I think I’m going to call this my “Get Back” week.
First there was the release this past Tuesday of The Beatles “Get Back” book (more about that coming soon to this blog) then the release yesterday of the official trailer for the upcoming new six-hour “Get Back” documentary by Peter Jackson on Disney+ next month and now the release tomorrow of the newly remixed and remastered “Let it Be” album.
Ahhh that’s my kind of week!
Well as fate would have it I have managed to get ahold of one of the many new “Let it Be” configurations coming out tomorrow – the 5 LP “Let it Be” which includes an impressive 100-page hardback book as well as four full LPs and one 4 song (45 r.p.m.) LP-sized EP.
There are other formats of this new “Let it Be” album as well including a single CD, a 2 CD set, a 6 CD/Blu-Ray set as well as a single LP but this review will take a look at this most impressive new 5 Lp box set.
As usual this new “Let it Be” box set, like many of the Beatles box sets that have been released in the past few years, is a thing of beauty and is full of previously unreleased outtakes along with the main album newly remixed afresh by Giles Martin (son of legendary original Beatles producer George Martin).
The first thing that struck me when I held this set in my hands was not only the hefty weight of the set but the lovely die-cut front cover which looks just amazing in person. It struck me at first glance as sort of a window into the famed “Get Back” sessions from 1969 and after listening to the set I think that’s an apt description.
I must say first off though that this set is by no means a complete chronicle of the almost mythical sessions from January 1969 which consisted of several hours of off the cuff as well as studio performances.
I read that Giles Martin chose sparingly the outtakes for this set and wanted to make a collection that was easy to digest and listen to repeatedly without the tediousness of listening to every single note and breath that was recorded on the hundreds of hours of audio tape that exist in The Beatles vaults.
I know some Beatles fans will be upset that there isn’t a lot more of the Twickenham Studio audio that’s been bootlegged to death over the years but after having perused this new set I must say I think Giles Martin chose well and this set is indeed a nice window into these sessions and very entertaining. Your mileage may vary but for me this set hit my sweet spot for the “Get Back” sessions and I find it a nice overview.
Anyway, here’s a quick look at the 5 LP set.
The first LP, the 2021 “Let it Be” remix:
I have to say I was really surprised to find that this new 2021 remix sounded very true to the original 1970 Phil Spector mix. Yes there are several nice new moments with more up front vocals and some instruments peaking out here and there but overall this new remix sounds very close to the original LP.
This is probably my favorite of all of Giles Martin’s Beatles remixes. I’m sure other people may think he should have gone farther but to me this just is a much clearer and cleaner sounding version of the original mix. You definitely don’t feel as if Martin is making this sound anything other than the original “Let it Be” album we all know and love but enhanced.
At least on vinyl this album doesn’t sound dramatically different to me and in my opinion that’s a good thing. I’m always afraid of some overly compressed mess that drowns the album of its original charm but that’s not the case here.
(Note: Also I have to say that all the records in my set were pressed very well (no warps) and are very quiet and sound great! Nothing sounded overly compressed or muddy to my ears. One of the better Beatles box sets sound wise in my opinion.)
Here are a couple of mixes that sounded slightly different to me:
Across the Universe – This is the first of the remixes that really stood out to me as sounding a bit different. The vocal is more prominent, a little clearer with a little bit more echo. The orchestration is much more noticeable and you can hear it much better as the various instruments stand out more. Lovely remix and you actually hear more of Specter’s touch with this one. Actually all the songs that contain Spector’s orchestrations stand out a bit more in this new remix.
One After 909 – While not dramatically different sounding this mix is a bit cleaner and sounds a little bit rockier than the original mix. There’s a nice punch to this mix without being overly compressed. I love how live the vocals sound. I may prefer this mix to the original actually, very nice.
The Long and Winding Road – Much like “Across the Universe” this new remix highlights the sound of the orchestration. If anyone was hoping for a de-Spectorized take this is definitely not it. Paul’s vocal also sounds a bit more up front but the orchestration really sounds lovely. It does sound as if they took down the heavenly choir vocals a bit but the orchestration is a little bit cleaner and clearer which was kind of surprising but sounds good.
The rest of the album has its moments of a bit cleaner vocals and better separation of instruments but overall it actually sounds very very faithful to the original 1970 mix. All of the rockier songs tend to have a bit more punch and a little bit cleaner presentation than the original mix which makes them sound improved in my mind but they’re not dramatically different from their original mixes.
Get Back – Apple Sessions, Rehearsals and Apple Jams:
While I haven’t listened to both LPs in full yet what I’ve sampled so far has been a lot of fun. Again not dramatically different versions of these songs but this is a nice sounding collection of outtakes from the sessions.
I’m actually glad that Martin focused on the studio takes rather than put too much of the Twickenham songs in this collection. It’s fun to hear The Beatles in the studio in nice clean and punchy sounding works in progress. The mono Nagra sound pretty good but for repeated listening I prefer the studio takes.
Some highlights so far:
Let it Be/Please Please Me/Let it Be (Take 10) – A very soulful early take of “Let it Be” that I really enjoyed. I must have missed the “Please Please Me” bit because I didn’t hear it but a lovely early take that’s great to hear.
Dig a Pony (Take 14) – Another fun take that while not perfect sounds great. I especially love how Lennon at the end sings that this take wasn’t as good as a previous take and let’s do “Get Back”. Fun stuff and sounds very nice.
One After 909 (Take 3) – A really nice take with much more prominent boogie woogie piano. Again not dramatically different but different enough to be interesting. For some reason this take reminds me of The Rolling Stones, a bit more bluesy.
Don’t Let Me Down (First Rooftop Performance) – Despite the slight lyric goof this is a superb take and nice to have the complete unaltered live take. I enjoy the version of this from “Let it Be … Naked”album which made a composite mix of both live takes but it’s great to have the full unaltered first take sounding as good as this does. More rooftop takes please, thank you.
The Long and Winding Road (Take 19) – A truly wonderful take that sounds so great without any orchestration. I actually may prefer this version over all the others it’s so haunting and subdued and great to have in my collection.
All Things Must Pass (Rehearsals) – The mono Twickenham songs actually sound pretty darn good but I do prefer the studio takes to these mono recordings. It’s just so sad that the Beatles never finished a complete take of this song as these rehearsals are true gems. This would have been one of the highlights of these sessions if they completed a full studio take.
On a side note I love how the inner sleeve uses the same photos and layout as the US “Let it Be” LP but in black and white. Looks very classy and very White Album, I love it.
The unreleased Glyn Johns mix of The Get Back lp:
It’s nice to finally have a great sounding version of this rejected Glyn John’s mix of what became the “Let it Be” album. I’ve always enjoyed this album and it’s nice to finally see it part of a Beatles official package. I’m not sure if this is all the 1970 Glyn Johns mix or if this is actually a mixture of his 1969 and 1970 mixes but whatever it sounds really good and it’s nice to have it.
I must say that this mix is a bit more harsh sounding than all of the other mixes found in this collection. Don’t get me wrong it’s really interesting and fun album to have it just sounds a little bit brighter than the other outtakes that Giles Martin mixed for this set.
While Glyn Johns’ mix has a more loose feel to it and a more warts and all approach it’s still a good listen and well worth adding to any collection. Actually I would have preferred some of the outtakes Martin chose added to Johns album but it’s still an essential listen.
Plus the album cover recreation of what would have been the “Get Back” lp is just superb and well worth having in full LP size. This alone is worth getting the vinyl set for this album as it’s a legendary version that almost came out instead of “Let it Be”.
Across the Universe – An interesting unreleased Glyn Johns mix of one of my favorite Lennon songs. It contains the offbeat background vocals from the first released version of the song mixed lower but still there nonetheless. Not my favorite mix of this song but not bad. It’s basically a better remix of the Wildlife charity album mix.
I Me Mine – A nice mix if this song. Not overly different but minus the Phil Spector orchestrations and much shorter as well.
Don’t Let Me Down – This new Giles Martin mix of the single version of the song is superb. I love the extra added speaking at the beginning. A very powerful and clean sounding mix of this song. May be my favorite of the new remixes.
Let it Be – Another Giles Martin 2021 mix of the single version of this song. Much cleaner than the original mix. It would have been nice to have these two remixes snuck on the earlier album but it’s still great to have them and this is a nice remix as well.
The hundred-page hardback book in this set is superb much like the books from Sgt. Pepper and The White Album sets. This is the type of book I was hoping for in the “All things Must Pass” CD set but at least it’s a part of this set.
This book is loaded with great pictures and nice text especially by Kevin Howlett. I love the LP size of this book as it’s the perfect size for the pictures and makes the text easier to read as well and easy to handle.
It’s very well done and really makes this set worth the price I paid for it. The hardback book really makes this set sparkle as it is very high quality as are the covers and labels on the LPs in this set.
Overall I have to say that this new “Let it Be” set is a real winner. It’s packaged well (see the photos above and below), it sounds great and it’s a nice overview of The Beatles “Get Back” sessions.
(Note 2: The “Let it Be” poster in the photos above is being handed out for free at independent record stores for those who purchase any configuration of this new reissue.)
If you’re a Beatles fan what’s not to love? (Err, I’m sure online there will be plenty of bitching about this and that but to me this set is done just right).
So there you have it. If you’ve been looking forward to this set odds are you’ll find it very enjoyable like I did. The price isn’t too bad (I got mine for around $130) and the content is great.
Well, that’s all for now but more Beatles soon!
Until then be safe and well and I hope you get a chance to hear this new remix of “Let it Be”.
See you soon!