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am 11. November 2005
Historically there is a real sense in which the "Let It Be" album made it easier to accept the idea that the Beatles had broken up. Not just because the album is essentially the soundtrack from the film that showed the Beatles disintegrating right before our eyes, but also because it is just not a great Beatles album, certainly not in comparison to "Abbey Road" (or even the collection of singles like "Lady Madonna" and "Hey Jude" that Apple put out after the end, most of which ended up on the CD "Past Masters - Volume Two").
The culprit who is fingered for this disaster (a Beatles album that is not "great" qualifies as a disaster), is Phil Spector, who was brought in to do some post-production mixing and overdubs. But the only song that really got the legendary "Wall of Sound" treatment was "The Long and Winding Road," with "Across the Universe" and "I Me Mine" only getting a touch of the same. That is not much to hang Spector as the primary culprit. The biggest sin here is that he did not work with the Beatles the same way that George Martin always did and the responsibility for so many of the songs being sub-standard has to fall on the Beatles who wrote them. Personally, I never liked "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road" half as much as "Hey Jude" (it was like comparing all of Led Zeppelin's ambitious songs to "Stairway to Heaven" in the next decade).
It helps a little bit to recall that the idea here was that the Beatles were performing these songs live (who can forget the famous rooftop concert), in another attempt to get excited about their music. Sometimes I just think of "Let It Be" as the anti-Sgt. Pepper album, because whereas that classic Beatles album has a superb sense of construction from start to finish, the songs on this one seem to be arranged in a haphazard fashion (e.g., "Dig a Pony" followed by "Across the Universe"). I know this seems a strange thing to say after "The White Album" and side 2 of "Abbey Road," but both of those albums still have cohesiveness even when they are splicing unfinished songs together that this one is totally missing. Maybe on a subliminal level the group was telling the world "You WANT us to break up, because this is what you get from here on out."
The bottom line is I still listen to this one from time to time, but still a lot less than any other Beatles album (yes, I listen to "side 1" of the "Yellow Submarine" soundtrack more than "Let It Be"). Besides, everybody knows it is not a real Beatles album if George Martin is not the producer. When "Let It Be...Naked" came out in 2003, having mixed out Spector's contributions, deleted the bits of conversation, cut a couple of songs ("Dig It" and "Maggie Mae"), added "Don't Let Me Down," and resequenced the tracks, it just struck me as too little too late. At best it was a marginally better album. No wonder "Abbey Road" is considered the "last" Beatles album. It is not just because it was recorded after "Let It Be," but because it lets the Beatles go out on a much higher note (plus "The End" gets to serve as a benediction of sorts).
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