We decide which format is the best with which to experience The Beatles’ final studio LP
“My instinctive feeling is that Let It Be is not at all a break up album; it sounds instead as an attempt at reconciliation, muses Giles Martin, son of the original album’s producer, George Martin, and overseer of this wonderful reissue…and indeed it is.
To be sure, the Let It Be film portrayed a band in a crisis, with the presence of Yoko and George walking out of a session (he would return a few days later), but what you hear on this box set is a band having fun, being what John Lennon said they always were: a rock ‘n’ roll band.
The first record of this lavish presentation is a new mix of the album, produced by Giles Martin. While the mix doesn’t transform the album into something completely different, there are a few very notable things here, mostly the boosting of several instruments. For example, Ringo’s kick drum on “Two Of Us” is much more prominent, as is guest keyboardist Billy Preston’s keyboard on “Get Back”, and almost everything except Spector’s strings on “The Long And Winding Road”, perhaps bridging the gap between the original mix and that on Let It Be Naked. What this mix does best is further illuminate that, despite the fact that the tracks on Let It Be are taken from disparate sources (the Apple offices “rooftop concert”, the basement of Apple Studios, a take of “Across The Universe” from 1968), the album is a wholly organic affair.
Artist: The Beatles
Album: Let It Be: Deluxe Vinyl Edition
★★★★★ (5/5 stars)
Discs 2 and 3 of this vinyl edition of the box set contain original sessions from Apple Studios, engineered by Glyn Johns, and these are a fascinating segment of Beatles history. Some of these versions are arguably better than what appeared on the album, (Take 4 of “For You Blue”, Take 19 of “The Long And Winding Road), and some are more realized (Take 3 of “One After 909”), but the best thing about these sessions are the early versions of songs which wound up on other albums, such as a sing-songy “Gimme Some Truth”, (on which John says “we should change that”; we’re all glad he did!), and songs from the medley on Abbey Road, like a slower “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window”, and a nascent “Octopus’s Garden”, on which John smirks “I think Paul would want to play drums on it”. Fun stuff!
But the real gem for collectors here is Disc 4, the Get Back LP, as engineer Glyn Johns had intended it. This was the album which was slated for release in July of 1969, but due to delays in the Let It Be film production, as well as The Beatles re-entrance into the studio to record Abbey Road, the album was forever shelved (of course it emerged on several bootlegs over the years). While some fans are glad this version was never released because “it’s just too raw and sloppy”, it’s The Beatles returning to their roots, as an attempt to brush aside the turmoil they were going through and “get back” to when they were a young band with the world at their fingertips. Most of these tracks showed up, in different form, on Let It Be, but some didn’t, including an early version of what ultimately became the B-side of the “Get Back” single, “Don’t Let Me Down”, and “Teddy Boy”, one of the best songs from McCartney’s self-titled debut solo album.
Fourteen tracks in all, just like the good old days, and the cover photo, which looks striking in this official vinyl release of the album, was a then current take of that used on The Beatles debut LP, Please Please Me (and eventually used on “The Blue Album”). While the Get Back LP was never released, reviews of it did appear late in 1969, one of which saying it was “better than Abbey Road”, and after the fact, John Lennon had sung its praises. It’s certainly about time we got to hear it in its pristine form!
The final disc is a specially-made EP containing previously unreleased and new mixes of four of the tracks from Let It Be. They all sound great, but the 1970 Glyn Johns mix of “Across The Universe” is particularly striking, with its boosted George Harrison tambura! (note: this 12” EP works much better on vinyl than as a single disc in the CD box set; not a particularly good look, there).
The package is rounded out by one of the finest books you’ll see in a box set, filled with great photos, many previously unreleased, a reminiscence by Sir Paul McCartney, plenty of essays about the making of Get Back and Let It Be, and copious session notes. It could certainly be a coffee table book unto itself.
All in all, Let It Be (5 LP Edition) is a wonderful snapshot in the career of the most iconic rock ‘n roll band of all-time; if you’re reading this review and already own this box set, then “let it be” a Christmas present for a good friend. They’ll become an even better friend.
EDITOR’S POSTSCRIPT: So, is the actual vinyl of this new Let It Be box a more satisfying listen on vinyl?
Personally, I find the box incredibly underwhelming in terms of the content. To only get 26 and 33 minutes out of sessions that were like 10 CDs on the boot market is very frustrating. Just like that stupid bonus disc on Let It Be…Naked.
So with that in mind, it makes more sense to own it on vinyl because they are cut for vinyl.
Yet regardless of whether you get it on wax or on CD, the magic of this restored music shines through no matter the format.
VIDEO: Get Back Official Film Clip