Let It Be ... Naked

OK, so he had to outlive two other fabs before becoming “the smart Beatle,” but look at all the eye-for-an-eye Paul’s extracted from two felonious foes (Phil Spector and Michael Jackson) with the release of this revisionist version of the band’s most contested album. First off, in a bit of perfect timing, this CD’s Top Five debut in the States helped crowd Beatles’ publishing nabber Michael Jackson out of the Top Ten with his Number Ones. Secondly, this version’s surgical removal of any Phil Spector involvement insured that no new infusion of Apple cash would be going to the producer’s murder defense dream team anytime soon. It would’ve been a hat trick if Paul got those “Lennon-McCartney” credits reversed. Yoko had just better watch her ass is all I’m saying.

Forget about murdering Lana Clarkson — it’s Phil Spector’s senseless killing of “The Long and Winding Road” for the past 33 years that Macca wants to avenge. At the time of its release, Paul claimed Spector’s schmaltzy overproduction was an act of sabotage and that he’d never put chicks singing on a Beatles record (which wouldn’t stop him from plastering every Wings record with one particular chick singing). And wasn’t Paul the one who picked up the Beatles’ Oscar for Let It Be’s Best Movie Score win, an honor he would not repeat with his 1984 cinematic flop and its near identical recreation of the original Wall of Schmaltz production of “The Long and Winding Road”? Look for Give My Regards to Broad Street … Naked at a record store near you.

Myself, I never disliked the Spector version that much. I always heard it as “Good Night” from the White Album, only now it was the Beatles being put to bed. Spector caught that sad wistfulness of April 1970 when it appeared that all Beatle fans had to look forward to now were solo albums as bad as Two Virgins and Sentimental Journey.

That’s what’s irksome about this new edition of Let It Be. In trying to discredit Spector, you have to admit that most of his production ideas were good enough to repeat here, namely the extension of “I Me Mine,” the removal of vocals on the intro of “I Dig a Pony” and the double chorus at the end of the title track. Plus the Spector version has the superior takes of every track, especially “I Got a Feeling” and “Let It Be” (sure do miss the fiery solo and the echo on the high hat). Hearing a bootleg of the Glyn Johns version that was nearly released, you’ve also gotta admit that if Spector’s production amounted to murder, the Glyn Johns version was assisted suicide.

It’s rather telling that Mark Lewisohn, author of The Beatles Sessions and every Beatles liner note since Past Masters, was not invited to do the honors here, or he would be forced to admit that yes, there are tape edits AND OVERDUBS — George’s vocal on “For You Blue” with its suggestion “go Johnny go” was re-recorded after Lennon indeed left the group in January 1970, and “Across the Universe” was recorded in 1968 in the usual tracking manner before there even was a Get Back project.

Fans of the original album will miss the pre-song snippets of studio nattering (even though there’s 20 minutes of it on a separate disk, with most of the chatter taken from days when they weren’t at each other’s throats), songs are faded out so quickly so as not to catch even a millisecond of Lennon singing “Danny Boy” or making a rude comment. And if “Dig It” and “Maggie Mae” were excised to make room for “Don’t Let Me Down” on a 35-minute CD, why couldn’t it be the superior version we know and love?

Capitol has been slow in bringing the Beatles into the new millennium — it’s hard to believe we’re still listening to 1987 digital transfers. No wonder Let It Be ... Naked sounds so great. I think most people would’ve been happier with a deluxe edition that contained a remastered copy of the original. They would’ve liked to have the whole rooftop concert with no interruptions. But I got to question how essential this set will prove when I compiled my own ultimate version with better takes from Number 1, The Beatles 1967-70, Anthology III and the original Let It Be.

E-mail Serene Dominic at [email protected].

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