The new remix of Let It Be is excellent, but let’s begin where the album did in 1969, the previously unreleased Glyn Johns mix of Get Back. It’s a mess. Johns has produced a lot of good music, but none of the song versions he chose for the album are better than those on the released Let It Be album. Only three of the versions, “One After 909”, “Get Back”, and “Let It Be” are worthy of being on a Beatles album. In the box set book, it says Glyn Johns purposely selected earlier takes to show The Beatles less polished.
Fans hoped this “raw” version of The Beatles would be good, but if the Get Back album had been released in the Glyn Johns mix, it would have been an embarrassing way to end the recording career of The Beatles. If you’re looking for the “just the band” style originally intended for the album, go with Let It Be…Naked. It’s a much better mix of mostly the same songs.
The one cool thing about having the Get Back album is they included the cover that was planned…which has the photo that ended up being used for the Blue Album collection.
Here’s what the Super Deluxe CD set looks like. The photos on the 100-page book normally show through the cutouts in the black cardboard sleeve. The CD’s store in a trifold holder. The vinyl version has the same covers for the records, as you see on the CD’s.
The 2021 remix of the Let It Be album is impressive, fuller and clearer. It’s definitely the best the original album has ever sounded. It doesn’t lose the feel of the Let It Be we’ve always known, but it’s a refreshing listening experience. The guitars have a truer ring, the bass & drums sound more real, and the singers are in the room with you.
Giles Martin & Sam Okell were able to somewhat improve the most notoriously arranged Phil Spector production…”The Long And Winding Road”. The remix does a better job of blending the background chorus into the orchestra to lessen the “angel voices” (as Paul McCartney called them). Despite some errors in judgement, Spector deserves credit for putting together a much improved version of the album.
The book has excellent information on each of the songs on the original Let It Be album, giving details of how the recordings were developed.
As for the extra tracks of alternate takes and rehearsals…seeing what songs they worked on is more interesting than actually hearing them. The box set has five songs that ended up on Abbey Road, but none of the versions even approach the completed songs that are on that album. The new Get Back documentary shows 11 songs from Abbey Road were started that January, as well as some songs that later appeared on their solo albums.
There are a couple of really welcome cuts. Take 28 of “Let It Be” is the one used in the original Let It Be film. It includes the alternate lyrics “There will be no sorrow”. It’s good to have this version in such a quality mix. The remix of the “Don’t Let Me Down” single is the best it’s ever sounded.
Through the years, Let It Be has been overly criticized. All of the breakup controversy, and even comments by The Beatles, have unfairly cast a shadow on the album.
The original concept was to just have The Beatles playing live, without any “studio tricks” or overdubs. That plan slowly eroded.
The first change in the plan was the addition of keyboardist Billy Preston. He had a positive effect on The Beatles’ recording practices, and added some excellent touches to many of the songs.
Next, when it came time to release a single in April of 1969, producer Glyn Johns and Paul McCartney (by each other in this photo) edited together two takes of “Get Back”. That made it better than any of the single-take versions of the song. The flip side, “Don’t Let Me Down”, included overdubbed vocals. So, the “live only” idea was fudged on long before the Let It Be album was put together.
The same “cheating” happened again in early 1970 for the song “I Me Mine”. On January 3rd, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr recorded a new version of “I Me Mine” that was needed for the Let It Be film. Later, Phil Spector would add orchestration and remix it.
When it was determined “Let It Be” would be released as a single in early 1970, George Martin wrote an orchestration for it that added horns and cellos. Above, you can see George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Linda McCartney were at the session, and George Martin even had them record background vocals for the track. Phil Spector used that version for the album, except he made the orchestration more prominent in the mix, and George Harrison added a new, more rocking, guitar lead.
So, with all the changes from when the album was started, what could have improved Let It Be even more?
1. If only Paul McCartney hadn’t been estranged from Apple. He normally would have been involved as Phil Spector was working on the album. Paul would have been able to nullify some of Spector’s excess arrangements and over-the-top production tendencies.
2. The original “live only” concept should have been eliminated sooner. With all the “cheating” going on anyway, each song should have been made in its best version, even if that meant using overdubs and other recording techniques. By dropping the pretense that this was somehow a “live” album, it could have had an improved running order.
3. The presentation of the album would have worked better if it had been divided into these two sides…Studio and Live. Here’s what it might have looked like. (The source for each track is shown in case you want to make a playlist to hear how it works.)
- Get Back (single from Beatles 1 remix)
- Across The Universe (Anthology 2, or Let It Be Naked)
- I Me Mine (remix from Box Set)
- Let It Be (remix from Box Set)
- For You Blue (remix from Box Set)
- The Long And Winding Road (remix from Box Set)
- Two Of Us (live in studio) [remix from Box Set]
- Don’t Let Me Down (Rooftop from Let It Be Naked)
- I’ve Got A Feeling (Rooftop from Box Set)
- One After 909 (Rooftop from Box Set)
- Dig A Pony (Rooftop from Box Set)
- Get Back (simulated Rooftop from Box Set)
The album makes more sense this way, with both sides flowing better. Side 1 features studio recordings of six good songs, bringing it in line with some of the best Beatles albums.
Instead of being out of place between studio cuts, the rooftop performances complement each other. By putting the mini-concert on the second side, Let It Be would have have been more like Abbey Road, with a unique Side 2.
“Two Of Us” wasn’t performed on the rooftop, but it was performed live in the studio, and the silly intro “Doris gets her oats” ties it in with the looser feel and chatter used for the rooftop performances. It makes a strong opener for that side, and then we can enjoy the concert.
Any album that has so many good songs, including three #1 singles (“Get Back”, “Let It Be” & “The Long And Winding Road”) should not be looked at in any way as a bad or lesser album…as Let It Be is sometimes characterized. The Beatles probably should have continued working on Let It Be after filming ended January 31st, 1969 (instead of starting Abbey Road three weeks later), but they were anxious to leave the filming behind and get back to making albums the way they knew best.