WITH 'LET IT BE,' LESS IS MUCH, MUCH MORE
January 2, 2004
By ALAN K. STOUT
MUSIC ON THE MENU
Paul McCartney was indeed right.
McCartney has always said that he dislikes The Beatles' “Let It Be” album, mainly because of the strings and orchestration added to the original sessions, which were tacked on by renowned knob-twirler Phil Spector after the Fab Four decided to scrap the project. To McCartney, simpler was better, and he's been quoted as saying he simply hated what Spector did to some of the album's tracks, particularly his own “The Long and Winding Road.''
Now, with the recent release of "Let It Be ... Naked,'' the world can finally decide for itself whether Sir Paul was right, and we can hear some of the songs as he had originally hoped and intended.
As anyone who's ever seen the "Let It Be'' film can attest, the album-in-making documentary shows a disjointed band that had grown greatly apart, but the album - even with Spector's lush tweaking - always did a fine job of masking such internal problems and letting the music shine.
"Naked,'' however, does so even better.
Here, the band sounds marvelously tight, and there's a fresh energy and warmth to the tracks, which have been remixed and digitally fine-tuned. It's just John, Paul, George and Ringo, original producer George Martin and some keyboard work from Billy Preston, and unlike the film, the vibrant recording gives no indication that the group is in its final stages.
(Only "Abbey Road,'' the band's true swan song, would follow.)
“It's a beautiful CD,” said Ringo Starr in an interview with Rolling Stone earlier this year, after he first heard the “`Naked” remixes. “Paul was always totally opposed to Phil, and I told him on the phone, 'You're bloody right again. It sounds great without Phil.' Which it does. Now, we'll have to put up with him telling us over and over again, `I told you so.' "
In the same interview, original "Let It Be" engineer Glyn Johns went as far as to say that Spector “puked all over'' some of the album's tracks and added that: “If you hear `The Long and Winding Road' without all of that schlock on it, it's fabulous just as it is.''
What's most striking when listening to the stripped down version of “The Long and Winding Road'' is the beauty of the piano, which was completely lost in the Spector mix and perfectly accents the sadness of the song's lyrics. The `"Naked'' version also features a different vocal track than that of the original “Let It Be'' album. Here, McCartney sings, “Many times, I've been alone, and many times I've cried, anyway you've always known, the many ways I've tried,'' rather than ``anyway you've never known, the many ways I've tried.''
The changing of one simple word changes the meaning of the entire verse, and in some ways, changes the feel of the entire song.
There's also a stronger sense of soul on numbers such as “I've Got A Feeling,'' and of band unity on tracks like tracks like “Don't Let Me Down,'' where Lennon and McCartney, whose personal relationship was already strained, can be heard singing together in perfect harmony. The sequencing of songs is also superior to that of the original and provides for a much better sense of flow and balance.
Personally, I've never minded Spector's “schlock'' that much, and have always named “The Long and Winding Road'' as my all-time favorite Beatles number, but after listening to “Naked,'' it seems that the band's bassist may have indeed known best.
With these wonderful tracks, Spector simply should have abided by the album's title.
He should have let them be.