Let It Be... Naked
|Let It Be... Naked|
|Remix album by|
|Released||17 November 2003|
|Recorded||4 February 1968, 2–31 January 1969, 3 January 1970|
|Studio||Apple Studio, London; EMI Studios, London; Twickenham Film Studios, London|
|Producer||Paul Hicks, Guy Massey, Allan Rouse|
|The Beatles chronology|
Let It Be... Naked is an alternative mix of the Beatles' 1970 album Let It Be, released in 2003. The project was initiated by Paul McCartney, who felt that the original album's producer, Phil Spector, did not capture the group's stripped-down, back-to-their-roots intentions for the album. Naked consists largely of newly mixed versions of the Let It Be tracks while omitting most of Spector's embellishments and the incidental studio chatter featured between many of the songs on the original album. Naked also omits two tracks from the 1970 release – "Dig It" and "Maggie Mae" – replacing them with "Don't Let Me Down", which was the non-album B-side of the "Get Back" single.
The album is presented in a form which Paul McCartney considered closer to its original artistic vision: to "get back" to the rock and roll sound of their early years rather than the orchestral overdubs and embellishments which were added by Phil Spector to three of the songs in the production of the final Let It Be album. McCartney in particular was always dissatisfied with the "Wall of Sound" production style of the Phil Spector mixes of these three tracks, especially for his song "The Long and Winding Road", which he believed was ruined by the process. George Harrison gave his approval for the Naked project before he died. McCartney's attitude contrasted with Lennon's from over two decades earlier. In his December 1970 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Lennon had defended Spector's work, saying, "He was given the shittiest load of badly recorded shit – and with a lousy feeling to it – ever. And he made something out of it ... When I heard it, I didn't puke." Harrison and Ringo Starr also remained complimentary about Spector's contribution, with Starr saying: "I like what Phil did … There's no point bringing him in if you're not going to like the way he does it – because that's [wall of sound] what he does."
In January 1969, the Beatles began rehearsals for what was planned to be their first concert in several years. The concert was to be recorded for a television special and album, and the rehearsals were filmed for accompanying documentary footage. The project's original working title was Get Back, and an album and film were to be the end products of these sessions. Being older and more independent, the individual Beatles' tolerances for each other's quirks had decreased. On 10 January, Harrison walked out of the sessions after the latest in a series of arguments with Lennon over his music and after being criticised by McCartney about his playing style on the song "Two of Us". By the time the sessions ended, all parties involved were so aggrieved that all of the resultant recordings were left on the shelf for over a month, with no one wanting to face the gruelling editing process. Later that year, they recorded and released Abbey Road, the sessions for which ran relatively smoothly.
After more than a year, and after two versions of the album had already been compiled by engineer Glyn Johns, Phil Spector was brought in by Allen Klein, with Lennon and Harrison's blessing, and given the task of coming up with a marketable product to tie in with the impending film release. The result was the album Let It Be, released on 8 May 1970, a month after the Beatles' break-up.
A criticism levied against Let It Be has centred on Spector's "Wall of Sound" technique, with some critics stating that the quality of the music was diminished by his orchestration and use of choirs on three of the album's tracks. The three songs that Spector had embellished with orchestras and choirs were McCartney's "The Long and Winding Road", Lennon's "Across the Universe" and Harrison's "I Me Mine". McCartney and George Martin had already added a horn section, cellos and backing vocals (by McCartney and Harrison) to the single version of "Let It Be" before Spector remixed it for the final Let It Be album.
The origin of the Let It Be... Naked project arose during a chance reunion of McCartney and Let It Be film director Michael Lindsay-Hogg on a plane in the early 2000s. McCartney and Lindsay-Hogg discussed the unavailability of the film on both VHS and DVD, which led to discussion of a possible remixed "soundtrack" to accompany a proposed future DVD release. In early 2002, McCartney recruited Abbey Road in-house engineers Paul Hicks, Guy Massey and Allan Rouse to go back into the vaults and assemble a brand new studio album from the 30 reels of tape recorded during the January 1969 sessions. Since much of the Let It Be material had been recorded live, many sound anomalies existed on the tapes. Hicks, Massey and Rouse did extensive work, digitally cleaning up each individual track of every song before remixing them. Some takes were edited together to create the best possible final version. For "Dig a Pony", an errant note sung by Lennon was digitally pitch-corrected.
Most of the songs on Let It Be... Naked differ significantly from the original versions on Let It Be. Firstly, they are in a different running order from the original LP. Secondly, none of Phil Spector's orchestral and choral overdubs were included, and his mixes were not used. Additionally, all lead vocals and drums are now placed in the middle of the stereo picture, giving the album a more modernised sound and feel. Finally, all studio and rooftop dialogue from the original album was removed, resulting in a number of sharp fade-outs where dialogue had been previously audible.
Two songs that had been included on the original album – the traditional Liverpool folk song "Maggie Mae" and the improvisational piece "Dig It" – were excised, as they "didn't fit comfortably with the concept of a straight album". Lennon's "Don't Let Me Down" was added to the running order, although Naked features a composite edit of the two versions from the rooftop concert, rather than the B-side from the "Get Back" single. "I've Got a Feeling" was also presented in a new composite edit of its two rooftop concert takes.
"Dig a Pony" features two major fixes and edits. An off-pitch note sung by Lennon in his second "because" was digitally pitch-corrected. Also, whereas the original album track featured Lennon beginning to play the song's final guitar riff one beat too early, this version mixes the error out, leaving a clean outro. The opening guitar riff in the Naked version is the same as the final guitar riff in both versions.
The remixed "For You Blue" reinstates Harrison's original acoustic guitar track.
For "The Long and Winding Road", the Naked producers used the final take, recorded five days after the rough run-through Spector had selected for the original album. As with all songs on Let It Be... Naked, this version is devoid of any orchestral or choral overdubs. (The unadorned take from Let It Be is featured on Anthology 3.) Finally, there is a slight lyrical difference: whereas the original album version included the line "Anyway, you'll never know the many ways I've tried", on this version the line is "Anyway, you've always known the many ways I've tried". Electric guitar and electric piano are also present in this version, played respectively by Harrison and Billy Preston.
"Across the Universe", which dates from nearly a year before the rest of the original album was recorded, was stripped of almost all of its instrumental and vocal overdubs, leaving Lennon's acoustic guitar and lead vocal as the song's centrepiece, yet still retained the tamboura used on the original mix. This marks the second appearance of the track in its correct key as recorded (the first appearing on Anthology 2), as the original "wildlife" version had been sped up and the Let It Be album version had been slowed down.
For the title track, the original take 27A was used for the bulk of the song, but two edit pieces were flown in from take 27B (the version seen and heard in the Let It Be film); namely, the guitar solo and a brief section near the end (the final "Mother Mary comes to me" bar) to fix an errant piano chord that was present on the album/single versions. Also, as per all other tracks, all instrumental overdubs were removed. With the versions featured on the single, the original album, and the compilation album Anthology 3, it features the fourth version of the song's guitar solo to be released thus far.
The cover image of the album features monochrome negatives of the original photos from the "Let It Be" cover. Harrison's photograph, unlike that of the other Beatles, has been replaced with another showing him in performance, his teeth less prominent, as a monochrome negative version of the original would show them "blackened". On the right of Harrison's new picture, the original Let It Be picture can partially be seen.
- Track-by-track details
- "Get Back" – A remix of the take recorded on 27 January 1969 used for both the single and album; without the coda recorded on 28 January or framing dialogue from the studio and rooftop concert added to the album version.
- "Dig a Pony" – A remix of the take from the rooftop concert on 30 January 1969; framing dialogue and false start removed; error in second verse (the "because" in Lennon's vocal track) digitally corrected.
- "For You Blue" – A remix of the 25 January 1969 take used on the album, including Harrison's re-recorded lead vocal from 8 January 1970; framing dialogue removed.
- "The Long and Winding Road" – A remix of the final take recorded on 31 January 1969, instead of the album take from 26 January. Previously unreleased.
- "Two of Us" – A remix of the take recorded on 31 January 1969 used on the album; framing dialogue removed; minor error in Lennon's acoustic guitar performance digitally corrected.
- "I've Got a Feeling" – A composite edit of two takes from the rooftop concert.
- "One After 909" – A remix of the take from the rooftop concert; impromptu rendition of "Danny Boy" removed.
- "Don't Let Me Down" – A composite edit of two takes from the rooftop concert. Previously unreleased.
- "I Me Mine" – A remixed, slightly different recreation of Spector's edit (copying the chorus in the middle of the song and adding it to the end) to lengthen the track recorded on 3 January 1970; guitar overdubs and organ parts mixed in and out to make the repeated verse sound different.
- "Across the Universe" – A remix of the original version recorded on 4 February 1968, played at the correct speed; sound effects, piano, maracas and backing vocals mixed out; tape echo added.
- "Let It Be" – A remix of take 27A from 31 January 1969 used for George Martin's single version and Spector's album version, with edit pieces including Harrison's guitar solo from take 27B edited in.
Release and reception
On 13 November 2003, the completed Let It Be... Naked album had its world premiere with a two-hour radio special from Infinity Broadcasting. The special featured: a 50-minute documentary of the original Get Back/Let It Be sessions, including interviews with all four Beatles; an uninterrupted broadcast of the new Let It Be... Naked album; and a 20-minute roundtable discussion hosted by Pat O'Brien. The roundtable discussion featured analysis from musicians Sheryl Crow, J.C. Chasez, Billy Joel and Fred Durst, Breakfast with the Beatles host Chris Carter, record producers Alan Parsons and Jimmy Iovine, music critic David Fricke and journalist Geraldo Rivera.
Contemporary review comments:
- "overall slightly stronger [than Let It Be] ... a sleeker, slicker album"
- "Technically, they've done a fine job ... it may be intriguing to hear a version of 'Across the Universe' featuring only Lennon and some echo effects, but the new mix merely emphasises the song's droning vapidity. 'The Long and Winding Road' is indubitably improved by the removal of Spector's wall of schmaltz, but it's still teeth-clenchingly mawkish"
- "not essential [...] though immaculately presented"
- "[while] the sonic improvements to the album as a whole are undeniable [...] novices should still get the original"
- it "stripped the original album of both John's sense of humor and Phil Spector's wacky, and at least slightly tongue-in-cheek, grandiosity"
- Producer Rick Rubin said he has "mixed feelings"; excited about a new Beatles release and especially the sound of "Two of Us," but he expressed admiration for the Phil Spector production that Let It Be… Naked stripped out, especially on "The Long and Winding Road."
All tracks are written by Lennon–McCartney except those marked with (*), which are by George Harrison.|
Fly on the Wall bonus disc
The 22-minute bonus disc contains song excerpts and dialogue from the many hours of tape which accumulated during the Let It Be sessions. Some of the removed dialogue that had appeared on the original album appears on this disc. In total, the track is 21 minutes and 55 seconds long and brings the album's total length to 56:59.
Compiled and edited by Kevin Howlett. All songs credited to Lennon–McCartney except where noted.
- "Sun King" – 0:17
- "Don't Let Me Down" – 0:35
- "One After 909"– 0:09
- "Because I Know You Love Me So" – 1:32
- "Don't Pass Me By" (Richard Starkey) – 0:03
- "Taking a Trip to Carolina" (Starkey) – 0:19
- "John's Piano Piece" (Lennon) – 0:18
- "Child of Nature" (Lennon) – 0:24
- "Back in the U.S.S.R." – 0:09
- "Every Little Thing" – 0:09
- "Don't Let Me Down" – 1:01
- "All Things Must Pass" (Harrison) – 0:21
- "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window" – 0:05
- "Paul's Piano Piece" (McCartney) – 1:01
- "Get Back" – 0:15
- "Two of Us" – 0:22
- "Maggie Mae" (Traditional, arranged by Lennon–McCartney–Harrison–Starkey) – 0:22
- "Fancy My Chances with You" – 0:27
- "Can You Dig It?" (Lennon–McCartney–Harrison–Starkey) – 0:31
- "Get Back" – 0:32
- The Beatles
- John Lennon – vocals, guitars, bass guitar, lap steel guitar
- Paul McCartney – vocals, bass guitar, acoustic guitars, piano, Hammond organ, electric piano
- George Harrison – guitars, vocals, sitar, tambura
- Ringo Starr – drums
- Additional musicians
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The album was released in various countries in November 2003.
|Japan||14 November 2003||Toshiba EMI||Copy Protected Compact Disc||TOCP 67300-01|
|United Kingdom||17 November 2003||Apple||CD||595 7132|
|Australia||17 November 2003||Parlophone||Copy Protected CD||595 7142|
|United States||18 November 2003||Apple, Capitol||CD||CDP 7243 5 95227 2 2|
|Indonesia||18 November 2003||Apple, EMI||Cassette Tape||7243 5 95227 4 6|
Charts and certifications
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