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?…

“One After 909” (Beatles Cover)

By Jeff:

Assistant Editor’s note: This was originally posted on September 17, 2009.  The TV in this post is still the one in my living room, and I still have one HDMI input free.

Welcome to Thumpin’ Thursday!  I’ve dug back in time for this week’s video, and gone to a classic song, and one of our many Beatles cover songs.

The song is “One After 909” by The Beatles, from their album “Let It Be”.  I wonder if this song is in their new Rockband game?  Well, if it isn’t, it perhaps should be.  It’s simple, but just has a catchy, bluesy feel to it.

I first heard this song thanks to Chris, when the two of us and our friend Alberto did a show at his house.  This song opened the show and it stuck with me because of how catchy it is.

When you look at the lyrics, you see it’s definitely a train story.  It apparently is about a man who’s going to pick up his friend/girlfriend/wife/whatever at the train station, but the woman, who was supposed to get on 909, gets on the one after!

I ordered a new HD TV yesterday because our old box went boom on me.  I was watching Sportscenter Tuesday morning and all of a sudden “BEOUUUU”, and then that was followed by the smell of electronics burning.  Not good.  So, I purchased a 32 inch LG LCD with a whole lotta HDMI inputs.  I was a little nervous, but then I noticed my cable box has an HDMI out.

Funny thing, is last week I said to my wife “Do you think it’s time to get a new TV?”

Stupid karma.

Ok well i’ll see you next week for my next video!  Toodles!

Music Review: The Beatles’ “Let It Be” (2009 Stereo Remaster)

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.

The Beatles' "Let It Be" (1970)

The Beatles’ “Let It Be” (1970)

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!

“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!