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4.3 out of 5 stars157
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 31 January 2004
"Let it Be" is the Beatles' most controversial record, given the roiling tensions within the group and with producer Phil Spector. We all know that this album was initially titled "Get Back" and recorded before the monumental "Abbey Road" LP. Paul McCartney never liked the idea of Spector, known for his sweeping orchestral arrangements, tampering with the group's sound. He had major issues with the string arrangements on tracks like "The Long And Winding Road" and "Across the Universe" which even some critics say were a bit overproduced and glossed up. Well, 33 years after that release, "Let it Be" is re-issued sans Spector's production, and it very much sounds like the raw rock album McCartney probably wanted. This is especially evident on tracks like "The Long And Winding Road" (a de-Spectorized version of this track can also be heard on the Beatles "Anthology 3") and George Harrison's "I Me Mine." But the tracklisting here is different. For one, there's the excellent "Don't Let Me Down," which was previously available only on the "Blue" and "Hey Jude" compilations. This version is definitely more rough in tone, with the guitars projecting with more force than I remembered. So is "Let it Be" better naked or with clothes on? Personally, I like both versions equally. Fans who have been clamoring to hear this album "as nature intended" will definitely have their curiosity satisfied. It was never really the group's strongest effort, but it's still a noteworthy album from a group whose influence can't be overestimated.
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If you have ever been fortunate enough to watch The Beatles Anthology, then it should be easy enough to assess that Paul McCartney, for all his wonderful talent, is an absolute control freak. For good or bad, this is a trait that drives perfectionism, and in the case of 'Let It Be... Naked' it was a chance for the guy to go back and, essentially, recompile one of The Beatles most interesting albums.

Was this needed in the first place? I guess that comes down to personal taste. Whilst I enjoy many tracks on the original Let It Be album, there is something incomplete about the whole project, and that's quite understandable when one considers the pressure that Phil Spector was under to sort out the mess of tapes and recordings made. I don't rate Spector highly as a producer, but the disarray of the band can't have helped his position.

Then we arrive at one important factor; no matter how much a listener dresses it up, 'Let It Be... Naked' is essentially Paul's album. The fact that he may suggest this was how it "should" have sounded is only backed up by his own satisfaction, and not the other band members. This is a stark, but simple truth.

Either way, 'Let It Be... Naked' is actually a very nice template, to put it one way. From start to finish the experience is a lot tighter, and perhaps more satisfying as a narrative rather than the more disjointed feel of the original. That's not to say it doesn't have its faults however, for although the arrangement and choice of songs is an improvement, I feel that some of the actual changes in production do no favours to those songs.

'The Long and Winding Road' is a good example, for it sounds weedy and makes lesser impact. Shortening 'Two of us' and changing the arrangement was also a disappointment, as was the softer 'Get back'. For the most part however, the rest of the album sounds very familiar. 'Don't Let Me Down' just sounds rushed, full stop.

This album is by no means an essential addition to your collection - it simply offers one mans take on how the original 'could' have turned out if all the band members weren't AWOL. For that reason it is in context a nice product considering that it has reproduced from original tape elements, but I feel a greater satisfaction listening to the original release. It's rawer production values give a greater feeling for how the band members were composed at the time, and that is something no re-release should gloss over.
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on 7 November 2003
Whether you love or hate the original "Let It Be" ...personally I found it a good album but by no means one of their best...this release is a product of McCartney's determination to set the record straight on how the album should have sounded.
Whilst he was absolutely right to remove the 2 Lennon abherrations ("Dig It" and "Maggie Mae")replacing them with the vastly superior Lennon song "Don't Let Me Down" listeners will not necessarily prefer the simpler versions of the other songs.
Ultimately its a matter of taste - the orchestrated original v the McCartney alternative is for you to choose. For myself I'm a Beatles fan so I'll take both as they are both good & serve a purpose!!!
*The extra CD of the Beatles rehearsing is great by the way!
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VINE VOICEon 27 November 2003
Here is my unfinished review of “Let It Be…Naked”. I'm going to make two versions of it, decide they're both rubbish and shove them in the drawer for a year, after which I'll hand my rough notes over to Phil Spector for him to edit with a pair of garden shears. Which is more or less what The Beatles did with “Let It Be” originally.
It must have been difficult in 1969 having to compile an album from hours of material by a band who, whilst sounding much less ragged than rumours alleged, were not (except Paul) over-enthusiastic about the “Get Back” film and album project, or each other. Glyn Johns’ first version tried to replicate the documentary nature of the film, with a lot of studio chat etc. On his second go he put together an album not so far removed from “Let It Be…Naked”, but people were still not sure and the whole project was shelved. They may have thought it was too meagre a follow-up to the creative outpouring of the White Album just a few months earlier. Whatever the reason, the poison chalice was handed to Phil Spector in 1970, and he had the unenviable task of revisiting old, rejected material to create an album retaining the fly on the wall documentary feel of the film whilst also being a cohesive set in its own right. He also had to try to satisfy the warring factions of a defunct band that had effectively collapsed when that material had been recorded. Unusually for Spector, he was actually a bit hesitant, so he gave some tracks ill-fitting new clothes and left others “naked”, and left in some chatter too. The result was a ragbag of mismatched ideas and missed opportunities. It was neither a half-decent back to basics collection nor a full-blown studio set. John thought it was okay, Paul hated it. EMI stuck it in a box with a big booklet, which the NME promptly described as a cardboard tombstone. And that was the end of that. Until now.

Hearing “Let It Be…Naked”, you wonder why the band was reluctant to put out something along these lines in 1969. It might not have scaled the artistic heights of the White Album but it would have had the “authenticity” they were seeking, and they had scored a number one single with “Get Back” that spring. But that’s hindsight for you. So why is “Let It Be…Naked” better than “Let It Be”? It has a better running order than the 1970 version, and with Phil Spector's production removed, and some careful remastering, it sounds a lot livelier. It wasn't just Spector’s inappropriate addition of strings etc to various tracks, it was his rather heavy handed production style generally that spoilt the original release. You wished someone had said at the time, “Come on Phil, you're not producing the Ronettes now.” All the chat between tracks has been removed too. I thought I’d miss some of it but I don't think I will and I doubt if the 1970 version will get much play now we have this alternative.
Paul has made a big fuss in the past about "The Long and Winding Road" in particular, even though the song is just candyfloss really. Now though, you get to hear George's guitar on the track, rather lovely, far preferable to Spector's violins. The stripped down "Across the Universe" now displays its delicate beauty. The track had been messed about in two versions on two albums before: first with unconvincing wildlife sound effects (for a WWF charity album) and dodgy backing vocals from a couple of fans dragged into the studio on a whim, and secondly with Spector's burying techniques. The rockers like "I've Got a Feeling" and "Dig a Pony" now have the raw edge they always deserved, and Lennon's "Don't Let Me Down" from the legendary rooftop session takes its rightful position in place of the fillers "Dig It" and "Maggie Mae". "Let It Be" itself appears with a more restrained guitar solo than the previous album version. That makes four officially released versions of the track, all slightly different, so I’m looking forward in a couple of years to a new release, “Let It Be…Twelve More Takes”. George’s “I Me Mine” is now freed of Spector’s syrupy strings and rocks in a lean, hungry fashion. “Get Back” retains its rollercoaster appeal. It escaped largely unscathed in 1970 but it makes much better sense as an opener, not the concluding track. The title track is the perfect finale at last.
After the cleaning operation “Let It Be…Naked” achieves the ragged glory previously obscured by Spector’s haphazard bolt-ons. It may not be the Beatles’ finest hour, and people might argue for hours in the pub as to when that was, but it is now a respectable conclusion to a momentous body of work.
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on 23 May 2014
I think people miss the point about Let It Be. It wasn't just another lark thought up by the Beatles because they could; they didn't want to tour but, consciously or subconsciously, they realised that, if they were to have any chance of continuing as a band, they somehow had to get back to playing as a band. That - as the rooftop concert showed - was the solvent that cut through their growing differences and animosities, and brought them together again. Maybe inevitably, it didn't work out. The thing that made the band great, their high expectations of one another, was the very thing they were sick of; each wanted to be answerable to himself alone.

This is why the idea I've seen a lot on the web, that 'their next album would've been awesome', is a fallacy. Of course their next album was Abbey Road, and it *was* pretty awesome. But you can't stick together the best bits from their solo albums and call that the lost Beatles album. Lennon simply couldn't have done things like Mother or God, or McCartney Man We Was Lonely, with the group; they didn't fit the Beatles' style and, being so personal, were difficult to present to the others. Easier to record them privately in a room and then release them to a worldwide audience. Several of them were in fact tried out for Let It Be, but didn't make the cut; instead, for both this and Abbey Road, John and Paul took refuge in relatively evasive, emotionally neutral fare (only George, arguably, told it like it was with I Me Mine). If it had meant less, if they'd been content to let it all hang out, pass no comment on each others' work and simply act as session musicians, they might (as someone suggests) have continued as a money-making machine, like the more cynical, less creative Stones; I for one am not sorry that they didn't.

But I digress. As a result of the way the Let It Be sessions petered out, they never really signed off on these songs - never got to the point where they were happy to release them to the world. Beatles fans will know that Phil Spector was then brought in to perform an industrial laminating process on several tracks, to make them (as it was felt) presentable. It's easy to be dissatisfied with the result, but not so easy to see what to do about it. Engineer Glyn Johns had already tried to cobble together an album from the studio material, but the band weren't happy with it. You may not like the Wall of Sound but the fact is that the slower songs did need *something* else, something extra - and the band realised that at the time. Fed up of the whole thing, they just couldn't face doing it.

This album is therefore not 'the way it was meant to be' except perhaps in the Beatles' heads, before they actually started recording. With takes in some cases edited together and 'cleaned up' in various ways, it's not the way things actually were either. The one number which is definitely better here is The Long And Winding Road - but I bet even now McCartney thinks, 'that's not the way I imagined it'*. The title track, which did get a proper production job from him and George Martin, is not improved by stripping those elements out. Across the Universe, on the other hand, will never amount to much no matter what anyone does with it.

The other point missed by most of these reviews is that these are not just remixes; in most cases they are actually different performances, different 'takes' by the band. I guess a lot of people just didn't notice, but it's something I would have liked to know before buying. The versions of Let It Be and Long and Winding Road featured here are very similar to those in the film, but I don't know whether they're the same ones; frustratingly, the accompanying notes are of no help whatever.

(The aim of the package, with its snippets of carefully-chosen studio byplay, seems to be to promote Beatles mythology rather than help you get to the reality. Presumably disk 2 is so short because they could only find 20 minutes of the band being nice to each other! Even so you can hear the tension behind the politeness, and Paul's mounting exasperation at the others' refusal to get down to work properly.)

The Beatles had become masters of presenting their albums, and making them seem greater than the sum of their parts. That's another element you lose here: with the changed running order (it was far cleverer to end on Get Back, which inexplicably also loses its drum-introduced coda) and the removal of Dig It and all the studio bumff ('I Dig a Pygmy, with Charles Hawtrey and the Deaf Aids...') this ironically seems less of a coherent album than before. An alternative Let It Be, yes, but not a better one. Beatles-sceptics (not me!) might even say that it only further exposes some already slightly sub-standard material. As they say, you can't go back...

*It's interesting that these days, when he does the song live, McCartney replicates Spector's string part fairly closely.
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on 28 October 2003
I was a lad of 16 when I scraped some money together from my newpaper round to buy the original Let It Be (in fact, it was the limited boxed version with the Get Back book - now worth lots of dosh), and I could never understand why the film of Paul singing The Long and Winding Road shown on Top Of The Pops (the sequence recorded at in the Beatles' Saville Road basement) was bare, and without the Spector strings. It was the single version. Then it became clear that the fabs had given up on the project and had given over the job to Phil Spector, who went and lushed it up un-necessarily.
I'm really, really glad that this is now being released in this form - and doubly glad that Don't Let Me Down is being included. This is one of Lennon's finest songs, and the band were on great form that day. Let's not forget Billy Preston's splendid contributions, either - probably the reason why the four were on their best behaviour. From what I've heard of this already (and, let's be honest, what true lifelong fan hasn't heard these tracks in one shape or form even in bootleg mode) it's got to be worth the full five stars even before hearing this remixed and re-engineered album.
Perhaps we'll see the release of the film on DVD one day? It's years since I saw it in the cinema, and I haven't seen it on TV since the late 70s.
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on 17 November 2003
The Long and Winding Road at last as it was meant to be heard - enjoy George Harrison's lovely Leslie toned guitar, now audible. Across the Universe still cannot reach the heights of Julia but is restored to being a serious song rather than the late hippy kitsch of the Spector version. I have only had one listen so far and these are the stand-out tracks to me. Since nobody is settling scores any more, the mocking intro to Let it Be has been scrubbed. I never wanted to buy the original Let It Be because of the sad story behind it and I am so happy this version has come out. Well done Apple.
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Paul McCartney hated what Phil Spector did to 'Let it Be' so much that eventually he had it remixed, rethought and reissued. This is the result, and Paul was right.

This album is much better thought out than 'Let it Be'. Starting with 'Get Back' is a much stronger opening. Losing the two snippets of John Lennon fooling about and putting in 'Don't Let me Down' was definitely the right decision. It's bizarre that 'Don't Let me Down' was excluded from the original album. The extra 'heavyweight' track makes for a better value-for-money package. It is an amalgam of two versions recorded during the 'rooftop concert'.

The songs stand up well in their simpler arrangements. In some it makes little difference. In others it makes all the difference. ''The Long and Winding Road' is the key beneficiary.

It's really sad that this version of the album wasn't the original version. As the last released Beatles album it would have been a much sweeter ending. If you have to choose one version of 'Let It Be' to own, I recommend this one. It's the better of the two.
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on 23 June 2007
I really can't understand the negative reception this album has received since its release because in my opinion it is the best presentation of the Jan 69 sessions currently available; take it from someone who has the original Let It Be and both Glynn Johns Get Back mixes.
Whatever McCartney's motivation for revisiting these sessions after 30 years it is certainly more honourable than Lennon's decision to give them to Phil Spector behind his back in 1970. At least what we have now is closer to the spirit of the original concept of 'Honest Recordings with no overdubs' than the 1970 version. Lennons behaviour in relation to this album was neglectful and you only need to listen to his Rolling Stone interview of the same time for proof of how little he regarded both the Beatles legacy and his former partner. He did soften his view on both in retrospect before his death but only the most blinkered of Lennon fans could think he was right to give these sessions to Spector, and allow them to be released as a finished work complete with his awful bass playing on Long and Winding Road. At least McCartney can't be accused of releasing sub standard work complete with technical blemishes.
What we have here is a far more listenable album than the original, the team of Abbey Road engineers have really done a great job. We have the definitive version of Across the Universe, which is just simply gorgeous. Don't Let Me Down replaces Maggie Mae and Dig It and being a composite of the two Rooftop performances the version is more robust and soulful than the version that was released as the b side of the Get Back single. The version of I Got a Feeling presented here is again a composite of both the Rooftop performances and the improved mix really highlights Billy Prestons electric piano. The remastering job is ok with maybe just a little too much noise reduction for my ears, would have been nice to let it breath a bit more but that's remastering post year 2000 Abbey Road style for you. My only real Gripe is with bonus disc which I feel was a missed opportunity, it really should have been a bit longer and contained a few more snipits of tracks that were tried out but eventually appeared on the bands subsequent solo albums, Lennons Gimme some Truth, Harrisons Isn't It a Pity and McCartneys Maybe I'm Amazed were all tried out during these sessions. I'm not convinced that the full Rooftop performance would have been a better option unless you particularly want to listen to 3 different versions of Get Back and 2 of I Got a Feeling to name but a few.
4 stars because the material is clearly not of the same standard as Rubber Soul, Abbey Road etc but I certainly have listened to this more in the last few years than I ever did the 1970 version.
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on 1 March 2007
I cannot stress how sceptical and reticent I was when this was released. I thought "Why bother?" In my opinion, "Let it Be" was always something of a B-grade Beatles album, a mish-mash of doodles with some faulted gems within the Phil Spectorised structure and production. Having heard "Cum Back" and various other bootlegs too, I could only think that this was Paul McCartney tinkering with something that to all intents and purposes should be left alone, let go of.

How wrong can a person be?

I have to admit that this is an amazing piece of work, not only in terms of the albums track order and restoration, but it is the quality of the writing, the stripped-down,unadorned beauty that this release has in spades. I am quite amazed at how for the first time in thirty odd years I can listen to these songs and hear how great they really are. make no mistake, we've all heard "Winding Road" and "Let it Be " to death but not like this. mcCartney's vocals are so surprising in that they are quite perfect and magnificent, something I'd never quite heard before. The fact that these are as recorded in the studio, untampered with and without overdubbing simply confirms that this is nothing short of a near masterpiece. If you are a fan, I urge you to buy it and you will not be disappointed. It's like hearing a whole new thing, like a veil of mush and clutter has been lifted away from something so beautiful that it is shocking to realise what a butcher job Phil Spector did on this in 1969/70.If you are not a fan I am sure you will be after this. Oh, and by the way, "Across the Universe" is breathtaking and moving. Buy it today!
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