17 October, 2021

The Bonus Discs - Let It Be

Regardless of the new evidence in the companion book and Peter Jackson’s re-cut of the film, that the experience wasn’t as bad as we’ve all been led to believe. Let It Be remains The Beatles’ most difficult album, both during and after its making.

Giles Martin’s new mix of the album is a subtle tweaking rather than a full reimagining. Phil Spector’s orchestrations are still in there. Martin states in the notes that Spector’s mix lacked the sensitivity of George Martin but created a sound of its own which had to be respected.

Personally, I can’t fault Phil Spector for doing what he did to the original Let It Be. The fact he did not share the same vision as The Beatles should have been obvious. The Beatles had washed their hands of the project a year earlier and Spector was handed weeks’ worth of tapes to create something of releasable quality from. He did this the only way he knew how, which was to turn it into a Phil Spector record. I can blame him for being a creepy, abusive murderer but I can’t blame him for doing the job he was hired to do.

Back to the new mix though, and the differences are very subtle – almost to the point of being imperceptible. I played the 2009 remaster immediately afterwards to compare and I was hard pressed to tell the difference. Spector’s syrup is dialled back a bit but not all that much. In any case, if you want to hear the de-Spectored version, there’s Let It Be… Naked, and the Glyn Johns mix, more of which later.

Discs 2 and 3 are split between actual takes, and rehearsals and jams. The content could have fitted on one disc but it makes sense to split, partly because there’s a different theme and partly because this album makes you expect 35 to 40-minute bites.

Because of the live-in-the-studio ethos of the project, the outtakes and rehearsals are the kind of thing that reward repeated listening rather than being mere curios.

Disc 4 is what we’ve really been waiting for though – the first official release of Glyn Johns’ mix of the proposed Get Back album. I haven’t heard any of the bootlegs so this was my first listen. It’s a great snapshot. For me, the problem with it is that it was only ever a work-in-progress mix. Teddy Boy could easily have been jettisoned and the full length version of Dig It was probably unnecessary. Get Back would surely have been tidied up for release if they had seen the project through. On the whole, I prefer the sound of Let It Be… Naked. And there is absolutely no reason why the Naked mix couldn’t have been included in this set.

Disc 5 is a a 4-track EP. Why? I have no idea. It contains the original mix of Across the Universe (fair enough), the Glyn Johns mix of I Mean Mine complete with scratches (why?) plus new mixes of the single versions of Don’t Let Me Down and Let It Be. What the entire box doesn’t include is the original single version of Get Back, either as a remix or the original. Why not?

And so to the Blu-ray which features the stereo mix in hi-res, DTS-HD 5.1 and Dolby Atmos. The surround mix is not mind-blowing but nor should it be. As it well documented, the whole point of the album was to ‘get back’ to basics so being flashy with the surround mix would be further going against the original intention. There also probably wasn’t much more you could do with it. For the most part, the arrangements are spread out a bit more which definitely helps hear details which have previously been buried in the stereo mixes.

I did find the menu animations rather distracting and ended up turning the screen off.

The book is beautiful and is particularly helpful in identifying takes. I hadn’t realised so much of Let It Be… Naked came from the same takes as the original album. I do wish they had saved a page in there for Tony Barrow’s sleeve notes for the Get Back album. The only place they appear in the whole package is on the back of the replica CD cover and it’s bloody hard to read the 4pt type.

Worth paying extra for?
Well, if you’re extremely lucky like I am and happen to have come into some birthday money recently, there are certainly more disappointing things you could spend it on. If you’re itching to hear the legendary Glyn Johns mix though, you could probably go to your nearest purveyor of bootlegs and still come out with enough change to afford the Abbey Road box set.

Let It Be 1987 remaster

Let It Be 2009 remaster

Let It Be 2021 remix