Album: The Beatles

Let It Be... Naked, Apple
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The Independent Culture

Let It Be was always an unsatisfactory conclusion to The Beatles' illustrious career, its back-to-basics, no-overdubs approach (before Phil Spector got his hands on it) offering a dismayingly retrograde coda to a catalogue noted more for innovation and experimentation. "Get Back", the first track issued from the sessions, used fewer chords than any Beatles single since "Love Me Do", and the project's general drift was signalled by the resuscitation of the chugging skiffle-rocker "The One After 909", one of Lennon and McCartney's earliest compositions. The lacklustre, makeweight tone of the proceedings was reflected in the high filler quotient, with tracks such as "Dig It" and "Dig A Pony" falling way short of the band's usual standards: even Lennon, who wrote the latter, considered it "garbage".

The songs' shortcomings were compounded by Phil Spector's subsequent attempts to jessie up this slight, spartan material with over-larded orchestral arrangements, which only served to highlight its mediocrity. Organised by Lennon behind the others' backs, the gauche results were the final straw for McCartney who ever since has presumably harboured a desire to correct the album's faults. He has done that here in a revised version which removes the lush orchestrations, dumps the sub-standard "Maggie Mae" and "Dig It" completely, and employs a more satisfying running-order. A further inspired touch is the addition of the splendid "Don't Let Me Down", providing a more fitting home for this underrated song than B-side ignominy, and ensuring that an album which only had - let's be honest - three, maybe four, substantial songs, now has a more respectable five.

The sequencing changes impose a certain logic on the album - clearly, it should always have opened with "Get Back" and closed with "Let It Be" - but the removal of the orchestrations is the most significant factor, leaving the songs at once tougher, yet paradoxically more vulnerable. Harrison's "I Me Mine" is crisper, more acidly pointed, while the alternative take of "The Long and Winding Road", rendered with just piano, bass, and a Leslie'd guitar part has a more pleasing, plaintive quality, with none of the arm-twisting over-statement of the original.

Elsewhere, the understated cellos and horns on "Let It Be" have been removed and George's florid solo replaced with an earlier, less flamboyant one, while the bare-bones version of "Across The Universe" means that what was previously an overcooked exercise in incense-shrouded cosmicity now has a more appealing, contemplative cast appropriate to its sentiments.

Overall, then, ... Naked is a significant improvement on the original album, although it must be acknowledged that the poorer material imposes its own limitations, however well presented.