groove, with Billy Preston on electric piano as the star of the show. Arguably McCartney's greatest contribution to the restrictive world of the boogie — that stomping, cavalry-charging rhythm seems so simple when you come to think of it, but somehow, nobody ever did it just like that before. Had all of their new songs come out sounding thus easy-going and inspired, the message of "get back to where you once belon­ged" might not have been wasted on the band.

The bad news is, instead of going on another creative rampage, a lot of studio time was wasted on remembering, rehearsing, and re-recording old standards — from ʽBlue Suede Shoesʼ to ʽBesame Muchoʼ — none of which had any reason to appear on the final album, and none of which, for­tunately, did. The only exception was made for the Beatles' own ʽOne After 909ʼ, a song they'd originally tried to record at least in 1963, and now replayed it «rootsy-style» on the rooftop. It's funny, and they had lots of fun playing it, and it features an original Billy Preston piano part with a cool «electronic» ring to it... but for some reason, I've always enjoyed the original version more: the slower, more relaxed, laid back original matched the sarcastic lyrics better than the rooftop version, which tries to kick more ass in a rowdier way. Besides, John and Paul's voices do not mix up all that well on the live performance.

On the other hand ʽI've Got A Feelingʼ is, to me, the forgotten gem on the album. It makes for a classy, fresh, inspiring start of Side Two; it's got one of the band's best ever «looping» riffs; it's really two songs alternating with each other and then locked onto one another; it has George Har­rison playing the nastiest licks of his career at 1:25 into the song (and it's hilarious how he never managed to get them quite right in the Twickenham Studios part of the footage — and then got it so perfectly once the band was finally on the roof) — and even the lyrics make sense, because it is... well, it's probably the world's finest ode to human ability to feel. In that respect, it's funny how, in this battle, it is Paul who is the herky-jerky one, whereas John is all but playing the Dalai-lama on the "Everybody had a hard year..." part. Down with stereotypes!

Sure, the album feels incomplete. Some of the songs are objectively underworked — George's ʽI Me Mineʼ, fantastic as it is, lasted all of 1:34, and Spector had to replay the same section twice to bring it to a more logical completion (with brass overdubs on the second verse so it wouldn't feel too obvious). John's ʽDig A Ponyʼ gives the feeling of leaving too many melodic lines unresolved, as if he wasn't given enough time to complete all the sections. ʽFor You Blueʼ feels a little naked, too, although I love the song dearly because of its odd combination of sounds — John playing lap steel and Paul getting it on with an electric piano that seems to have been dragged out into tropi­cal sunlight and left out to dry for twelve hours straight (I almost physically feel dehydrated my­self each time after the performance).

But let us also remember that, much to the Beatles honor, they realized it full well themselves: this is why the final album was indefinitely shelved, as the band regrouped itself for the final ef­fort of Abbey Road, and this is why it was only released after it became clear to everybody that a brand new studio album from the Beatles was not forthcoming. Let It Be is a self-acknowledged failure, with a few moments of utter brilliance and some moments that are not quite up there (but, goes without saying, still better than 99% of the... well, you know). It should not be passed off as «just another Beatles album» — it is in equal parts a Beatles album and a historical document, and should be taken as such.

Which brings me to my last point: the recent re-invention of Let It Be as Let It Be... Naked is little more than a postmortem curio (I'm not saying «cash bait», because the process of messing around with the tapes again may have meant much more to Paul than simply an extra sour­ce of revenue). By discarding the Spector «innovations», taking out the «live» bits and snippets, and reshuffling the tracks, the Naked version tries to pass it off for «another Beatles album» — but it doesn't work that way. That Beatles album never existed in the first place. And I have no interest whatsoever in hearing ʽTwo Of Usʼ without the "I dig a pygmy...!" introduction, or ʽOne After 909ʼ without the ʽDanny Boyʼ bit.

Particularly the latter. Watch the Let It Be movie and you'll have to agree with the obvious: through­out that cold and miserable January of 1969, the happiest moment in the Beatles' col­lective life happened during those forty minutes of playing on the roof — fueled by the genuine excitement of it all and the impending danger of getting their heads smashed in by the police. The more of those minutes we have included on our copy of Let It Be, the better it makes us feel — realizing that the whole venture was not a complete waste, after all. At the very last mo­ment of his crazy plan, Paul finally had it going right. Too bad that forty minutes of playing live in the cold never got around to compensate for twenty days of misery that preceded it. Not even Billy Preston helped in the long run.

I can only hope that future re-editions of the Beatles' catalog will never succumb to the mistake of replacing the original Let It Be with the Naked version — although, perhaps, both have a reason to exist. To me, the Beatles are interesting not only as masters of the pop hook, but also as live human beings with a juicier feel for the universe than my own, and I sense their presence as such much better on the original album than on the sterilized «remake». Not that it's a matter of life and death or anything — screwing around with a Beatles album is nowhere near as dangerous as screwing around with the multiplication table — but on that little grading scale of life's tiny nit­picks it at least feels more important to me than the Greedo controversy. Am I wrong in thinking that Paul McCartney is more precious for humanity than George Lucas? You tell me.

Check "Let It Be" (CD) on Amazon

26 comments:

  1. I just have some thoughts on the break up of the Beatles because I can't add much to the musical discussion after your flawless analysis.

    First of all, you are right, Paul, in all his best intentions, destroyed the group. I've read nearly every Beatle biography under the sun, and what I've taken away is that George, John, and Ringo had a sort of 'whatever' attitude towards continuing the Beatles, while Paul REALLY wanted it. Perhaps if Paul backed off the pedal a bit, allowed George and John to make some solo albums, and didn't put so much weight on movies and live performances, the group would have just continued to meet every 2-3 years in the studio to make a quick album like they did with 'Abbey Road.' In the end their differences never seemed to be a question of friendship, but rather that of business and personal ambition. The bullshit of the 'Let it Be' film and album, coupled with the Allan Klein fiasco, was the real destruction of the group, not really Yoko or Linda. These events led to a decade of bitterness that left no real possibility of a Beatles reunion in the 70s, but the 80s was a whole different ball game. John was very much involved and aware of the 'Anthology' project, which had been in the works since 1970, and supposedly, the plan was for a reunion on some Beatle anniversary in the mid 80s. Here are incredible Yoko quotes,

    "Just days before his brutal death, John was making plans to go to England for a triumphant Beatles reunion. His greatest dream was to recreate the musical magic of the early years with Paul, George and Ringo...(he) felt that they had travelled different paths for long enough. He felt they had grown up and were mature enough to try writing and recording new songs."

    Pretty incredible, no?

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  2. Not wrong at all. George Lucas has great ideas, but left to his own devices he cannot marshal them properly - see the prequels. Paul benefited from the other Beatles' influences, but he could certainly hold his own.

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  3. George,
    Long time follower of your reviews. Another fantastic review (as usual)! I have a few factual corrections for you however.

    First off, "Across the Universe" was actually recorded a full year earlier in early '68, as part of the same sessions that gave us Lady Madonna and Hey Bulldog. The song was written when they were followers of the Maharishi (which makes sense given all the meditation-centric lyrics). So it wasnt really written and recorded at the height of their personal squibbles, it was written and recorded when they were rushing to catch the Marrakesh express! Phil Spector slowed the take waaaay down and added strings etc. As seen in the movie, the Beatles were practicing the song with the intention on re-recording it, but they never did.

    Secondly, the version of Get Back thats on Let it Be is not a rooftop performance. Its actually a studio version (recorded on Jan 27th, the day after the single version was recorded interstingly). Phil Spector dubbed in rooftop clips at the beginning and end to make it seem like it was the rooftop version. So they did spend alot of time perfecting that groove in the studio and this is actually one of those rehersals.

    Thanks for all the great reviews!

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    1. Also, its actually not an eletric piano that Paul is playing in For You Blue - its a regular piano thats been distorted all to hell. They did the same trick in Lady Madonna actually.

      Was the distorted piano in For You Blue an example of Paul looking for a different sound, or just really crappy microphones in Apple's makeshift basement studio? You decide!

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    2. Yep, thanks for the corrections. The mikes did capture the rest of the instruments properly, so it must have been intentional. The "normal piano" takes sound far less intriguing.

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  4. I really dislike the whole notion of Let It Be...Naked. Really, all that Paul did was remove every single aspect of the record that came from Phil Spector. He used the same takes, edited together the same way even. He just removed all traces of Phil Spector from the album. Interestingly, this album was timed right when Phil was on trial for the murder of that young woman!

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    1. Don't Let me down sounds different from single version.

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    2. Don't Let Me Down wasn't on Let It Be though, it was only a single. Phil Spector didnt produce the original version of Dont Let Me Down because the single came out in 1969 and he wasn't involved yet.

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    3. >I really dislike the whole notion of Let It Be...Naked. Really, all that Paul did was remove every single aspect of the record that came from Phil Spector. He used the same takes, edited together the same way even. He just removed all traces of Phil Spector from the album.

      Wasn't that literally the entire point?

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    4. You're wrong, JeffGutman - the 'Naked' album is NOT merely the "same takes" - quite obviously "I've Got a Feeling" and "The Long and Winding Road" are both different takes (in the case of "Feeling," an edit of an alternate rooftop take grafted onto the original album take). Title track has portions of an alternate take.

      How could "every single aspect" of the Spector production be removed - in your words - when you point out that some of the edits are, in fact, Spector's work (including the missing intro for "Dig a Pony" and the lengthened "I Me Mine)? Not "all traces" of Spector have been removed.

      And why continue propagating the notion that McCartney himself was somehow personally responsible for the production of the "...Naked" album? He wasn't. There was a team of people working on it. McCartney DID NOT do the actual dirty work of producing the remixed, re-edited takes on "...Naked."

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  5. Two more comments, George:

    The solo guitar part in Ive Got a Feeling at 1:25 is actually John. You can see Paul teaching him the part in the film during the rehersal scenes and John's looks overwhelmingly annoyed.

    I thought it was interesting to learn that Jefferson Airplane performed a rooftop concert one month earlier (Dec 1968) in NYC. I wonder if the Beatles were inspired to do their concert after hearing about Jefferson Airplane's?

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    1. Don't think so. George is always credited on lead guitar for 'I've Got A Feeling' in every source I've seen. In the Twickenham part of the movie, the camera is on John, but they are sitting next to each other and are really playing that descending line simultaneously. The final take is all George, I think.

      The Jefferson Airplane thing is probably a coincidence, but who knows. I thought the Beatles settled on the rooftop just because it was the easiest thing to do out of all the ideas proposed for the live finale.

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    2. I think you're right George! All these years I thought that John played that lick in Ive Got a Feeling - mostly because of the way the footage is edited in that scene in the movie where they're practicing the part. In the rehersal footage, they keep cutting to John while the part is being played. But on second thought, the actual tone of that guitar part is entirely the tone George had during the rooftop concert. Good call!

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  6. Dean "I Disagree..." LaCapraraMay 30, 2012 at 7:14 PM

    This feels like their swan song to me, since at least one new song was recorded (the great "I me Mine" was only rehearsed the year before) and Spector completed others unfinished by 1970.
    Quality-wise, only "Pony"/"Feeling" are disappointing while the short pieces of side one are decent filler. Love the orchestral aspects of Paul's anthems plus "Universe."
    A fitting end considering all the problems they faced, splitting up before deteriorating like so many bands have.

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  7. I've never had a problem with this album, to be honest: many people seem to really hate it or disregard it with a weird passion. The weird-looseness of the album (perfectly captured by Phil Spector, as George pointed out, and ruined by the perfunctory and rather mean spirited "Naked" mix, which I dislike) is a first in the world of the Beatles. Yes, the "White Album" had a wild ruggedness to it but that seemed more like a conscious decision. The ruggedness here comes from the material, the playing and the weird atmosphere.

    And from Spector himself, who, in spite of his horrific personality, personal life and the stupidly tragic end of his life, was an amazing producer. Not JUST because of his wall of sound (though that's his calling card) but for his ability to capture the feeling of a recording session and translate it to an album.

    Blame him for the strings? Blah: I honestly feel that's a bit of a McCartney "in hindsight" complaint. People complain about the strings (not one of my favorite Paul songs but the strings at least give it an epic, tragic feel) so Paul says "oh that was all Phil!"

    I find it hard to believe that Phil would do something like that against the will of the artist, even though he was an egomaniac and a lunatic.

    The reason I feel this way is evidenced by his "production" on "Plastic Ono Band." Where are the generic swooping strings? The wall of sound? Non-existent and I believe that's because a) John probably told him he didn't want that on this record, though Phil would later provide him with that on later albums and b) Phil realized himself that it wouldn't suit the material. As a result, the album sounds like a highly polished demo.

    Anyways, yeah fuck "Let It Be Naked" nonsense. The songs are still good but they lose the charm of the original album.

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  8. Trying to Rewrite history George? :P

    What I mean to say is that, yes this album was created before Abbey Road, and, yes, we'd all have liked Abbey Road to have been the Beatles wonderful swan song; but, in the minds of the public and the record buyers, it was Let it Be that was the Beatles final farewell, warts 'n all. I know it's a pedantic quibble, but it was a peicemeal kind of ending for the band with this album, and this was the final album in every other respect other than chronologically.

    Anyway, personally I vote for I've Got a Feeling as best track.

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  9. The problem with I've Got A Feeling is that my horribly addled brain now instantly associates those words with that godawful Black Eyed Peas song that used to get played on the radio every 10 minutes.

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  10. When I made my personal definitive Let It Be mix on iTunes, I used songs from Anthology, Let It Be and Let It Be...Naked. Even then it leaves me with an incomplete feeling.

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  11. Sorry George, but this time I have to disagree with your review. The 'Let It Be' album is a mess, but not a glorious mess like the White Album, but an awful mess in which the most sloppy sounding Beatles songs sit uncomfortably close to their most overproduced tracks ever. In this case I feel that the finished product is less than the sum of its parts.
    I don't enjoy either the many Lennon's adlibs stuck at the beginning and end of nearly all McCartney songs, it seems like a desperate attempt to fool listeners into thinking that John was still leading the band, and a personal insult to Paul. To follow the title track, reportedly written by Paul as a tribute to his mum with a drunken ditty about a prostitute of Liverpool is beyond tasteless. Again, it's shocking to hear how much worse than the single version is Spector's mix of 'Get Back, when both versions used the same take. And whatever happened to George's guitar on 'For You Blue'? You hear that delightful intro, and suddenly that guitar is gone.
    It's a pity because I think The Beatles really did wonders, when you take in account the fraught circumstances under which this album was recorded, and that it was recorded in just ten days, what they did with the left-overs and some unfinished snippets of the White Album is nothing shirt of amazing.
    Had it been properly mixed and sequenced it would be a damn good LP. Not their best but still a worthy addition to the catalog.
    I did too my own custom-made version of 'let It Be' with which I'm quite happy, I think it has a better flow to it. This is the track order:

    01.Get Back (single version)
    02.The One After 909
    03.For You Blue (Let It Be Naked)
    04.Two Of Us
    05.Maggie Mae
    06.Don't Let Me Down (single B-side)
    07.I've Got A Feeling
    08.Dig A Pony
    09.I Me Mine
    10.The Long And Winding Road (Anthology 3)
    11.Across The Universe (WWF album)
    12.Let It Be.

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  12. I'm gonna have to defend the naked side of the argument here, I mean I agree that the record lost a bit of it's humour/liveliness but aside from that the naked album is (imo) an overall more solid album, almost every song song is better than its counterpart be it in production or a better take altogether, the album is indeed transformed from a "second-rate Beatles album into one more worthy of their legend".For proof check out 'the long and winding road' a completely different take which is a lot more beautiful and free of Spector's cheesy orchestrations with a breathtaking piano solo, I can really see why Paul was so upset, also 'For You Blue' sounds completely different as you can really hear the drums (especially in the intro) and Harrison's guitar. As for the title track, this is my favorite version (which also appears on the movie) as the solo here feels to me much much more melodic and sincere. All in all, I think this album suits the 'Back to Roots' idea much more efficiently and I think Paul was quite justified in making this version.

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  13. Just a mention here for the widely-bootlegged Glyn Johns "Final Mix", as authoritative as any subsequent mix (and my personal favorite). Avaialable always through torrents or the usual internet evil-doers.

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  14. It drives me crazy when people blame Paul for wanting the band to do what a band is supposed to do -- create music and play live. Gosh, how outrageous of Paul to want to do that. And the fact is, George and John were grown men who AGREED to make Let it Be and then behaved like snotty sullen teen-agers throughout the recording process. They didn't HAVE to agree to make the album, but once they did agree to be there, sheesh, be a pro, stop whining, and get down to business. Or quit. But they chose to be in the studio and then they chose to whine about it endlessly. Question: Why do people always attack Paul's behavior during the Let it Be period yet never cast a spotlight on how badly John and George behaved?

    Second, I actually prefer Let it Be Naked to Let it Be. The track order is better. The inclusion of Don't Let Me Down is essential. And the removal of Spector's heavy production on Long and Winding Road and the removal of the children's voices on Across the Universe vastly improves both songs. Finally, the three John-Paul tracks in a row (Two of Us, I've Got a Feeling, and One After 909) make for a powerful one-two-three punch about the intensity of their collaboration. What's not to love?

    I don't miss Lennon's snotty asides (usually directed at Paul's songs) at all. Let it Be Naked puts the focus back on the music -- and not on John's self-absorption and need to have the attention focused on him all the time.

    -- Drew

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  15. P.S. I think John wanted all those spoken bits included on Let it Be because otherwise it becomes obvious that his own compositions on this album are really, really weak, compared with Paul's. Those spoken bits serve as a distraction. They're a way for John to demean Paul's songs when the real story of this album was how little John contributed to it, substantively.

    -- Drew

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  16. But the big question, left unanswered: is this a "two thumbs up" review or not? ;-)

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  17. I don’t feel as strongly about the “Naked” version as you or everyone else does, apparently. Although it doesn’t really meet the original back-to-the-roots objective, neither does the Spector version, obviously. Part of the problem is, as you mention, the Beatles had evolved into professional studio perfectionists, which was in direct conflict with the boo-boos-and-all concept. The thin, anemic takes of some of the songs on Anthology 3 reemphasize the point -that album would have sucked. However, “Naked” is a pretty good compromise – it’s just a different way of looking at the songs, and, in some cases, it improves on them. For what it’s worth, here are my choices:

    “Two of Us” – a very slight edge to the Naked remix for clarity, but it’s essentially the same.

    “Dig a Pony” – not a great track, but the guitar is a bit louder and stronger on Naked.

    “For You Blue” – like the extra acoustic guitar overdub and the louder piano on Naked.

    “The Long and Winding Road” – I agree, one of Paul’s weakest Beatles song. I’ve HATED Spector’s schlocky arrangement since I was 12 (although, as Spector has correctly pointed out, Paul has used similar arrangements when playing the song live, like on Wings Over America and Live in New York City 2009, for all his complaints). I go with Naked here, too.

    “I’ve Got a Feeling” – I can’t really tell the difference between the original and the remix. I also agree a fun and much underrated song.

    “One After 909” – same here. Naked is a bit louder, I guess.

    “Don’t Let Me Down” – another one that was never a favorite of mine. The single version is my preference – the Naked version is a little too rough.

    “I Me Mine” – Spector’s idea to lengthen the song was great, and the orchestration adds drama without overdoing it. The original album version, by a hair.

    “Across the Universe” – I’m probably in a minority of one here, but I actually think the Anthology 3 version (Take 2 from 2/68) is the best. The one guitar and the phasing effects pull off the perfect combination of simplicity and other-worldliness that is a bit atypical for the Beatles. On the other hand the WWF/Past Masters version may be George Martin’s single worst production job. Unusually sloppy. However, the other two versions, but with and without the choir, are nice, too.

    “Get Back” – the single version, hands down. The coda pushes the song into a truly classic Beatles track - -why did they feel they had to chop it off for the album?

    “Let it Be” – the Spector mix. Phil pushed George Martin’s horn arrangement from the single to the front of the mix without overwhelming the song. The Naked mix seems, well, more naked without it. Plus, Phil chose the stronger, more intense guitar solo from the two on the mulititrack master.

    And I have to agree – even at their most dispirited, the Beatles could still make fine music.

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  18. The long and winding road version of Naked is much better than the original. Paul's Two of Us (about his one day trips with Linda, not about the early days of his friendship with Lennon, like some many people think)is also more impressive, without John's intrusive spoken bits.

    I'm totally agree with Greg, when he said:P.S. I think John wanted all those spoken bits included on Let it Be because otherwise it becomes obvious that his own compositions on this album are really, really weak, compared with Paul's. Those spoken bits serve as a distraction. They're a way for John to demean Paul's songs when the real story of this album was how little John contributed to it, substantively.

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