Friday, May 27, 2011

Let It Be - The Beatles



Let It Be
The Beatles
Apple AR 34001
1970

This is the rare case where I prefer a CD to a vinyl album as far as this music is concerned.  When I want to hear this, I listen to CD bootlegs of "Get Back," Glyn Johns' original mix and sequencing of this album and if not that, then I listen to my CD of  "Let It Be...Naked".  Actually if I really wanted, I could find those on vinyl, I've seen some really handsome vinyl bootlegs of Johns' version but they were crazy expensive and I'm always dubious about the pressing quality of vinyl bootlegs.  There is a vinyl version of "Let It Be...Naked" but it is also kind of pricey, especially since I'm not all that crazy about this music to start with.  When you hear the early versions of this album, you realize it had the potential to be something special, the Beatles unplugged and unpolished in all their glory and charm.  You read these comments about how Lennon was fed up with George Martin and all his producer's tricks, but then he rejects this record and brings in Phil Spector of all people, a guy who does producer's tricks in his sleep?  Even before he became a murderer, I loathed Spector.  I think he may be the single most overrated figure in the history of rock and roll.  I consider the Wall of Sound to be idiotic - the Ronettes and Darlene Love would have sounded better if they had recorded for Motown or Atlantic.  Spector delivered the worst Leonard Cohen album ever and sucked all the life out of George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass."  His "fixing" of "Let It Be" is a joke, I'm completely on Paul McCartney's side in this regard.  "Let It Be" was never going to be a masterpiece, but even you or I could have taken those tapes and come up with a better album than this.  I hate the Spectorized version of "Across the Universe," even the speeded up version for that charity record sounds better to me.  His padded and overdubbed version of "I Me Mine" is irritating too.  Perversely he trims "Dig It" to practically nothing, I don't think it is a great song, but the longer versions are fun, something this record needs more of particularly after Spector turns "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road" into hymns.  Hearing stripped down versions of those songs is so refreshing.  I loathed "The Long and Winding Road" until I heard the Glyn Johns version which I found quite touching.  Admittedly McCartney deserves some of the blame for the fussiness of "Let It Be" since the single version was approved by him and it already shows the heaviness that mars the track for me, the raw version prepared by Johns is once again the one I like best although I do think the overdubbed Harrison guitar solo on the official album version of this track is one of his best Beatles solos.  The songs from the rooftop concert mostly emerge unscathed from Spector's meddling.  They are "I've Got a Feeling," "I Dig A Pony" and "One After 909."  I like them all and think they best reflect the original spirit of the album.  "Two of Us" sounds pretty raw and is all the better for it.  When I was young and naive, I thought the song was an expression of comradeship between John and Paul, but I later found out it was inspired by Paul and Linda's long journeys up to his farm in Scotland.  Nonetheless I like the warmth in the shared vocals between John and Paul, you'd never guess that the end was near.  "For You Blue" is fun and charming, both rarities in the dour George Harrison canon and I love Lennon's slide guitar playing.  "Go Johnny go" indeed.  The album ends with the enduring "Get Back" which is my favorite song on the record, Lennon's closing comments about passing the audition acquire almost unbearable poignancy since this is the last song on the last real Beatles album.  Spector does deserve credit for including those little snippets of chatter throughout the album although the idea originated with Johns.  You can't change history, but this is such an unfortunate way for the group to end, this solemn, gloomy record is so unlike the joyous music the Beatles made during their career.  Anyone who has seen the movie "Let It Be" or read the accounts of its production knows what a miserable experience it was for all concerned, but miraculously Glyn Johns managed to make a fun and compelling record out of it.  If only the Beatles had realized it, they could have ended on a much more positive note.  Instead they delivered it to this heavy-handed coffin maker and made a record I find so depressing it almost makes me relieved that they broke up.  Recommended to Ray Conniff fans. 

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