Skip to main content

183. The Beatles: Let It Be (1970)

So I bet you're saying, "Wait, didn't you just tell us that Abbey Road was The Beatles final album? What gives? Is this one of those cobbled together posthumous releases?"

Here's what happened. The Beatles convened in early '69 to create a back-to-basics album, just the four of them together in a room full of instruments with the tape running. Unfortunately, the band were lacking in songs and patience with one another. The project and tapes were set aside. They later recorded Abbey Road and called it a career.

What to do with the Let It Be tapes were the source of some acrimony among the band (who at this point would likely have acrimony about where to eat dinner), but ultimately they ended up in the hands of Phil Spector. Yes, I-allegedly-shot-an-actress-in-my-mansion Phil Spector. Did anyone else know he had anything to do with music? I didn't either! Anyway, he was charged with making an album out of the material.

The liner notes indicate that the album "comes with the warmth and freshness of a live performance" but what that really means is that Spector left some studio chatter between songs. In other places he gives in to production excess, belying the original spirit of the whole project. But the problem with Let It Be is not Spector's production, it's that there are only 12 songs and the album still feels padded.

That's not to say that there aren't outstanding individual songs. Opener Two Of Us is a sweet love song, and though it could easily be about a romance, I choose to see it differently. Maybe because it marks the nadir of their partnership, I think it's really about Paul and John, especially when Paul sings, "you and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead." Across The Universe is one of John's best songs, nonsense turned transcendent. Let It Be is a stone cold classic, inadvertently marking the transition out of the revolutionary '60s (think The Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed) into the more subdued '70s.

One After 909 is an early Lennon/McCartney composition, startling but effective in its simplicity. I've Got A Feeling is one of the few later-period Beatles tracks that truly feels collaborative, sporting a catchy McCartney melody and a funny spoken word bridge by Lennon. Also worth mentioning is the earthy organ-playing on the track, courtesy of future Nothing From Nothing hitmaker Billy Preston. Preston is also adds a rousing solo to the rocking closer Get Back.

That's a lot of highlights, and that's what makes Let It Be hard to forget or ignore. But it's hurt by the mediocre remainder of the album, from the sketchy Maggie Mae and Dig It to George Harrison's contributions I Me Mine and For You Blue (especially disappointing after his strong Abbey Road showing). The worst offender is The Long and Winding Road, which like a lot of people, I dislike for its showy orchestrations. But I also have a more personal reason to hate it. I used to work at K-Mart, and I suffered every moment of it. The in-store K-Mart Radio Network played a wide array of mildly bad songs from the '60s - '90s, made worse by the maddening, unyielding (save the holiday season), predictable repetition of them. The Long and Winding Road played every other day at 7:45 p.m. and the song's air of sadness never failed to underscore my own sense of disaffection.

All in all, Let It Be is an unfitting swan song, which I guess is okay since that wasn't what it was supposed to be anyway.

Grade: B-
Fave Song: Two Of Us

Comments

lochgoyle said…
Hi,

Firstly I enjoy your objectivity and wit, although I find it a little sad that the Long and Winding Road will in your mind be a permanent reminder of your retail industry employment malaise. I agree that Spector largely ruined this song, until the un-Spectorized recordings began to surface. Although schmaltzy, I find it can still be quite moving in it's pared-back form.

Keep up the good work.
hdb renovation said…
The liner notes indicate that the album "comes with the warmth and freshness of a live performance" but what that really means is that Spector left some studio chatter between songs. In other places he gives in to production excess, belying the original spirit of the whole project.
Glenn said…
Awww God, my favorite song. Beatles will always be the best for me whatever happens. I even love the lyrics of the song, very meaningful.

--

1 Week Diet
Saniya said…
Individuals with blood Groupe Sanguin B have been described to learn best by listening, reflecting and interpreting.

Popular posts from this blog

12 by Weezer

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... I decided to take an unconventional route for this 12 by, and pretend Weezer have already released a "greatest hits." Here's what I think that would look like:  1) "Buddy Holly", 2) "Undone - the Sweater Song", 3) "My Name Is Jonas", 4) "The Good Life", 5) "El Scorcho", 6) "Hash Pipe", 7) "Island in the Sun", 8) "Dope Nose", 9) "Keep Fishin'", 10) "Beverly Hills", 11) "We Are All On Drugs", 12) "Pork and Beans".  Here's a different take: 1. " Say It Ain't So"  (from Weezer , 1994)  A little bit heavy, a little bit catchy, quiet-loud dynamics. So basically, it's Pixies lite. The song is interesting lyrically because it's basically nonsense until the "Dear daddy..." bridge, which lets out a t

12 by Jenny Lewis

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... Completely separate from Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis has put together an impressive oeuvre that is very difficult to winnow down to just 12 songs (if you include her work with Rilo Kiley, fuhgeddaboudit). But I've made what I feel is a valiant attempt. Because I admire Jenny's lyrics so much, I'm going to limit my commentary to a favorite couplet from the song. (If you have Amazon Music Unlimited, you can listen along here .) 1. "Rise Up With Fists!!!" (from Rabbit Fur Coat , 2005) "But you can wake up younger, under the knife / And you can wake up sounder, if you get analyzed." 2. "Melt Your Heart" (from  Rabbit Fur Coat , 2005) "It's like a valentine from your mother / It's bound to melt your heart." 3. "Born Secular" (from Rabbit Fur Coat , 2005) "God works in mysterious ways / And God give

12 by Vicious Vicious

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... If you need a reference point for the work of Vicious Vicious mastermind Erik Appelwick, the most appropriate would be Beck. Like Mr. Hansen, Minnesota-based Appelwick has the ability to navigate between making you laugh and making you cry and making you want to dance, and embraces genres from country to R& B to folk to pop.  I've included songs from the two albums Appelwick did under the name Tropical Depression, because honestly there's not a lot of difference between that and Vicious Vicious.  I very literally  wrote the book  on Appelwick, so please feel confident you are hearing from an authority here.  If you have Amazon Music Unlimited, you can listen to an alternate version of list here  (sadly, not all of VV's music is on the service). 1. "Shake That Ass on the Dance Floor" (from Blood + Clover , 2003) A loungy, laconic come-on