Let it Be (Super Deluxe)
(Calderstone Productions Ltd)
The man on the television is singing to me. He is looking directly at me through the screen and telling me about his mother, whose name is Mary. Although my mother's name is not Mary, I am still interested. I am about two and a half years old and this is my first experience of anyone singing to me through the television. It sounds like it may be a sad song that he is singing but, like the other song that I have also heard him sing on the radio, he's trying to make it better.
I will learn later that, when the man mentions his 'times of trouble' he may be disclosing some truth about himself. After all, his band is disintegrating, old friendships are breaking down and the business that his band created a few years beforehand is, to put it mildly, struggling. More was to follow, some of it good, most of it not. And then there was the album, oh yes, there's an album...
For over fifty years, 'Let it Be' has been the uncomfortable final part of The Beatles' story. An attempt to get back (no pun intended), to being a live band, jamming together, that Cavern vibe, performing a concert. Never has the Heraclitus line about “No man ever steps in the same river twice. For it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” been more true...
The result was an album that John Lennon argued had consisted of “... the shittiest pieces of shit we ever recorded." It is The Beatles' album with the most baggage and every so often it is presented again for our consideration, as a bunch of Anthology demos, as the unfucked with by Phil Spector version and now this, the exhaustive, definitive, please-God-let-this-be-the-
The good news is that, thankfully, there is a version of 'Let it Be' that finally does justice to what the band and Billy Preston recorded together in early 1969. The irony that Giles Martin finally gets to mix and make good the one Beatles album that his father was excluded from the production of is not lost! He's toned down some of the syrupy strings and choirs that Spector slavered over the album, but he's mindful that you can't rewrite history and it's not the revisionist 'Let it Be ... Naked' that McCartney contrived in 2003.
The balancing act is impressive. The obvious number is 'The Long and Winding Road', the infamous moment where, originally, Macca's ballad is submerged under layers of choirs, horns, strings, and that risible harp finale. Now, it's possible to hear the rest of the band play as much of the muzak is toned down. And it's glorious. The surprises though, come with first with 'I've Got A Feeling' rougher and far more exciting than ever before and 'One After 909' which finally feels like the enthusiastic rock 'n' roll jam that it was always meant to be. A triumph.
The most exhilarating item here though is the first official release of the much-bootlegged 'Get Back' album. A snapshot of a band working together in the Apple Studio that Glyn Johns assembled without their knowing in 1969. Although it captures the live excitement and musical rapport that the project was initially intended to do, it was rejected by the band. It includes by far the best, and untampered with, version of 'Across the Universe' and the band-only version of the aforementioned 'Long and Winding Road' Best of all is rawness of John's lovesong 'Don't Let Me Down' that bruised and bluesy voice that just felt sincere in amongst all the flimflam that he railed against. Oh, and for reasons too banal to go into here, it wasn't included on the actual album.
And that's it. The best possible version(s) of 'Let it Be' released (alongside the hefty 'Get Back' book and the forthcoming documentary). Sorry John, it may have its flaws but 'Let it Be' is not the 'shittiest pieces of shit' that you once decried. No, on the contrary, no. It may not be the glorious finale of 'Abbey Road' but it no longer feels like the poorly tacked-on epilogue. And that's a cause for celebration.