|The Beatles - Let It Be...Naked|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Jeff Fish|
|Tuesday, 18 November 2003|
I remember when Let It Be first came out in 1970. My brother received a copy of the album as a birthday present for his 10th birthday and I remember that was the first present that he opened up. My musical upbringing was first shaped on Feb. 9, 1964, when I saw the Beatles’ first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” so I kind of grew up with the Beatles; it was like they were always around. We all loved the Beatles back then and I still do now. This bseing said, Let It Be was never my favorite Beatles album, but I always liked the way it felt. That’s weird, considering that when you’re listening to the music, what you are hearing is a band about to break up. The Beatles changed the way people listened to music, as well as changing the way people looked at themselves and the world.
While most people think of Let It Be as the Beatles’ last album, it was actually recorded prior to Abbey Road. In the December issue of Audio Revolution, Bill Biersach wrote an excellent historical perspective of the recording sessions that lead up to the Let It Be album. The sessions were ripe with tension and a general malaise that was sucking the life out of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band of all time. The songs on Let It Be reflect this and we get treated to some of the most soulful, introspective and reflective Beatles music ever captured on tape.
Let It Be… Naked has an entirely different running order than the original album, which was originally released in May of 1970, as well as the first pressing of the CD, which was released in 1990. “Dig It” and “Maggie Mae” are left off in this release, while “Don’t Let Me Down” is a very nice inclusion. However, the main difference between this release and the original isn’t the running order or a song here or there that’s either on or off the record; it’s in the production. Gone is the Phil Spector Wall of Sound, replaced here by the simplicity that the Beatles were looking for when this project had its original genesis back in 1969. The songs that benefit most from this stripping process are “The Long and Winding Road,” “Across the Universe” and the title track, “Let It Be.” Let it Be has always been simultaneously the most overproduced and most underproduced album in the Beatles’ catalogue. The strings, horns and orchestration that Phil Spector added in the original release now seem very misplaced, but it was a much different time back then.
The beauty of hearing Paul McCartney’s piano accompanied by George Harrison’s guitar on “The Long and Winding Road” is the version that I know I will always regard as the original. This song is the biggest example of the differences between the two releases and I agree with McCartney that this version is far superior. “Across the Universe” is similarly enhanced by the simplicity of John Lennon’s guitar and voice. Gone are the backing vocals in the chorus and what’s in their place now is the natural choral effect that Lennon’s voice and guitar provide. A little reverb goes a long way to supply the depth that we’ve all become accustomed to without taking away any of its simplistic beauty. “Let It Be” is now the final song on the album (where I’ve always felt it belonged) and, again, the beauty of the song is in the hands of the Beatles. Gone are the horns and the overdriven guitar solo, replaced now by Beatles harmonies and a very soulful guitar solo by Harrison (his guitar sounds like it’s coming through a Leslie cabinet). I believe that this is the version from the movie.
The sound of this CD is much better than the one that was released in 1990. I’m sure this is partly due to the leaps in studio technology, but it is even more due to the removal of clutter from the music. After listening to Let It Be… Naked, I went back to the original just to see how different the mix was, and came to the conclusion that I prefer this new release. My one small complaint is the exclusion of “Dig It” and “Maggie Mae.” Even though they are very short songs, I don’t know why they were left off this release; I’ve always enjoyed hearing the Beatles mess around, and with the amount of material a CD can hold, I don’t know why they were left off. There is a bonus disc in this release as well, but don’t get your hopes up to hear any previously unreleased Beatle music. Instead, we are treated to about 20 minutes of Beatles studio chatter, which I always loved hearing. For any fan of the Beatles, this disc alone is worth the price of admission.
I’ll admit that I was a little concerned when I first heard about this release. Why release the album again was my question, but after listening to it several times, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the version worth buying and owning. It is a very worthwhile addition to any music fan’s catalogue and a necessity for any Beatles fan, which I think, includes all of us.