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Spotlight On: The Beatles – Let It Be... Naked

A classic album gets stripped down to the basics.

by Dr. Spin
November 14, 2003

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Spotlight On: The Beatles – Let It Be…Naked_Dr. Spin-A classic album gets stripped down to the basics Everything the Beatles have released since 1964 has caused a stir. The last great influx of Beatlemania came with the 1996 release of the Anthology series, which came with the hype of two new Beatles’ songs (demos the late John Lennon made and the surviving Beatles finished), and some never released material. Since then, a remix of an Elvis tune became a number one hit, and the Beatles have remained idle, until now; and there is a buzz again.

In 1969, the Beatles sat down to create a “back to the roots” album, tentatively titled Get Back. During the recording sessions, the Beatles allowed a film crew to film the process for a documentary. The sessions dragged on, and the Beatles, weary and growing tired of each other, began to get bogged down. Eventually the project was canned, and the Beatles regrouped to record Abbey Road (actually their last recordings). A year later the Beatles broke up.

Meanwhile, the film crew finished its post-production and got set to release their documentary, “Let It Be.” Because the majority of footage was taken during the unfinished album, the Beatles hired legendary producer Phil Spector to create a “soundtrack” for the movie, going through hundreds of hours of music to create one last album. In 1970, it was released with the same title as the film, and Let It Be became the last Beatles album proper.

Though the other Beatles were relatively pleased with Let It Be, Paul McCartney was aghast with what Spector had done, especially on “The Long And Winding Road.” Spector had brought his famous “wall of sound,” adding strings and a chorus. McCartney felt the song got “buried,” and for years mused about re-releasing the entire album the way the Beatles originally recorded it. Over 30 years later, McCartney finally gets his wish, as he and fellow surviving Beatle Ringo Starr (with approval from the late George Harrison) have released Let It Be... Naked.

Let It Be... Naked is a phenomenal album, and goes a long way to prove McCartney right. Gone is all of Spector’s noodling and over-production; what remains is a crisp, clean album, raw and more vital than we ever suspected. It is truly amazing what we haven’t heard all these years. We can hear the sad, soft piano of “Long And Winding Road,” the acoustic strumming in “I Me Mine,” and simple elegance of “Across the Universe.”

Gone also is all the studio chatter and two songs, “Dig It” (which was more just a clip from a free-flowing jam) and “Maggie Mae” (sort of a half-song). Replacing them is “Don’t Let Me Down” (originally not on any album). The track order has also been rearranged, with “Get Back” opening the album, and of course, “Let It Be” closing. I must admit I do miss the studio chatter, especially the “I hope we passed the audition,” quip at the end of “Get Back,” and I don’t exactly agree with the new line up (especially having “I Me Mine” follow “Don’t Let Me Down”), but perhaps that’s because I’m so used to the old version.

On the whole, Naked is a great album; it gives new life to the Let It Be sessions, and puts the material on par with Abbey Road. It is also a testament as to how far production has evolved since the days of the Beatles. Aficionados of the band (and I include myself in this group) will want to have both versions of Let It Be. I myself have adopted the idea that Naked is the real album, and the original is the “soundtrack” to the film. Now, if only we could get someone to re-release the film on DVD...

Note: Let It Be... Naked will be released in the U.S. on November 18, 2003.

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