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Friday, May 25, 2012

LET IT BE - side one

The single Instant Karma! by the Plastic Ono Band looms large in the story of the Beatles.  Lennon's exercise in writing, recording and releasing a song as quickly as possible resulted in legendary American producer Phil Spector's involvement with Let It Be.  Spector produced John's single, and John and George Harrison, who played on the record, were so impressed with Spector's work that they decided to give him the tapes from the Get Back sessions to see if he could produce a suitable album from the more-than-a-year-old tapes.

Between March 23rd and April 2nd, 1970, Spector assembled his package.  Unlike Glyn Johns, whose rejected Get Back albums matched the tone of the film - unpolished and, sometimes, unflattering - Spector cleaned up the tracks and, in a few instances, fabricated performances that the composers, particularly McCartney, never envisioned.

Two of Us - The album opens with some spoken nonsense from Lennon followed by this gentle number from McCartney.  Because the original premise of these sessions was to play live with no overdubs, the Beatles forced themselves to do things they had not done for some time, such as sing a duet.  Paul and John perform most of this song in that fashion, with Paul singing the bridge solo.  To create the effect of a fadeout, the band simply gets quieter at the end, with John wistfully whistling.  An early runthrough is available on Anthology 3, but this version was recorded on January 31st, 1969, the final day of work on the project.

Dig a Pony - This unusual Lennon composition was mistakenly listed as I Dig a Pony on early US copies of the album.  The song is a midtempo rocker with typical Lennon wordplay.  John sings it with some occasional harmony from Paul.  Again, an early take of the song is on Anthology 3.  The album version is from the famed rooftop concert on January 30th.  Spector curiously decided to delete the "All I want is" sections from the opening and closing of the performance.

Across the Universe - In the film Let It Be, John plays this song at the earliest sessions at Twickenham Film Studios.  Since there were no proper recordings done at those sessions, Spector was forced to return to the original February, 1968 master.  Not wanting it to sound like the recent World Wildlife version (derived from the same master), he deleted many of the instrumental overdubs, as well as the Lizzie Bravo-Gayleen Pease harmonies and the backing vocals by the Beatles.  Whereas George Martin had decided to speed up the original tape, Spector opted to slow it down.  Finally, he added an orchestra and choir.  In Ray Coleman's biography Lennon, John says, "He did a really special job."

I Me Mine - Harrison is seen in the film playing this composition about the ego, which also had no actual take available, so George, Paul and Ringo gathered on January 3rd, 1970 to record the final song attributed to the Beatles during their career.  Since the number only ran about a minute and a half, Spector decided to repeat portions of it in order to stretch it out.  Orchestra and choir were also added.

Dig It - Just a snippet of a long, meandering jam credited to all four Beatles, but really led by John.  Spector chose what is by far the best section, but wiped Paul's simultaneous vocal from the mix.  John's falsetto comment at the end is from another runthrough of Dig It recorded a few days earlier.  His reference to Hark The Angels Come is a perfect segue into the title song.

Let It Be - This is the same take as the single with numerous differences.  Spector went with George's hard-edged guitar solo from January 4th, 1970 and gave George Martin's brass and cello overdubs more prominence.  He also applies heavy echo on Ringo's drums.  And, for some reason, he repeats the refrain one more time at the end.

Maggie Mae - Another song snippet - this time, a Liverpool ditty about a lady of the night.  John and Paul share the vocals before the performance simply falls apart.  This public domain number is the only cover version recorded and released by the group since Act Naturally on Help!  They actually covered quite a few songs at these sessions, some of which can be heard on Anthology 3.  At one point, according to Mark Lewisohn in The Beatles: Recording Sessions, an entire album of such material was considered, but, like many other ideas floating around at the time, it was soon forgotten.

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