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Last Updated: Friday, 21 November, 2003, 10:36 GMT
Let It Be - no strings attached
By Chris Heard
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Let It Be... Naked is a remixed, stripped down version of the Beatles' final album from 1970.

As the last-released of the Beatles' 12 original UK albums, Let It Be holds a special fascination for many fans because of the bittersweet circumstances of its recording.

Let It Be... Naked
The album recreates the "live" feel of the band
A documentary which accompanied its release in 1970 showed the world's greatest band in its death throes - and the album's more melancholy moments serve to reinforce this idea of the end of a beautiful dream.

Despite their imminent self-destruction, however, there were some blistering reminders in between the bitterness of what the Beatles were in essence - four close mates having fun together and playing some blindingly good rock 'n' roll.

That notion is enhanced with this new version of Let It Be, cleaned up using the latest digital expertise and stripped of the orchestral bombast added by "wall of sound" producer Phil Spector amid the turmoil of their break-up.

The new production team, overseen by Paul Hicks, has succeeded in its attempt to recreate the original vision of the project, capturing them as a raw, live performing band without the strings and schmaltz that McCartney in particular believes marred the Beatles' legacy.

The Beatles in 1994
Harrison (right) approved the new album before his death
That all said, to the casual listener, Let It Be... Naked will not sound all that wildly different to the original - not so much naked as, say, removing a jumper or loosening the tie a bit.

To those people to whom the Beatles mean the world, though, it is a crucial addition to the best catalogue in rock history and a welcome companion to the original - which is, in itself, essential.

The most nakedly bare of all the album's 11 tracks are the de-Spectored The Long And Winding Road - the LP version of which McCartney so loathed - and Lennon's Across The Universe.

Removed of their lush arrangements, they stand tall as two of the band's best-crafted ballads - yet perhaps overall, they cause the album to lose some of the mood of poignancy that accompanied its time and place in the Beatles story.

Harrison's I Me Mine also benefits well from a more basic treatment, while a take of Don't Let Me Down from the roof of Apple's headquarters finds the band loose-limbed and together, underpinned by Ringo's underratedly funky drumming style.

The Beatles
The Let It Be tapes were handed to Spector as The Beatles fell apart
The remixing displays its true glory on the album's outstanding jams, I've Got A Feeling and One After 909, suggesting the barely restrained joy of four musicians with an intuitive sense of each other's space, built on years of experience and craft.

It is the same story on Harrison's For You Blue, with George unable to suppress his obvious pleasure. On these tracks in particular it's hard to hear this as the sound of a band about to go their separate ways.

As for the album's title track, its status as modern-day hymn is only increased, with Billy Preston's gospel organ sounding holier than ever.

Over the entire CD, the remastering makes the songs crisper, improving separation and pinpointing nuances of instrumentation, but never diminishing their warmth.

A second CD contains 21 minutes of band dialogue and snippets of unfinished songs, providing an invaluable Anthology-style peek for Beatles diehards.

Let It Be may never be revered by some fans in the same breath as Abbey Road, Revolver or the White Album, but 33 years on it remains an iconic and enjoyable record. And recording it could not have been quite as grim as that film made out.

Let It Be... Naked was released in the UK on Monday.

What do you think of the album? Is it better or worse than the original - or does it not matter?

BBC News Online users sent in their views.

Sounds amazing. They have done a great job with the remastering. Exactly as The Beatles (Paul McCartney) intended it to be. Can we have the film now, please?
David Gamble, UK

Much better than the original, which I've hardly ever listened to all the way through. Weird, as I love the Beatles and Phil Spector, but together? Ugh! Anyway, this is amazing...
Beetle Boy, England

I have just bought the album and now have to get through four very long hours at work, before I can put this on my stereo and crank it up.Is it better or worse? It really doesn't matter. Both these albums will stand well together as differing glimpses into the Beatles world. My wish now is that all the studio albums proper are re-mixed and remastered to todays standards and released on hybrid SACD's. I'm sure I am far from alone in desiring this.
Michael Cuthbert, United Kingdom

It's not a matter of being better or worse, It's purely the fact the best band in the world can make the same album twice - each one showing the rest todays musicians/group how it can, how it was and how it still is done.
Jason Foster, England

I am very disappointed with some of the media coverage of this album, which seems to suggest that project is totally McCartney's doing. This album would not be possible without the total approval of all 4 Beatles (or their estates), so Yoko must have approved it, George Harrison approved the project before he died, and Ringo has done nothing but enthuse about the end result. I've got my copy here and can't wait to get home from work to listen to it!
Andrew Dixon, England

The new,stripped-back version reveals the true craft of the Beatles songwriting and songmaking craft.
Nick Hills, UK

I love the original Let it Be album but this one gives me the chills.
Cathy Krager, United States

This is gritty, down-home rock and roll. The production team have given us the genuine article here. Although I prefer McCartney's re-recorded bass on Spector's LP and Martin's 45 versions of the title track, everything else falls into place. I didn't open my eyes the whole first listening. Pure absorbtion.
Dave Bijoux, New Zealand

I never liked the Spector versions, and I just finished listening to the new edition. This is how it should have been released. I second the notion that the entire catalog should be remixed and remastered, but only with McCartney and Starr's blessings. Thanks to those who worked so hard to bring Let It Be back to the way it should be heard!
Philip Tone, USA

Let It Be Naked? I think it would be great to hear Sgt Pepper's without all the overdubs...now, that would be naked.
Blue Meanie, Pepperland

Just listening to Paul's bare vocals on 'Long and Winding Road' - this is what it's really all about.
Lucy B, UK

Let It Be Naked, something that would never have come about were it not for Paul's push, is magnificent. Finally we get to here songs as they were meant to sound by the authors.
Dean Jagger, UK

Am I the only Beatles fan who prefers the original version? Without Spector's orchestration, some of the tracks sound really empty. Just because Paul and Ringo think it is better, it doesn't mean it is. The Beatles repertoire is not always enhanced by continual new releases. Just accept the band split in 1970 and be glad with what you've already got.
Ben, England

Brings back the joy I felt whenever I got to hear any new music by what was my first (and will always stay) favourite band. What a great idea by Paul to get back to the original sound.
Cindy, England

This is just a cynical ploy by the Beatles record company to generate more millions of pounds from already existing/available material. But it demonstrates the dearth of creative talent in the music business these days that they have to dredge up a 33-year old record (with slight modifications) and sell to a naive and unsuspecting public! I just hope they don't tinker around with any of the other Beatles albums.
Palash R. Ghosh, USA

One thing though, I'm not sure if John Lennon would have agreed to it, as he says in the anthology book, he was happy with how Spector produced it. Looks like McCartney got his way after all even though I guess he has the right, after all he is McCartney. .
Hughie, Briton in The Netherlands

It's breathtakingly refreshing, free of the studio trickery that overpowered the original album. Ignore the media mixed reviews, buy it and enjoy it, it's very good.
Nigel, UK

Definitely a better version than the original. Can't believe listening to For You Blue is from a band about to split up. Across the Universe sent a chill down my spine. Quality .
Mark Wharton, UK

The album sounds terrific, although it may not be overly obvious to the casual listener. I would agree with others in saying it only makes me wish they would do a decent remastering of their entire back catalogue. Their back catalogue is a disgrace - over-priced, basic sound quality, no decent sleeve notes
David Smith, UK

What a scam eh, releasing the same album, produced differently, twice! Beatles fans must be mugs. And on the day the Rolling Stones - a truly live band - release their world tour DVD. This would have never happened in the old days.
Steve, UK

This is a long overdue release. In an age when bands release remix albums all the time, it comes as a surprise that some in the media have criticised this new version of Let It Be as a cash-in. It was always meant to sound live and raw. "Naked" isn't so much rewriting history as correcting it. Now all we need is an extended recut of the film!
Mark Tingley, England

why bother with this when the film being re-released on DVD would have been much better value for money - the best thing about the film is actually witnessing the band disintergrate. The argument between George and Paul during I got a feeling is priceless and is worth far more to fans that tarting up and old album. The film also shows how these songs were crafted and offers a valuable insight into the process of writing truly great songs - are you reading Mr Gallagher?????
richard watson, UK

I give it my full 10/10, as I realize the different tracks, such as the title track and "Across The Universe" are from the original masters, where one can hear and appreciate the guitar, organ, or piano heretofore never heard. But I like the Spector as well, so I'll take the best of both worlds. Cheers, John, Sir Paul, George, and Ringo!
Daniel J. Hamlow, USA

I never liked the Let it be Album because of the production. But now like the album as much as all their olther classic albums. What a sound!! Can't wait for the dvd release.
Jan, Holland

Horrible, Horrible, Horrible. As a lifelong fan of the Beatles, I wanted to like it, but it's just glorified souless pub rock. The fact that it's only been put out by Macca as he bares a grudge against Phil Spector makes it even more hard to listen to; this is not what the Beatles were about.
Kate, UK




WATCH AND LISTEN
Let it Be... Naked's The Long and Winding Road
Listen to an excerpt of the stripped-down version here



SEE ALSO:
Beatles fans await 'naked' album
14 Nov 03  |  Entertainment


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