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The Beatles' Let It Be ... Naked has been accompanied by a sticker proclaiming it to be "the band's take" on the troubled 1969 Let It Be recording sessions. Many critics have taken umbrage at that claim, arguing that Naked abandons the original spirit of the project.

The simple truth is, both sides are wrong. There never was a clear concept for Let It Be, a fact borne out by bootlegged outtakes that capture the band repeatedly debating over the project's direction and purpose. Initially, Let It Be was conceived as a television special that would document the band rehearsing new material and recording it in concert. Because the group could never agree on a suitable concert setting, they compromised, making the film a document of The Beatles recording in the studio, with five songs performed on the roof of their Savile Row office building.


Let It Be … Naked
The Beatles
Two early versions of the album - assembled by producer/engineer Glyn Johns - were rejected by the band, before John Lennon handed the project to wall-of-sound mastermind Phil Spector. By this point, the group had scotched their initial no-overdubbing policy for the record, and even the album/film's original title, Get Back, had been changed. Spector brought order to the chaos, but he also piled layers of overwrought strings and angelic choirs on tracks like "The Long and Winding Road" and "Across the Universe."

By any reasonable reckoning, Naked is a stronger record than the original Let It Be release. It replaces two disposable fragments with "Don't Let Me Down," Lennon's definitive song from this period. It also uses the spare version of "The Long and Winding Road" heard in the Let It Be film, always the best take of that Paul McCartney standard. And in remastered form, this material sounds uniformly brighter and more potent than it ever has before.

But reasonable reckonings don't take into account the baggage of old expectations. By altering the running order and snipping away familiar bits of between-songs chatter, Naked messes with some hallowed memories. In its old form, Let It Be ended up feeling like an audio document of its accompanying film. By contrast, Naked comes across as a more conventional studio record, even without Spector's overdubs. It might not be the band's true take, but it, at least partially, redeems their most problematic record. •



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