Just think; when ‘Let It Be’ first came out in 1970, a Labor PM was battling for his political life, a right-wing US president was losing a guerrilla war thousands of miles from home and novelty singles were clogging up the chart. How times change.
Yet, 33 and a third years on, the arrival of ‘Let It Be… Naked‘ (grisly title, granted) still feels like a landmark release. Just as the ‘Anthology‘ series provided a mirror for Britpop successes, so this lavish refurb – or rather minimisation – gives us the perfect excuse to see how the current crop are shaping up.
Heartwarming to note that back then, hated it, aware that the original album – a rag-bag of songs recorded in a filthy mood and turned into mini-symphonies by a passing Phil Spector – was no fit end for a band who’d levelled popular culture and built a people’s palace in its place.
Now, inevitably, things sound rather different. With a CD-friendly new running order (starting with pulverising ‘Get Back‘), the prunning of inter-song chat and the dismissal of Scouse shanty ‘Maggie Mae‘ and the throwaway ‘Dig It‘, we get a 35-minute, 11-track juggernaut which ceases to sound like a pieced-together postscript and more like a pared-down rock classic.
The notoriously syrupy arrangement bolted onto ‘The Long And Winding Road‘ – the only thing to annoy Macca more than David Blaine, apparently – has vanished, while the inclusion of Lennon’s imperious ‘Don’t Let Me Down’, previously marooned on the B-side of ‘Get Back‘, amps things up further.
The resulting monster takes one look on the crop of 2003 and flattens the lot of ’em. Ask yourself; have any of the cosmic Scouse bands written anything as genuinely trippy as the acoustic glow of ‘Across The Universe’, debuted here? Could Kings Of Leon and Jet combined rustle up a downhome rocker with the pure zip of ‘Get Back‘? Could The Darkness deliver a ‘Let It Be‘? Let alone all on one album?
It’s almost a relief to get to the duff tracks. ‘One After 909‘, despite some brutal electronic scrubbing, still sounds like it was written in 1957, while George’s ‘For You Blue‘ reminds you what remotes are for. The rest, after 30-odd years in the vaults, is the sound of a grumpy Beatles hosting a songwriting masterclass, finally spruced up and given a decent send-off. The only person who won’t be paying his respects, you’d imagine, is a certain Mr Spector. When it rains, it pours…