LET IT BE...NAKED REVIEW

Tom Frangione's Review at the Pre-Release Listening Party at Sync Studios, New York City (October 22, 2003)

Upon its original release in 1970, "Let It Be" was a self-described "new phase" Beatles album. That said, it is perhaps best to view this 21st century re-working as an "even newer phase Beatles album".

 

 

Basically, the overall re-tooling of the original classic results in a finished product that more closely resembles a coherent rock album than the original, which radiated the illusion of a "fly on the wall" experience, complete with impromptu jamming, between-song chatter and instrumental noodling.

By eliminating the largely ad-lib "Dig It" and the off-the-cuff Liverpool chantey "Maggie Mae", and replacing it with the solid heretofore B-side "Don't Let Me Down", the repertoire benefits significantly. While many of the basic tracks from the original album remain intact, the remixing, resequencing, editing and - above all - remastering are quite remarkable.

The improvement as purely a listening experience is comparable to the leap from the original "Yellow Submarine" album to its 1999 "Songtrack" counterpart. Without the benefit of a "home version" or A/B comparison (hence an on-the-fly analysis), here are some track-by-track observations.

Get Back: pretty much the standard version, but most noticeably missing the false ending and reprise, so the tail-off seems a bit abrupt. Sonically, it is more dry and punchy, with less reverb than the original. Paul's vocals are way up front and the crash cymbals are very crisp and pronounced.

Dig A Pony: while taken from the rooftop sessions, this is not the unadulterated take with the "all I want is ..." intro and ending as heard in the film. The drums are very well mic-ed and Paul's high harmony on the "all I want is you" mid-section is crystal clear. Guitar riffs are well separated and distinct. Again, as all extraneous chatter has been excised, there is no "thank you brothers ..." heard at the close.

For You Blue: while not listed as an alternate performance in the sparse notes afforded at the session, this for sure is a different take, or more likely an edit of the original and an alternate, similar to the version heard in the "Anthology" film (as we still get the "Elmore James" reference in the instrumental section). It raises the question of whether the original (or this version) is the edited one. Sonically, George's vocal is lifelike, and the acoustic guitar is very jangly.

The Long And Winding Road: probably the most noticeably different of any album track here when compared to its original counterpart. Paul's disdain for the original "glossy" version is the stuff of legend. The original, minus the Phil Spector orchestration, appeared on "Anthology 3". Here, we have an alternate version from the final sessions, conducted the day after the rooftop concert. Interestingly, Paul's heavy-handed pounding of the chords following the middle-eight might give an indication as to either his vision of the final production, or at a minimum, where Spector got the "and now for the big finish" idea. Musically, the take is peppered with some nice organ touches from Billy Preston and is absent the spoken "guide vocal" ("many times I've been alone...") in the instrumental passage.

Two Of Us: what will grab listener's attention immediately is the ringing (make that stinging) resonance of the acoustic guitars during the introductory bars. Throughout the song, the acoustics are given a fuller texture, almost sounding like 12-strings. The vocals are beautifully mixed and balanced and will no doubt remind listeners of how big an influence the Everly Brothers were on John and Paul. The drum break preceding the first chorus is very pronounced and heavy. Finally, the tempo between the "were going home" lines and the repeat of the song's acoustic riffs is varied and not uniform among the various breaks.

I've Got A Feeling: features a very dry and up-front vocal on John's middle section, and even more so on Paul's lead vocal on the verses. Again, we hear markedly greater detail in the drums and organ riffs. This live version definitely benefits from proper balancing when compared to the original. As noted earlier, no chatter or noodling is present in the trail-off, so it may seem to end a bit prematurely (but not "cold").

One After 909: this one literally jumps out of the gate. We clearly hear additional ad-lib vocals ("yes I did" after the "begging on bended knee"). As with the preceding track, Lennon's solo vocal in the middle eight is literally "in your face". The snap in the snare drum fills is a real treat.

Don't Let Me Down: taken from the rooftop concert, this version features tight vocal harmony from John and Paul. As anyone who has seen the film will recall, John completely flubs the second verse, resulting in pure gibberish. As the original tapes reveal, a second pass of this song was done on the roof, presumably to get a better take (unfortunately John blew the first verse on the re-take). So, the version here is certainly an edit, as it is presented "technically" correct.

I Me Mine: again a dry vocal from George, with very pronounced acoustic guitar riffs. This version is sort of a middle ground between the "raw" version that has circulated for years and the original album version. While it does have, for example, organ overdubs, they are "fills" and are subdued in the mix - not the more dominant presence as on the original album.

Across The Universe: this take starts out almost "demo-y" - just vocal and sparse acoustic guitar accompaniment. As the verses build, additional instrumentation is added. The droning effect of the tamboura is similar to that heard on "Anthology 2". This take fades out with a very spacey and echo laden repetition of the "jai guru deva" passage.

Let It Be: again taken from the final session on January 31, this take features a lead vocal mixed way up in the front, and an alternate background ("oohing" and "aahing") vocal track. This version is also distinguishable from its original counterpart via the absence of the drum rolls and fills in the final verse (and by the absence of the "bum" chord buried in the original...). Finally, this one features George's lead guitar solo as featured in the film.

 

Tom Frangione is a regular contributor to Beatlefan Magazine and contributes regularly to Beatle Brunch. Watch for Tom's Beatle Brunch Audio Page coming soon to this site! Thanks Tom!

 

Articles Archive


Let It Be...Naked is the sound of The Beatles as nature intended; raw and rocking.

"The music always surpassed any bullshit we were going through; once the count-in happened we turned back into those brothers and musicians."
RINGO STARR

"It's just us playing, in our best voices, it's very honest".
GEORGE HARRISON

"For all our success The Beatles were always a great little band. When we sat down to play, we played good".
PAUL McCARTNEY

"In spite of all things, The Beatles could really play music together"
JOHN LENNON

All this considered, the album, while brief (it runs +/- 35 minutes), may likely have appeal beyond the core audience, and that is to the affectionately dubbed "1 generation". It will be interesting to see how this new audience responds to the Beatles as a straight "rock" band as opposed to a "pop singles" act.

Of course, the core fan base remains intrigued by what will be on the 20 minute "bonus disc" that will be included in this release. This material was not played at the preview session and details were a very closely guarded secret. And before anyone cries foul that the 35-minute album and the 20 minute bonus material could fit on one CD, it looks like certain on-line retailers are going to sell the package for $12.98 (retail chains will no doubt enter the price war upon release as well). Moreover, the separation of the material is critical to the very core intent of this release ... to present a concise, no filler, coherent alternative to the original classic (the "they're rewriting history" camp need not get their knickers in a twist). My recommendation: get ... Naked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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