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Let It Be Naked-First Review


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#1 of 66 LarryDavenport

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Posted October 20 2003 - 04:27 AM

The Beatles, Let it Be... Naked
5 stars EMI It could have been another McCartney vanity project. But, says John Harris, stripping away Spector's production and ditching a couple of tracks has let the final album shine at last

John Harris
Sunday October 19, 2003
The Observer

We'll begin with a nauseating name-drop. I first heard official word about Let it Be... Naked back in February, when I was interviewing Ringo Starr in a South Kensington restaurant. He was making his way through a dressing-free salad, sipping mineral water and attempting to promote a solo album entitled Ringo Rama ; I, of course, was set on gently nudging the conversation towards The Beatles. With commendable grace, he soon resigned himself to the inevitable: we talked about the DVD release of the Anthology series, and then he tipped me the wink about his and Paul McCartney's next enterprise: the release of a new version of the Beatles album that was salvaged from miles of abandoned tape by Phil Spector and released as their last(ish) word in May 1970.

'It's the de-Spectorised version,' said Ringo. 'Cleaned up a little. Same tracks, same people.' He emitted a confident, though slightly forced laugh. 'I've been listening to it, and it's really great. It fills my heart with joy to hear that band that I was a member of. They were just great.'

At this point, I think I nodded vigorously, keen to make it clear that I too thought The Beatles were quite a tidy act. 'Paul was always totally opposed to Phil,' he went on, '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."'

It was at this point that I decided to bring up Spector's syrupy treatment of 'The Long and Winding Road' - which caused McCartney no end of annoyance - and remind Ringo that one of the alleged reasons he had so smothered the song was to cover up the fact that John Lennon's bass part was a plunky, out-of-tune disgrace. Ringo put his cheery bonhomie on temporary hold and looked rather irritated. 'Well, people say a lot of things,' he said. 'And even playing out of tune, he played better than most.'

This is not strictly true. If you go back to Spector's arrangement, which grafts strings, horns and a choir on to what sounds like a demo, you hear Lennon indulging in something close to musical sabotage. How could stripping it all back do anything other than blow the gaff? Moreover, wasn't this the ultimate Paul McCartney vanity project - thumbs-aloft's belated attempt to pull off what his colleagues had long denied him? That lunchtime, however, was not the best setting for such harumphing.

The other week, I went to Abbey Road to hear what had been done to Let it Be . The idea that McCartney had neurotically piloted the new version from start to finish was rather scotched by my introduction to Allan Rouse, one of three studio employees who had been handed 32 reels of tape, told to come up with a new album and then left to get on with it. Much to their amazement, when he heard the final version, McCartney requested no changes whatsoever.

The running order is completely different: among other changes, this album begins with the original Let it Be's closing track, 'Get Back', and ends with the title song, which used to be track six. There is none of the dialogue that peppered the original, and a version of Lennon's sexed-up Yoko tribute 'Don't Let Me Down' has been included, thus righting the wrong whereby it was relegated to the B-side of 'Get Back'. Two songs have been placed in the wastebasket: there is no 'Maggie Mae', nor Lennon's pretty rubbishy 'Dig It'. What remains is a 35-minute, 11-track album that a) sounds like a coherent work rather than a patched-up postscript, and b) stays true to McCartney's original idea of abandoning the studio alchemy that had so defined the psychedelic Beatles and re-emphasising the fact that they were a four-piece rock group (often augmented here by Billy Preston on keyboards). By way of hammering the point home, everything has been remixed and remastered, so that the music is wrapped in both a new brightness and an added sense of intimacy. You find yourself charmed by songs that hitherto had sounded like mere makeweights. 'One after 909', written soon after John met Paul in 1957 and revived as something of a band in-joke, does not exactly represent The Beatles' greatest work, but it manages to ooze the sense of the band tapping back into the rambunctious teenage spirit of The Quarrymen. Similarly, Harrison's 'For You Blue' might be a flimsy 12-bar, but here you hear it anew, as an endearingly cute stab at the bucolic simplicity that Harrison's idol Bob Dylan had minted during the time he spent secluded in Woodstock.

Most striking of all is a new mix of 'Across the Universe', put to tape in early 1968 and included on Let it Be on account of a brief rendition in the accompanying film. The new treatment features only Lennon's voice and guitar, a smattering of tamboura from Harrison, and Starr gingerly keeping time on a bass drum. This minimalism suddenly places it in rarefied territory indeed; here, it sounds like a stargazing companion to 'Julia', Lennon's heart-stopping acoustic piece from The Beatles . As for the chief source of McCartney's three-decade heartache, Rouse and co. went for the hitherto unreleased version of 'The Long and Winding Road' used in the Let it Be movie. On the whole, Lennon's dreaded bass-playing is eerily on-the-money. Better still, the jettisoning of the schmaltz results in the squashing of the song's old air of piety; instead, it sounds like McCartney trying to soothe the anxiety that came from the keen sense that his group's bond was becoming irrevocably frayed.

The upshot of all this is clear enough. Even with George Harrison rapidly turning into a seething ball of anti-McCartney resentment, John Lennon momentarily lost to heroin, Yoko Ono sitting threateningly next to him and a film crew recording their every argument and belch, The Beatles were brilliant. Oh, and one other thought: this is the last thing Phil Spector needs, eh?

#2 of 66 Patrick Larkin

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Posted October 20 2003 - 10:08 AM

Thank you very much for the review. Posted Image

#3 of 66 Jack Briggs

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Posted October 20 2003 - 11:19 AM

Harris wrote one entertaining review there. Thanks for posting it.

#4 of 66 Rachael B

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Posted October 20 2003 - 01:05 PM

Posted Image Bravo, bravo! Encore!
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#5 of 66 Angelo.M

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Posted October 21 2003 - 01:05 AM

Bring it on...

#6 of 66 Marvin

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Posted October 21 2003 - 03:45 AM

I'm still on the fence as to whether or not to get this one but this review makes it more likely. I'm still waiting to hear about what's on the 20 minute extra disc.

#7 of 66 Dave F

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Posted November 10 2003 - 03:24 PM

Any chance of a DVD-A or SACD release?

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#8 of 66 Lee Scoggins

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Posted November 11 2003 - 01:32 AM

Great review. Thanks Larry.

Why am I now thinking that Spector is just a murdering meddler with little music sense in hindsight?
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#9 of 66 TheLongshot

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Posted November 11 2003 - 03:20 AM

Quote:
Why am I now thinking that Spector is just a murdering meddler with little music sense in hindsight?


Hey, some marginal talents need to be overproduced to be successful. Posted Image

Some things never change in the industry, and that includes meddlesome producers.

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#10 of 66 Ricky Hustle

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Posted November 11 2003 - 05:07 AM

Wow, thanks for the review. I am ALL OVER THIS CD. ALL OVER IT!!!

#11 of 66 RobBenton

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Posted November 11 2003 - 06:52 AM

This would be a perfect idea for a sacd or dvd-a release.. they have clean new masters for it and went through a lot of work already.. why not mix it for higher res and 5.1? that could really put some fire behind the formats.

#12 of 66 Dennis Nicholls

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Posted November 11 2003 - 06:53 AM

What happens when you cross Phil Spector with George Lucas?
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#13 of 66 PhilBoy

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Posted November 11 2003 - 07:32 AM

Paul's vocals on Let It Be should have Been Left Alone...

Why did Mr. Spector dilute such a fine performance ?

I like it naked !
simplicity is genius...

#14 of 66 Mitty

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Posted November 11 2003 - 03:40 PM

Haven't heard "Naked" but the general ignorance regarding Spector is pretty disheartening. Posted Image

If one claims to be a music lover and only knows Phil Spector as the guy who allegedly killed an actress and "overproduced" a Beatles record, you really oughtta do a little reading...and listening. Back to mono for you.

#15 of 66 Peter Kline

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Posted November 12 2003 - 08:13 AM

A review in the New York Times has some reservations.

#16 of 66 DanFe

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Posted November 14 2003 - 07:02 PM

Brilliant. Positively brilliant. This album used to be one of my least favorites, probably becasue of Specter. The naked version was the right one all along.

#17 of 66 Joseph J.D

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Posted November 15 2003 - 02:55 PM

I am also looking forward to this CD. I heard the naked version of the title track on the radio a few days ago and was quite amazed at how fresh it sounded to my ears. If that is an indication of how the rest of this album is going to sound, then we are in for a real musical treat.Posted Image
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#18 of 66 Jim Rakowiecki

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Posted November 15 2003 - 04:25 PM

I agree with Mitty to a large extent. Spector and the tin pan alley song writers were nothing short of brilliant no doubt about it and "Back to Mono" is fabulous. It's very sad that Phil has made the choices he has in his later life but we should at least try to keep perspective on his accomplishments and contibutions in regard to music. Like Pete Townsend Phil Spector has managed to obliterate a life time of achievement in about 30 seconds and ruin other lives in the process.
I think The real question here is did Phil Spector do something that fundamentally changed "Let It Be" from the album that the Beatle's wanted it to be?
There are only a handful of people who really know the answer to that but from what I've read so far at least two of the most important players seem to agree that Spector did something that changed the album and the new version will rectify that to some extent.
One thing I feel that got lost in the later albums was the fact that the Beatle's were a very good band. Listen to "Live at the BBC" they were brilliant, a nice tight four piece made up of excellent musicians and brilliant song writers. No need for orchestral arrangements or highly produced records they were able to shine all by themsleves. If "Naked" is able to bring that to our attention once again then I'm all for it and will gladly shell out $13.00 for it.
Any word on weather or no this will be relaesed on LP?

#19 of 66 John Watson

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Posted November 15 2003 - 10:14 PM

"Brilliant" sounds like "bright" and sounds scary, but anything that demuffles "Get Back" is worth a try.

Spector + Lucas = Battlefield Galactica?

#20 of 66 Brian Kidd

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Posted November 16 2003 - 01:29 AM

I'm just finishing listening to LET IT BE... NAKED and all I can say is, YAY!!!

While the songwriting is still uneven in quality, even the least of the songs sound leaps and bounds above anything we've ever heard before from this period. The stripped down orchestration and choice of more cohesive takes has changed this music from what I considered a bungled opportunity to what is now a worthy addition to the catalog of arguably the greatest songwriters of the 20th century.

Anyone who is a Beatles fan should not hesitate to purchase these cd's.
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