This is a review of the augmented album release of Let It Be. For my original album review, go here: https://the-avocado.org/2018/08/26/album-reviews-the-beatles-let-it-be/
Let It Be is a paradox. It is the Beatle album with the greatest number of outtakes, and it is the album least likely to benefit from releasing any of these outtakes.
Why? Because of the nature of the sessions. The group were doing all of the songs in one take, with no overdubs allowed.1 So most of these outtakes are rough and/or unfinished. The cover songs they recorded weren’t smooth, either; someone would think of a song and begin playing and singing it, the band would join in, and then it would screech to a halt midway through, most of the time. I owned a vinyl triple-disc record of the Twickenham rehearsals back in the day, entitled The Black Album, and trust me; most of it was unlistenable.
Still, when there’s money to be made, EMI/Universal Music Group will jump right in. And so we have the new, Super Deluxe Edition of Let It Be.
Does it contain every outtake? Not even close.
Is it awful? Surprisingly, no. Giles Martin went through the multitracks done at Apple Studios and the mono rehearsal tapes done at Twickenham and curated a fair amount of good stuff, with excellent sound quality. I don’t think this release elevates the original record past what it was in 1970, but it’s interesting and fun. There are some significant omissions, though.
Disc 1 is the 2021 remix of Let It Be overseen by Giles and engineer Sam Okell, the same team who did the previous Super Deluxe editions of Beatles albums. I couldn’t hear any striking audible differences, unlike the ones on the White Album and Abbey Road, so I count that as a good thing. It does seem as if Giles turned down the chatter between the tracks, and he definitely moderated the orchestras; but again, this isn’t necessarily bad. I prefer the original mix, but YMMV.
Disc 2: Get Back—Apple Sessions. Outtakes from the Apple Studios, with Billy Preston. These songs are definitely livelier than the Twickenham takes.
Morning Camera/Two Of Us (Take 4)—A cute snippet of morning greetings featuring Ringo, followed by an early take of Two Of Us, much more country than the released version. Lennon, particularly, really leans into the drawl.
Maggie Mae/Fancy My Chances With You—An alternate take of the Let It Be cover which blends into an impromptu rendition of an early unreleased Lennon/McCartney original. It’s quite brief and unfinished, but a joy to hear. This also appeared on the Fly On The Wall disc included in Let It Be…Naked.
Can You Dig It?—The original jam, quite different from the released take, with slide guitar predominating. It would have been a cool version. A piece of it appeared on Fly On The Wall. The speech at the end about “’Ark the Angels Come” came from this take and has a bit extra at the end.
I Don’t Know Why I’m Moaning—Speech about the performances. John and George do most of the talking.
For You Blue (Take 4)—Alternate take. Billy Preston’s piano is quite lively.
Let It Be/Please Please Me/Let It Be (Take 10)—Don’t get excited about Please Please Me. It’s two and a half lines vamped by Paul at the piano before he goes back to Let It Be. Nice, but hardly a lost treasure. This take is a good one which could have worked well on the album. George’s guitar solo reflects his spending a lot of time with the Band in the recent past.
I’ve Got A Feeling (Take 10)—An energetic alternate version. Still not one of my favorite songs, although I found myself singing ”Everybody had a hard year” most of last week.
Dig A Pony (Take 14)—Contains the ”All I want is you” opening and closing lines. Fun to hear John call Glyn Johns “Glynis”, like the actress who played Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins.
Get Back (Take 19)—This doesn’t have the energy of the released version, or of another outtake included on Disc 3. It’s not horrible, though. Has the forced laughter at the end which was used on the Get Back album, about which more below.
“Like Making An Album?”—A little bit of talk. Frustrating in that you can barely hear George’s comment.
One After 909 (Take 3)—Much rougher than the rooftop take which was the released version.
Don’t Let Me Down (First Rooftop Performance)—The only number which Giles chose to include as a new rooftop number. I don’t fault his not including the entire concert, since there are two things people don’t realize: first, that three of the rooftop numbers were already released on the original album;2; and second, that there were three versions of Get Back, two of Don’t Let Me Down, and two of I’ve Got A Feeling. It would’ve been quite repetitious. But it will be included in Peter Jackson’s upcoming film, apparently.
Anyway, this is a great performance of Don’t Let Me Down, except that John screws up the second verse, which is no doubt why the Let It Be…Naked album stitched the two performances together for their release of the song. Which is still the best version, IMO.
The Long and Winding Road (Take 19)—Another lovely, unSpectorized version.
Wake Up Little Susie/I, Me, Mine (Take 11)—From January 3, 1970, with Paul, George and Ringo the only Beatles present. A quite brief jam on the Everly Brothers classic before recording an acoustic instrumental of George’s song. Followed by George’s mock press statement about Dave Dee, Micky and Tich breaking up, an ironic comment on John’s leaving the group.
Disc 3: Get Back—Rehearsals and Apple Jams. A mix of Twickenham takes (in mono, indicated with an asterisk) and jam sessions from Apple Studios.
On The Day Shift Now/All Things Must Pass (Rehearsal)*—Some greetings followed by George playing his new number for the group. Their tepid response is an indication of how much he had to struggle with John and Paul to get his material even considered (he even has to cajole them to join in). This is not a great version of a really great song. George later recorded this for the title track of his epic All Things Must Pass album.
Concentrate On The Sound*—Some speech about the rehearsals, with John improvising a quick ditty about concentrating on the sound. A piece of this was on Fly on the Wall.
Gimme Some Truth (Rehearsal)*—An unfinished session, mostly with John and Paul. I can’t hear anything demonstrating to me that Paul helped write this song, despite what some fans claim. John later recorded this for his Imagine album.
I Me Mine (Rehearsal)*—I believe that this run-through of a song George had just written the night before was the one used in the film Let It Be. Because of that brief scene with John and Yoko waltzing to it, the Threetles (Paul, George and Ringo) later had to record a proper version of it for the Let It Be album.
She Came In Through The Bathroom Window (Rehearsal)*—All of the Abbey Road rehearsals are slow. Verrrrrry sllllooowww. Not my jam, but perhaps it’s yours.
Polythene Pam (Rehearsal)*—John jams a quick run-through of the number with slightly different lyrics. I like the conversation George is having with Mal Evans about cheese sauce on cauliflower in the beginning.
Octopus’s Garden (Rehearsal)*—The germ of the tune which became Ringo’s Abbey Road number. It’s great to hear George encouraging and helping him with the song, unlike John and Paul.
Oh! Darling (Jam)—Again, slow and seems to take forever. However, the bit at the end where John announces Yoko’s divorce is wonderful. (Where did he hear about it? Not on his phone. I have to wonder.)
Get Back (Take 8)—An excellent alternate take of the song, which could’ve been the single, but for some reason Paul felt the need to play it about twenty more times until he was satisfied. (I love the final take, too.)
The Walk (Jam)—A mostly instrumental version of a 1958 hit for Jimmy McCracklin. Fun.
Without A Song (Jam)—Some marvelous piano playing and singing from guest musician Billy Preston on a standard from 1929. Ringo drums, and apparently John is playing the guitar licks.
Something (Rehearsals)—This is mostly George asking for songwriting advice on his new ballad. John and Paul are not very helpful, leaving it up to him to figure out what to sing. Just the first verse and chorus.
Let It Be (Take 28)—A good take with some discussion at the beginning, recorded right after the chosen take. Paul says at the end that the last two takes are the best.
Disc 4: Get Back LP—1969 Glyn Johns Mix. This is the album which was almost released twice. Engineer/producer Glyn Johns compiled two different albums by request of the Beatles, who then decided they didn’t like it. It’s easy to hear why; it sounds quite listless. On the other hand, it does sound much more authentic than Spector’s Let It Be.
One After 909–The rooftop version, with a different mix. Paul and John’s remarks from the finish of the concert are tacked onto its ending.
Rocker/Save The Last Dance For Me/Don’t Let Me Down—The highlight of this disc. A jam on Fats Domino’s I’m Ready stops, then turns into a jam on the Drifters’s hit from 1960, then goes to John’s newest number.
Don’t Let Me Down—John asks Ringo to give a loud cymbal crash to “give me the courage to come screaming in.” Drags a bit, but a powerful rendition. Not polished enough to be the single.
Dig A Pony—An alternate take from the rooftop version on Let It Be. If you like this song, you’ll probably like it.
I’ve Got A Feeling—Another alternate take. Not as energetic as the rooftop take, and ends earlier.
Get Back—The same take as Let It Be, but a different mix. It’s a lot like the single. One thing I do like about the Get Back album is the way each track runs into the next, bridged by the chat.
[Side Two] For You Blue—Same basic take as the Let It Be version, but with the original vocal. George rerecorded his lead vocal for the later version. At that point, they’d given up the concept of unpolished takes.
Teddy Boy—The low point of the record. Sloppy, and drags compared to Paul’s solo version. John has obviously checked out on this one, but I dig his dance-caller rap in the middle. I could swear this had some really bad feedback in the beginning, but Giles must have erased it for this album. I hate when later producers mess with recording history.
Two Of Us—A bit more laid back than the Let It Be take. Pleasant, but I like the later version better.
Maggie Mae—The same one as Let It Be, but Glyn’s mix, which fades out at the end.
Dig It—A longer version of the Let It Be jam. The original was over twelve minutes. I still wish they’d dropped Maggie Mae and included the whole thing. I like this a lot. You can hear Paul’s vocals on this one.
Let It Be—Same take as Let It Be, but without most of the overdubs. The exception is George’s solo, the original recorded on April 30th, 1969. I like this mix better than the single but less than the album version.
The Long And Winding Road—The “naked” version. This was also included on Anthology 3, but George Martin might’ve remixed it. Spector should’ve left it alone, or at least dialed down his orchestra a LOT. As an aside, I don’t think that following Let It Be by The Long And Winding Road was the best idea for the track listing.
Get Back (Reprise)—The forced laughs from the take mentioned above. A limp end to a limp album. If people dislike Let It Be, I suspect they really would’ve hated Get Back. But I’m glad it was included as a piece of Beatles history.
Disc 5: Let It Be EP—This exists only to tie up some loose ends.
Across The Universe—Glyn Johns’s mix, which would have appeared on the second version of the Get Back album. Glyn slowed it down (not as much as Spector did, though), removed Paul & George’s backing vocals and the bird sounds, and reduced the backing vocals of Lizzie Bravo and Gayleen Pease on the chorus. It’s better than the World Wildlife Fund version, but worse than all the others.
I Me Mine—Glyn’s mix of the newly recorded (with lots of overdubs) Let It Be take. It keeps the tune’s original length. It also would’ve been on the second Get Back album.
Don’t Let Me Down—Giles Martin’s 2021 mix. Meh. For some reason, he decided to put some speech in front of it, which is kind of weird.
Let It Be—Giles’s 2021 mix of the single version. Meh meh.
And there you have it. It’s actually a pretty good compilation of the sessions, well curated. That’s the good news. Now I’m going to gripe. If you look at the disc lengths, they had plenty of room for more. So where are these songs?
Suzy Parker/Suzie’s Parlour—This omission makes me the angriest. Those who have seen the original film of Let It Be remember this as a highlight, a lively rocker with energetic vocals from John and Paul. It was done at Twickenham, so it would’ve been in mono, but who cares? Why wasn’t it included?? It had better be in Peter Jackson’s film.
Because I Know You Love Me So—An early Lennon/McCartney composition which we heard on Fly on the Wall. It should’ve been on this set, too.
Taking A Trip To Carolina—A quite short ditty from Ringo, which he never finished. Also included on Fly on the Wall. You had room, guys.
Rip It Up/Shake, Rattle And Roll/Kansas City/Miss Ann/Lawdy Miss Clawdy/Blue Suede Shoes/You Really Got A Hold On Me—A long medley of rock and roll numbers jammed. Rough, but stellar. Part of it was included on Anthology 3, and Glyn mixed it for possible Get Back inclusion. Why is the entire thing not here? Again, Peter Jackson, you better have this in your film.
Besame Mucho—A fun cover from the Let It Be film. Peter? You listening?
There are still more. But IMO, these are the best that were left out. Hell, if Suzy Parker had been included, I wouldn’t even have mentioned the others.
The best thing about this set is definitely that it’s whetted my appetite for the Get Back trilogy (3 two hour parts), on Disney+ beginning November 25th with Part 1, then the second two parts the following two days. I will definitely review it. Well played, Disney; I’ll be subscribing in late November and December. Happy Thanksgiving.
I do not think that the Get Back/Let It Be sessions were all the sunniness and light that Apple and UMG are trying to recast them as. But the Super Deluxe Edition of Let It Be, despite its omissions, is a worthy look into that January of 1969, and well worth hearing.