Wow, now we know why the original Glyn Johns mix of Get Back was not released. It’s a mess! Glyn 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. In the book with the box set, it says Glyn Johns purposely selected earlier takes to show The Beatles less polished. Just three versions…”One After 909″, “Get Back” and “Let It Be” are worthy of being included on a Beatles album. If you’re looking for the “just the band” style originally intended for the album, go with Let It Be Naked.
The only cool thing is that 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 book normally show through the cutouts in the black cardboard sleeve. The CD’s store in a trifold holder. That trifold has black & white photos on the other side that align with those cutouts.
The 2021 remix of the Let It Be album sounds good, fuller and clearer, like the previously remixed albums. Giles Martin was able to somewhat improve the most egregiously arranged Phil Spector production…”The Long And Winding Road”. The remix does a better job of blending the background chorus into the orchestra to limit the “angel voices” Paul McCartney said he hates. Despite some errors in judgement, Spector deserves credit for putting together a much improved version of the album.
The lead vocals on the remixed album stand out better than the somewhat buried ones on the original production. George Harrison’s lead vocals sound especially clearer. Update: Having had time for multiple listens, the remix is 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 better listening experience.
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. Here’s a small sample of some black & white photos from the book.
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.
There are quality bootlegs that have been available for years that contain a lot more material. There was plenty of room left empty on the CD’s, but the lack of space on vinyl probably limited the amount of music selected. A couple of welcome cuts: Take 28 of “Let It Be” seems to be the one used in the original Let It Be film. It includes the line “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 sounds really good too.
Through the years, Let It Be has been overly criticized. All of the breakup controversy, and even comments by The Beatles, have cast a shadow on the album.
The main problem was The Beatles weren’t sure they were making an album. As funny as that sounds, the new Get Back book reveals the project was to make a film (originally a TV special) of The Beatles writing and polishing songs, and then have it all culminate with a live concert. Maybe that would be the album, and The Beatles were just rehearsing.
The “live” concept is why they weren’t doing overdubs and perfecting the recordings as they normally did. Considering how far The Beatles had come, and how they had mastered the recording studio, the “no overdubs” idea was too limiting. The pressure that the film needed to end with a concert turned out to be problematic. The Beatles spent a lot of time trying to figure out where the concert would be held, and whether they even wanted to do it.
If only The Beatles had simply had their sessions filmed, and had recorded the same way as their previous albums, Let It Be might have turned out to be among their best albums. They only spent a total of 21 days writing, rehearsing, and recording. Those sessions yielded some great songs…. “Get Back”, “Two Of Us”, “The Long & Winding Road”, and “Let It Be”…and those are just the songs by Paul McCartney”.
John Lennon’s best songs for this project were “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Across The Universe” (which had been recorded a year earlier, but was revisited during the Let It Be sessions).
George Harrison contributed “For You Blue” and “I Me Mine”. The Beatles should also have finished “All Things Must Pass” and “Something” when he presented them, but it was thought no more slow songs were needed for the concert. Unfortunately, The Beatles considered the project complete when filming ended on January 31st. They wanted to move on.
There were some problems with the original Let It Be album.
John Lennon’s contributions included a couple weak songs…”Dig It” and “Dig A Pony”. When he did have an excellent song, “Across The Universe”, it was over-produced by saddling it with poor instrumental accompaniment. Probably the worst decision was producer Phil Spector inexplicably leaving off “Don’t Let Me Down”! It’s no wonder John Lennon made negative comments about the album.
Despite Paul McCartney’s songs being particularly strong, he also complained about the album. That was because Phil Spector made major changes in the arrangements, (most especially to “The Long And Winding Road”) without getting McCartney’s approval.
The box set book contains this letter to Apple that lays out exactly what Paul thinks of the Spector version.
Nothing was changed, because the album was already in production. I love that last line.
Let’s look at the positive aspects of the Let It Be sessions.
How many sessions for a single album have produced three #1 songs? The recordings from January of 1969 included “Get Back”, “Let It Be”, and “The Long And Winding Road”, which all topped the singles charts. The quality of “Two Of Us” is right there too. The movie showed Paul & John having a great time singing it together. Here’s a page from the box set book:
The film also showed George Harrison’s “For You Blue” as a happy time of The Beatles playing together. Paul is performing on a “prepared” piano (with paper placed between the piano’s hammers and strings to alter the sound), and John is providing a cool slide guitar part. The lyrics are slight, but it’s a fun listen. Harrison’s other track, “I Me Mine” is a clever rocker that uses a combination of a 4/4 rock beat, with a 3/4-time waltz tempo. Sure, these songs don’t rise to the level of “Here Comes The Sun” or “Something”, but with the exception of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” they’re better than George’s songs from the previous year’s White Album.
As noted earlier, the album sessions included Lennon’s “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Across The Universe” The album should have featured both, substituting one of the more stripped-down versions of “Across The Universe”…the way it was on Anthology 3, or Let It Be Naked.
The song Lennon & McCartney wrote in 1964, “The One After 909”, is an enjoyable old-fashioned rocker.
Any album that has that many good songs (with those three #1 singles) should not be looked at in any way as a bad or “lesser”album…as Let It Be is sometimes characterized. All The Beatles probably needed was another week or two to finish up some other songs they had started to work on. Let It Be would have been complete and improved. But, The Beatles were anxious to leave the filming behind and get back to making albums the way they knew best.