Let It Be by Original Soundtrack/The Beatles

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This Album is Unfinished and Sloppy ... And it Still Seems to Breathe Magic

Jun 16, 2008
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:The songs, duh!

Cons:"I Dig a Pony" isn't that great, sad to say.

The Bottom Line: I can't imagine there were many unfinished albums out there that are this good. This is almost tooooo good.

(Disclaimer: Those looking for a brief description of the album will find what their looking for in the "Review Body" section. The section titled "Track Reviews" is meant only for those who want to read detailed descriptions of the songs, and they do not constitute the essence of this review. Lastly and most importantly, this review is not necessarily written by the point of view of a Beatles fan.)

Overall Score: 5/5
Best song: “Across the Universe”
Worst song: “Dig a Pony” probably

Review Body:

Sure, The Beatles still broke up after Abbey Road, but they had a whole other unfinished album that was waiting to be released. The original name of this album was Get Back, as it had a sort of “get back to basics” original theme. It had a title track, they resurrected an unpublished song they wrote in 1963 (“One After 909”), George wrote a couple of retro-ish tunes for it. And, as history has it, the whole production fell apart right in the middle. They obviously had time to record all the songs, but many of them were done live in their iconic “concert on the roof” probably because they were irritated at each other so much they wanted to get it over with. The result is an extremely raw album that's completely uncharacteristic of any of their previous work.

Had they not given up interest in it, it's not too unlikely to assume they would have polished it a bit more. They almost had to. But circumstances as they were, neither the Beatles nor George Martin had any interest in doing post-production work. So, Phil Spector, a reputable producer who was famous for his “wall of sound” production style, was brought into finish it. His work is often considered controversial among fans... especially for his rather thick orchestration of Paul's gorgeous ballad “Long and Winding Road.” Apart from this one exception, the only instance when I tend to agree with the anti-Spector crowd, I really don't understand what the whole fuss is about. I really enjoy hearing this album, and the man did just about the best he could with the material he had to work with. Spector's production of “Across the Universe” is also met with some ire among the crowds, but I don't think those canned vocal 'aahs' do anything to actually harm the tune. In fact, I almost kinda like them.

Another thing that Spector did to irk some fans was to insert little snippets of studio chatter here and there. For example, the first thing we hear before the opening song starts to play is Lennon saying: “I Dig a Pygmy, by Charles Hawtrey and the Deaf Aides. Phase One in which Doris gets her oats!” That's a load of pure silliness that John was known to randomly belt out during recording sessions, and he didn't intend that to actually appear on an album! ... Well, I can understand that sentiment from the anti-Spector crowd, but I admit, I appreciate being able to hear some of Lennon's legendary goofiness. There's also a couple short tracks that were originally apart of warm-up sessions, and they also weren't intended to be released in an album. The first is “Dig it” in which Lennon rambles off a list of whatever comes to mind amidst a sort of detached groove.The other is a cover of an old British folk song called “Maggie Mae.” ... While they were probably inessential, it is interesting to hear these brief snippets just to gain another perspective of The Beatles. Were they mortal men, after all?

The album begins on a sort of optimistic note with Lennon and McCartney performing “Two of Us,” a pretty, tuneful duet. It gives Beatles fans a little bit of comfort that those two probably liked each other despite always seeming to be at each other's nerves. “Dig a Pony” is possibly the worst song on Let it Be just because it has a clunky development, and it's not that interesting. Though the album picks up major kudos for the major masterpiece “Across the Universe.” It's an incredible, tuneful ballad that you can easily find yourself getting lost in. It's one of Lennon's greatest tunes, in my opinion, and just about his final psychedelic anthem. So you can mourn that if you wish.

Equally as classic is McCartney's unbeatable ballad, “Let it Be.” That man came out with more unforgettable sentimental classics than you could ever shake a stick at, but that one really takes everything out. Yeah... I bet you could sing it with me by heart. Probably the best decision that Spector made concerning this album was to rename it after this song. It's a rather appropriate exit theme. George's two contributions, as I said earlier, were a little more old-fashioned than the others, but they hardly suffer from that. The bluesy “For You Blue” is a damn treat to listen to, and you can even hear Lennon supplying some of the most gorgeous slide guitar that could possibly ever be conceived. Harrison's “I Me Mine” is a good tune that begins as a sort of Italian folks song only to be interrupted by a more heavily rocking chorus.

Surely, this album isn't up to the same level of Abbey Road. I don't think many people try to take the contrary to that position unless they're allergic to studio intense production. It's another Beatles classic with more than its fair share of unbeatable tunes. Who's going to say 'no' to that?

Track Reviews:

Two of Us A
This was written by McCartney though sung as duet with Lennon. It's nice to hear them seeming to cooperate once again, although I think we all knew how that eventually turned out! Right away, you can feel the rawness of this sound, and pretty obvious that George Martin had nothing to do with the post-production. Though the rawness actually suits it pretty well... It's a very sweet folk-like melody, and the rawness contributes an extra edge to it that I like.

Dig a Pony A-
John Lennon would later comment that this song was garbage... That's being a little bit rough, but I do think this thing is a little bit bland. Though I don't have much of a problem with the melody... It just seems a bit clunky to me, and it's a bit long. Obviously, this would have been something they would have worked on if they continued to work on this album! Though it's really hard to deny, sitting through this, that it reeks of Beatles greatness. Still entertaining... though perhaps not up to their standards.

Across the Universe A+
Gorgeous! This is nothing but pure Lennony goodness. It's hard to know what would have happened if this was given the same sort of treatment as on The Beatles, but the whole concept of just Lennon with his guitar is so simple that it astounds! (Of course, there's Phil Spector's post-production vocal “aahs” ... but somehow those don't keep the song from sounding raw and untouched.) Everyone knows this by heart, of course, and only the soulless don't get tugged by it ... at least a little bit.

I Me Mine A
Of course, it was the quiet Beatle who was always caught in the middle of these family squabbles. Papa Lennon and Mama McCartney were always having screaming matches while George was left huddling and shivering in the corner... And then he worked a bit more on this song he had floating in his head... a sort of Italian folk tune with a rock 'n' roll chorus going at it with “I Me Mine!” It would have been cool if Lennon and McCartney sang the chorus together... I'm betting they would, but I don't think one of them was actually present at the session. Well, this is a good song of course. It's well-written, and fun to hear. Do you need anything else?

Dig It
This is just a forty-five second song that was extracted from a 12-minute jam. This is just a load of silliness featuring the guys grooving away while John listing off whatever random thing was coming in his mind.

Let it Be A+
Only a few months ago, I became aware that this song is semi-based on “Pachelbel's Canon.” Considering that's one of the few pieces I know on the piano, I tried it out, and ....... whattaya know! Though surely of all the songs based on that old Baroque classic, it can't get much better than this beautiful, sentimental classic. It has a really nice symbolic end to them, as well. (Also note that there's nothing they needed to do to this to make the production better ... nothing.)

Maggie Mae
This is another one of those studio jam things. It's just something they recorded while they were warming up. They give purposefully goofy performances, and it sort of falls apart by the end.

I've Got a Feeling A
McCartney and Lennon both had unfinished songs that they just decided to string together. Surprisingly, it's a pretty natural fit... even to the point where they actually sing the two songs on top of each other. (I had no idea that they were separate songs until I read it on Wikipedia... strange.) Once again, this song has an incredibly raw feeling to it. It was apparently recorded on that iconic rooftop concert event, but it still somehow manages to make an entirely wonderful experience.

One After 909 A
They had to brush the mothballs off this one. John Lennon wrote it in 1963, they recorded a take of it, they didn't like it and forgot about it. But of course they brought it out again seeing that it fit well with the original “back to basics” theme of the album. I get the feeling that this would have been performed much more vigorously by the 1963 versions of the Fab Four, but now they're old and tired. (Guess what time it is right now? 9:09 p.m. They were so off...)

The Long and Winding Road A+
This is by far the most controversial production decision that Phil Spector made, by packing on such thick instrumentation, much of which consisted of those fakey vocal 'aahs.' Paul was so angry about it that, rumor has it, he got in a fist fight with Spector. (I don't think that's true, but there was a lawsuit involved.) I understand where McCartney was coming from certainly... that instrumentation actually drowns out McCartney's voice a bit. Though none of that can ever undermine the fact that this is a true Beatles masterpiece. An incredibly sentimental song that also manages to tug at you, no matter who you are.

For You Blue A+
George continues to be awesome. It's interesting to note that George's two original contributions to the album are sort of retro. The first one being an old-style folk song and this one being a sort of blues tune. The other two didn't really completely fit in with that theme! This song is characterized by very short high-pitched stabs of an electric guitar while John played the slide guitar quietly in the background. It's a very fun, lighthearted piece.

Get Back A+
The legend goes that all the writing behind this song developed “out of thin air” while they were jamming. (Not while they were in the process of recording this album, but it wasn't long before that.) This song is characterized by a sort of galloping rhythm section, and an incredibly catchy melody. (How was Paul able to do this 'out of thin air?' Was he some kind of Martian?) This was originally meant to be the title track, and I believe even the opening track. I suppose Spector was trying to express the irony of it?

Concluding Remarks:

While this isn't as pristine perfect as any of the other late-period Beatles albums (only because it was half-finished), these guys prove that they had MASSIVE amounts of power ... only when their spirits were only half there.

Recommend this product? Yes

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