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LET IT BE NAKED Print E-mail
Monday, 01 December 2003
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Now, all these years later, Sir Paul is getting his wish. According to a recent press release from Apple Records: “At last as nature intended: The Beatles’ Let It Be … Naked … is the no-frills, back-to-basics album that the Beatles first set out to make back in 1969, but which was never released as they intended … de-mixed and re-mixed, un-dubbed of orchestration, choirs, and effects … to reveal the Beatles simply as what they were very best at being—just a great band.”

“If we’d had today’s technology back then, it would sound like this because this is the noise we made in the studio,” says Sir Paul. “When I first heard it,” says Ringo, “it was really uplifting. It took you back again to the times when we were this band, the Beatle band.”

Beatles fans may be surprised in several ways at what they’re going to hear. For one thing, “Dig It” and “Maggie Mae” have been deleted from the album (one wonders why, since the compact disc format allows for longer album length), and “Don’t Let Me Down” has been added (very good choice). The new lineup is as follows:

Get Back
Dig a Pony
For You Blue
The Long and Winding Road
Two of Us
I’ve Got a Feeling
One After 909
Don’t Let Me Down
I Me Mine
Across the Universe
Let It Be

Sonically, these refurbished tracks have a full texture that makes the Spectorized version sound thin and compressed. Gone are the lavish orchestrations in “Let It Be,” “Across the Universe,” and “The Long and Winding Road.” Gone, too, are the Lizzie Bravo and Gayleen Pease, the teenage girls who were fetched from the street to sing on “Across the Universe.” With the overproduction banished, the acoustic guitars in “Two of Us,” “For You Blue,” and “Across the Universe” blossom nicely, and the electric guitars on “Get Back” and “I’ve Got a Feeling” are crisp and clear. Without the choir et al we finally get to hear Paul’s subtle and tasteful piano work on “The Long and Winding Road.” My personal favorite is the clarified version of “Let It Be,” which literally brought a tear to my eye.

Scrutinizers will note “I Me Mine,” which was originally extended via tape editing from its original 1:34 to 2:26, is still thus extended. The guitar solo on “Let It Be” was already an overdub (one of two, in fact) when Spector got his hands on it. These things sound like “watchamacallits” to me.

Some Beatlemaniacs no doubt assumed, when Apple announced the release of this de-Spectorized version, that they would be treated to one of Glyn Johns’ compilations. Not so. Gone, too (some fans will add "however"), are the count-offs, the side comments, the background chatter, and the between-take banter, which gave the album a slightly informal feel. Instead, each song begins and ends as a polished production, much like the Beatles’ early works such as Please Please Me and Rubber Soul. The song “Get Back” has been stripped of the coda that had been edited onto the single version, and without applause and comments (it was one of the songs recorded on the roof at Apple) it does end rather abruptly.

The between-song chatter has been relegated to a second disc entitled Fly on the Wall. Some of it, like John’s “all the Angels come” is familiar, but most will be new to Beatles fans.

Now, to the bottom line. As John Lennon once said, “In spite of all things, the Beatles could really play music together.” It is remarkable that absolutely none of the stress and confusion that was rumbling around in the background pokes out between the notes. Love is certainly there, as is introspection, doubt, humor, musical horseplay, finesse, and perhaps most of all, camaraderie. These tracks truly represent the best of the Beatles, their considerable songwriting talents, their prowess on their instruments, and the expressiveness of their voices. Here is proof that they did not need gimmicks and special effects, and that whatever interpersonal problems were eating at them, they could put all that aside for the sake of creativity. Each and every song is different in some way from the original release, and this makes the whole experience new and exciting. I’d not want them to pare down Sgt. Pepper in the same way, but this album proves that the Beatles were first and foremost great musicians, and it’s incredibly good to hear them at it again.

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