Tuesday, 15 November 2016

"Let It Be... Naked" by THE BEATLES (2003 EMI/Apple 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Everybody Had A Hard Year...Everybody Had A Good Time..." 

Hindsight is a handy thing - we're all experts 'after the fact' I suppose. In other words I can understand the reason why 'Naked' exists – but (and I can't help this) – I hate almost everything about this sterile reissue despite its clearly cleaned-up audio squeaking like new shoe leather.

"Let It Be...Naked" is apparently Paul McCartney's stripped down version of the "Let It Be" album (or "Get Back" as it was originally going to be called) The Beatles would have liked to put out back in 1969. But this new version just doesn't work for me. In fact I find most of it an awful listen as opposed to the much maligned released LP that I’ve always loved. In short - the fun and 'live' freshness is gone.

There have been oceans of words eulogised about how Phil Spector ruined the album with additional strings and choirs - a Production-obsessed nutter handed the poison chalice of haphazard recordings made by men already disinterested and in personal disarray. But as Ringo repeatedly said - once the count-in came - The Beatles were a band once more - and even half-baked - the magic was still there. I loved "Let It Be" as an album - that gorgeous four-photograph artwork where they looked like the coolest dudes on the planet (now ruined for some negative atrocity in silver) - the beautiful ballads that literally stopped me in my tracks and made the hairs stand up on my arms - the fresh in-your-face feel to the rockers - and the witty asides that hovered around the main songs. I know "Dig It" and "Maggie Mae" were kind of superfluous - but with them missing on this version - the laughs are gone and in 'unplugged' form - it all seems dreadfully po-faced which is something this band never was. This reissue may be 'purer' but I'd argue it's somehow soulless and dead.

It’s well documented that John Lennon hated what Spector did to "Across The Universe" in particular and started a feud with Macca that ultimately brought our best loved foursome to a horrible end - but we Joe Public who've been listening to Spectre's mix of "Across The Universe" for 46 years straight have genuinely loved it - were impossibly moved then and remain so to this day. In fact it’s hot-wired into my brain and I want it that way. The song "Let It Be" is the same – reduced to just piano here - but instead of feeling prettier it feels far too naked. The strings that elevated "The Long & Winding Road" to a hymn are gone and even though it's a barely noticeable slight/edit - the witty 'Pot Smoking FBI members' jibe from Lennon is missing at the end of "For You Blue". The larking-about 'sweet Loretta fart' Lennon intro to "Get Back" is gone too as is the song's punch when they kick in. Oh dear oh Doris. Anyway - let's get to the long and winding details...

Released November 2003 – "Let It Be...Naked" by THE BEATLES on EMI/Apple 07243 595713 2 4 (Barcode 724359571324) is a 2CD Reissue/Remix/Remaster and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (35:02 minutes):
1. Get Back
2. Dig A Pony
3. For You Blue
4. The Long And Winding Road
5. Two Of Us
6. I’ve Got A Feeling
7. One After 909
8. Don't Let Me Down
9. I Me Mine
10. Across The Universe
11. Let It Be

Disc 2 'Fly On The Wall' (21:56 minutes):
Sun King
Don't Let Me Down
One After 909
Because I Know You Love Me So
Don't Pass Me By
Taking A Trip To Caroline
John's Piano Piece
Child Of Nature
Back In The USSR
Every Little Thing
Don't Let Me Down
All Things Must Pass
She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
Paul's Piano Piece
Get Back
Two Of Us
Maggie Mae
Fancy My Chances With You
Can You Dig It?
Get Back

The 32-page booklet is visually cool but deceptively full of hot air. Much of it is taken up with The Beatles talking absolute gobbledygook during the making of the film "Let It Be" - yet it’s reprinted here like its manna from the Gods of Rock Heaven. Kevin Howlett's lead-in liner notes are at least decent giving an expert and detailed history of what happened. McCartney is quoted as loving the new stripped back versions and the rejiggered track list but I personally feel only two of three of them are better.

The PAUL HICKS, GUY MASSEY and ALLAN ROUSE remixes and remasters are very clean – hiss-less - but also strangely sterile. In their favour "I Me Mine" now has a 'rock' core and renewed punch while it's a smart move to have John on "Across The Universe" and Paul's "Let It Be" end the album with "Get Back" chucked into the beginning. But I miss "Two Of Us" opening the LP and I miss the silly but effective "Dig It" passage before that piano intro into "Let It Be". And that great guitar and Billy Preston's fabulous organ contributions to the song are muted instead of to the fore.

I wouldn’t mind if the ‘Fly On The Wall’ CD2 actually offered us anything we could actually use. At first glance that track list offers tantalising names like Harrison's "All Things Must Pass", tracks from Abbey Road and those other outtakes - but then you look at the booklet and the timings - 35 seconds for "Don't Let Me Down" - the outtake "Child Of Nature" is only 24 seconds while "Back In The USSR" is 9 seconds and "Don't Pass Me By" only 3 seconds! It plays for one continuous song of 21:56 minutes – all the edited bits of chat between ideas stuck together. It’s fun for about four minutes but then just gets on your nerves. This ludicrous crap only serves to frustrate and you can't help but feel that the widely bootlegged decent outtakes (full songs) are being kept back by EMI for future "Let It Be" anniversary issues.

In fairness - I'm still turned on by "I've Got A Feeling" and "Don't Let Me Down" which is a hugely moving song - and "One After 909" has some rocking back in it too. But again without the intros and quirks of the original LP - the fun and life of the original seems to have been sucked out of this reissue in its pressing need to be a cohesive album (since when were The Beatles ever about being conformist or ordinary).

In the UK I've seen this Beatles reissue for sale for as little as £1.50 (the same elsewhere) - and there has to be a reason for that - people just don't like it - don't get it?

Great audio or no - I'm going to be listening to my original "Let It Be" and leaving this up on the shelf in the 'curio' pile...

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