Music Review: The Beatles’ “Let It Be… Naked” (2003 Remix)

By Chris Moore:

The chart-topping success of Let It Be is truly a testament to both the heights of Beatlemania and also to the abilities of the four Beatles to consistently top themselves in their songwriting and musicianship.  Even by 1970, amid tensions that caused all four to at least threaten to quit the band, they managed to come together (no pun intended) to finish the principal tracks for a new album.

This was made easier, of course, by the fact that this new album was based primarily on material that had been written and recorded before their previous record, Abbey Road, was released.

The true complication in this process arose when Phil Spector was somehow given the “okay” to add his signature studio treatment to the tracks.  Perhaps with the disagreements between the Fab Four obscuring their collective vision, Spector was allowed to turn these songs — many of them little gems — into overblown, overproduced testaments to the capabilities of a mixing board.  Orchestras aside, the original concept of this album (at least, when it was begun in January 1969) was that there would be no overdubs of any kind.  How the leap was taken from “no overdubs” to “here’s Phil Spector” is a subject of some debate.  The result?  An album that made many fans and sources close to the band wonder what it would have been like without all the accessorizing.

Let It Be… Naked puts an end to that inquiry.

The cover of the 2003 remix of "Let It Be"

The cover of the 2003 remix of “Let It Be”

As the title implies, Naked is a stripped-down, bare bones version of Let It Be that highlights the instruments and original vocals of the four Beatles which, not surprisingly, is more than enough to excite and entertain.  Ringo once pointed out that, despite all their issues and arguments, when the count began and a song was performed live, they transformed back into those four boys from Liverpool who just loved to play music together.  For anyone who thought that may have been an overstatement, this new take on their final album is the proof of its veracity.

Throughout Let It Be… Naked, the Beatles’ harmonies are tight and their instrumentation is simple yet impressive.  The drums and bass are particularly fun to focus on, perhaps imagining Ringo and Paul falling perfectly into the rhythm and putting all their combined experience, personal talent, and emotion into what would be these final released tracks.  Of course, John and George are just as much fun to listen to.  George’s guitar work, for instance, clearly never needed to be and never should have been buried beneath layers of production and overdubs.

Even the track listing is rearranged on this 2003 remix of the album, tossing out “Dig It” and “Maggie Mae,” as well as adding “Don’t Let Me Down,” a track that had made the cut on the earlier Glyn Johns mix of the album, before the project was shelved.  This is hardly a revelation — I don’t imagine many will miss the two deleted tracks and the album is certainly much better for the inclusion of the latter.

In every conceivable way, Let It Be… Naked is a success and finally presents the album as originally intended, making it a must-listen for any Beatles fan as well as any fan of rock music who is interested in hearing the real story of the final album of this legendary band.

COMING LATER THIS WEEK:  In addition to our regular Beatles cover songs, a review of the new Let It Be 2009 remaster.  How does it compare?…

“A Day in the Life” (Beatles Cover)

By Jim Fusco:

Actually posting on Tuesday night for once!  Well, there’s only one word to describe tonight’s acoustic cover song music video: ambitious!

Tonight, myself and my fellow Traveling Acai Berries, Steve and Chris, bring you another Beatles cover song, “A Day in the Life”, the masterpiece final song off of the masterpiece album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.  This song is filled with great piano playing, wonderfully crafted lyrics, and a multi-part structure that rivaled the type of “three minute masterpieces” Brian Wilson was producing at the time.

But, we give you the song in its purest form- myself singing John and Paul’s lead vocals, Steve backing my (actually his) acoustic 6-string up with our colleague Noreen’s wonderful 1967 Gibson 12-string guitar, and Chris on his signature mandolin.  Steve and I couldn’t believe how great this sounded acoustically- we just know the songs so well that we remember the little nuances.  Steve plays some stuff on guitar that I always leave out because I think, “Eh, no one remembers that little thing”- and now we finally have those parts!  And, this is only the second time Chris ever took a look at the music to this song- incredible.

I was lucky enough to sing both sections of the song.  Isn’t it great how you get a typical “day in the life” of both John and Paul?  Very interesting how they looked at a typical day.  I prefer John’s method of telling the story, as he puts such an interesting humor on reading bad news in the paper, seeing a war movie, etc.  Paul, on the other hand, gives glimpses as to what songwriting subjects he would touch-upon after leaving the Beatles (doesn’t the middle section of “A Day in the Life” remind you of “Another Day”?).

Now, since Chris Moore beat us to the punch on “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”, which we were preparing an AWESOME version of (complete with recorder solo at the end), we’ll have to save that potential video as a “bonus” video one of these days.  Why?  Because every day is another cover song you haven’t heard before on the Laptop Sessions blog!

Tonight is a very, very important night for the blog and one that I’ve personally longed for over these past two years.  Tonight, we FINALLY match the number of “Wallflowers” posts with Beatles posts!!!  Can you even believe that?  20 posts about the Wallflowers (that had two mild radio hits) and it took us this long (and basically a whole month’s worth of Beatles posts) to match it.

Anyway, we hope you enjoy our rendition of “A Day in the Life”.  Hopefully, we can get the band together this Friday for some recording again- Steve and I have perfected an America song (I’ll let you ponder which one) and we’ve been practicing some more Beatles tunes (like “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl”, which could really use another vocalist, DAD, hint, hint…) and other ones from the Eagles and Rod Stewart.

So, stay tuned to the blog- we’ve got some exciting times ahead.  One more month ’till move-in date for us, as long as everything goes smoothly!  Have a great week and make sure to stop-back for Jeff’s Thumpin’ Thursday in just a couple days!


“Do You Want To Know A Secret” (Beatles Cover)

By Jim Fusco:

Hello everyone- time for another episode of “The Laptop Sessions”. Boy, do I have a lot of these in the works for you. I have two more requests for Beach Boys cover songs, plus Chris and I still have to do our Moody Blues song and another Beatles cover song. Somewhere down the line I’d like to throw in one of my original songs, too.  Oh, you didn’t know that I was a songwriter? 🙂  Well, that’s one of the reasons I do the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover songs music video blog.  I’m hoping that the people who like the cover songs I play will take a chance and listen to my original music, as well!  So far, it’s been a great success.

Tonight’s cover song video is the Beatles song, “Do You Want To Know A Secret”, originally sung by the great George Harrison. This is a fun song to play and sing, especially because it’s got those minor 7th chords that make it sound a bit “old fashioned”.  People just don’t write songs like this anymore.  It’s one of the earliest Beatles songs released, so it was written during their period of relative innocence (you know, before the drugs).  John Lennon wrote this song and gave it to George to sing.  His heavy British accent really comes through on this track.  I sang, though, in my normal New England American accent, as I do with all my cover song videos.  My goal here at the music blog is not to imitate the artists I cover, but to reimagine my favorite songs in a stripped-down acoustic solo performance.

I chose to go with my nylon-stringed acoustic guitar for this song.  Why?  Well, for one, it’s much easier to sing over than a steel-stringed guitar.  For this cover video, I wanted to sing a bit softer and sweeter (just like George Harrison did!), so I thought this guitar was the right choice not to overpower my voice.  Also, and I’ve gotten a lot of compliments about this, the strumming pattern I used works so much better on this guitar than steel-string acoustic guitar.  Because I don’t have the solid drumming of Ringo Starr behind me, I had to come up with a way of playing that incorporated the unique beat of “Do You Want To Know a Secret” while playing by myself.  The “hops” that are in the chord progression really move the sog along well and I found it to be an easy way of switching chords, as well.  Plus, sliding down like that gave my version that cool retro sound I was talking about before.  It sounds like a song from the 40s when played that way!

Of course, requests are welcome for any other Beatles or George Harrison song you’d like to hear!  Everyone knows pretty much all of the Beatles songs, so my “to-do list” is pretty extensive at this point.  I hope you enjoy tonight’s cover song video and stay tuned for more Laptop Sessions music videos in the coming days!


“Let It Be” (The Beatles Cover)

So, this is how the whole “Laptop Sessions” acoustic cover songs music video blog got its humble start.  It’s also the first edition of a Beatles cover songs here on the music blog.  This is the day I decided to change the face of cover song videos forever!  You see, on YouTube, there’s a video of a guy playing “Let It Be” by the Beatles on piano. He’s got like 12,000 views on it. It’s not bad, but it’s not even in the right key!

So, I posted a comment to that effect, and someone wrote back that I was being nitpicky (is that even a word?) and that not many people can sing in the range of the original key.  Let me tell you- if you can’t sing it in the original key, you can’t sing the song at all and you shouldn’t be doing a cover of it.  How “high and mighty” of me.  I’ve always thought that was a good barometer for a musician, especially one getting on in age.  You see, I’m all for older musicians to keep playing, but they can’t just go up there and be shadows of their former selves.  Especially when they’re charging well over $100 a ticket!  Anyway, it seems to me that if you can’t sing your own song in the original key, you should probably just hang it up.  That’s one of the things that really impressed me about seeing the Monkees in concert.  Those guys have been playing for over 40 years and they STILL sing all of those songs in the original key!  And the Monkees’ songs were pretty high-pitched, especially the ones Mikey Dolenz wrote.

Anyway,  I had to back up my statement about that cover song in the wrong key on YouTube with a video performance of me playing and singing the song in the original key. I chose to do this cover song music video on guitar because it was the most handy at the time.  I think it’s what helps make the Laptop Sessions great- taking a song everyone knows and turning it into an acoustic interpretation.  You’ll notice that I’m playing my Arrow nylon-stringed acoustic guitar.  It’s a classical guitar that I purchased while on vacation in Italy.  I love how mellow it sounds and it’s incredibly easy to play.  It also allows me to sing over the music without having to shout.  That’s especially helpful when you’re trying to get more emotion out of the performance.  Even though it doesn’t sound as good as a steel-string guitar, I think it’s a great fit for the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover songs video series here on the music blog.

You’ll also notice that this video isn’t exactly of the best quality.  Well, when starting the Laptop Sessions, I wanted to make it a way to record a music video that wouldn’t require a ton of setup- it would allow for a spur-of-the-moment performance.  At the time, YouTube had a “Capture Now” feature that would record directly off of a webcam.  Well, my Macbook has a webcam and that’s what I ended up doing.  The only thing is that recording live like that degraded the quality.  But, I keep this acoustic performance here on the music blog to show the start of the Laptop Sessions and tell you what it’s all about: great acoustic cover songs!