By Chris Moore:
It is truly a testament to the outstanding talent and staying power of the Beatles that Let It Be, their final and perhaps least ambitious — by their own designs, at least — release, is composed of such an impressive assortment of tracks.
For this reason alone, the 2009 remastered version of this classic 1970 album is worth your time and money.
Held up against the previously released audio on the CDs that have been standard issue for over two decades now, this remaster is crisper and cleaner in all the right places. To be fair, this is probably one of the less drastic remasters, as Let It Be was originally issued in actual stereo. Still, the seasoned Beatles fan will immediately take note of the subtle improvements, such as the even warmer ambiance of the background vocals in “I Me Mine” and the clearer separation between piano notes and vocals in both “Let It Be” and “The Long and Winding Road.”
It is a joyful experience to hear the individual vocals and instrumentation as clearly as possible. After all, when the bulk of these tracks were laid down in January 1969 — almost one and a half years before the release of the album — the keyword had been simplicity. Following the tumultuous White Album sessions, they had decided to adopt a more “live in the studio” feel for their next album. Paul in particular felt that they had lost the cohesion that could only come from playing live. Considering the backbreaking schedule of live shows in their early years and the relative happiness of their early period, it is difficult to disagree.
For this reason, as well as the fact that Let It Be was mixed, remixed, re-arranged, and shuffled around by so many people outside the Fab Four before its initial release in 1970, I think Let It Be…Naked should be and is the first and best way to experience this album. Purists, traditionalists, and historians may disagree, but any detractors to this theory must first explain why the Beatles’ initial intentions for the concept of this album should be all but ignored in favor of the “actual” release. Why tracks like “Maggie Mae” and “Dig It” could ever belong on the same vinyl — or silver, for that matter — disc as gems like “Two of Us,” “Across the Universe,” and “Let It Be” is beyond this writer.
Before I trample upon too much musical holy ground, I should reinforce that the 2009 remaster provides a great experience. Some argued that the tracks should have been stripped down and entirely remixed. While I wouldn’t have been against that idea if it had been engineered by the right team, there doesn’t seem to be the need for anything quite so drastic here.
Perhaps the focus should instead fall on the pressures within and around this record. Within, it is interesting to consider how complicated and tense the Beatles’ interpersonal relationships had become, and yet to listen in wonder at the beautiful music they made despite it all. Outside of the recording process, there was a great deal of expectation when the album was released, especially considering that it wasn’t available for sale until after the Beatles had announced that they were breaking up. That put a lot of weight on this very final addition to what is arguably the greatest rock ‘n roll catalog of all time. Even Rolling Stone fluctuated wildly, dismissing the album at its release but soon after adding it as #86 on their list of the best rock albums of all time.
Regardless of your perspective on this album, Let It Be is a strong addition to anyone’s music collection, if only for the outstanding songs it contains — and not only the singles, but many of the deep tracks, as well.
I’ll probably still click one more space lower on my iPod for Let It Be… Naked, but I have enjoyed hearing the original in remastered audio. And make sure you watch all of our great Beatles cover songs videos here on the music video blog!