Let It Be
Released: May 1970
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 55
Certified Gold: 5/26/70
John Lennon and Paul McCartney are not writing together, haven't been for two years, and you can see the whole thing falling apart in Let It Be, which required the slick hand of Phil Spector to pull it out of the troubled and terribly muddied waters, a valiant rescue effort but one which nevertheless refuses to emerge into the genius and originality of any of the other Beatle albums. The Beatles are dead. Long live the Beatles.
There are only two songs which get anywhere and we have heard these so much they have lost their lustre. They are "Let It Be," a McCartney creation and "Get Back," also Paul's. They are message songs, allegorical in the traditional Beatle form, and they both signal themselves to ultimate failure. The Beatles did not, will not get back. "Let It Be" is Paul's most beautiful song, reminiscent of everything he has ever written, a culmination song, beautiful in its own right. The rest of the album is hackneyed, originally supposed to signify the Beatles attempt to get back to rock and roll, to where they once performed live. This album is a sad attempt to recreate the days when they played before actual people and not George Martin and millions of dollars of sound equipment. There is a photograph of the group buried in their equipment, performing before cameras. The result was nothing live at all but a group of very famous people, heroes of our time simulating live performance. And simulation is what they have always stood against. The Stones in "Sympathy for the Devil," Godard's brilliant film now making the rounds, and Phil Spector is not around to bail out the group on the ledge of defeat. But the Beatles succumbed finally to the hardware of the business they helped resurrect, and that is the ultimate tragedy of their demise.
Paul never got so involved in the business. From this distance it appears as though he stayed close to his music. Never, for example associating himself with ABCKO, and thus somehow less tainted. We'll never know. All we do know is that staying with the Beatles he felt inhibited and closed off from his music. He wrote "Nothing's Going To Change My World," perhaps as a stand of defiance against the forces of corruption, but eventually felt the compulsion to split. Harrison says they'll be back together, but he has always been a force for peace, a quiet influence in all our lives, and unobtrusive. Let It Be is a disparate album, going all sorts of different places at once, never unified. Sometimes cute, sometimes highly serious, it reflects not the many sides of the Beatles in the act of creation, but the dissonance that precedes the fall.
- Jonathan Eisen, Circus, 7/70.
The Beatles latest LP serves as the soundtrack of the forthcoming film, Let It Be, and, as produced by Phil Spector, gives the impression of a "live" performance. Included are previous winners: "Let It Be," "Get Back," the new single, "Long and Winding Road," b/w "For You Blue" and among the previously unheard material the best are "I Me Mine." "I've Got a Feeling," and "Across the Universe."
- Billboard, 1970.
"I hope we passed the audition," says the leader as the record ends, and they do. Their assurance and wit would be the envy of veteran rock and rollers, and though this is a little lightweight, it makes up in charm what it lacks in dramatic brilliance. Even when the arrangements get tricky -- "Let It Be" is a touch too ornate in this version -- their spontaneity of impulse comes through. And while fave rave "One After 909" is pure teen simplicity, it sounds no fresher than "Two of Us," an adult song about a couple bonding that I hope applies to their songwriting duo. The one mistake is "Long and Winding Road," sunk in a slush of strings worthy of its shapeless philosophizing. But even the great are allowed to falter now and then. A-
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
Get Back was the original title of the Let It Be album, but the album was shelved for a year before it finally gained official release. Because the Beatles were filmed for hundreds of hours during the course of the sessions, more unreleased material dates from this juncture of their career than any other. Unfortunately, the bulk of this ranks among their worst unreleased stuff, consisting mostly of sloppy rehearsals and chaotic covers of dozens of rock & roll oldies. An unbelievable number of different bootlegs have issued this material in varying configurations since 1969, and although the recent CDs feature vastly improved sound quality, not much can be done to salvage the performances, which after all were never intended for circulation. However, there are some excellent cuts to be found, particularly in several alternate takes of songs from Let It Be (especially the stringless "Long And Winding Road"), and even the lousy stuff serves as a fascinating illustration of the group's vast array of influences, their working methods in the studio, and, at worst, the roots of the band's disintegration. It's impossible to recommend specific collections, as there are hundreds of different titles floating around, even some box sets, and they're always uncovering more outtakes. The non-completist should look for the Get Back album as it was originally mastered and sequenced (featuring nearly the same content as Let It Be, but adding a couple of different songs and containing much different, less elaborate, un-Spectorized mixes) and/or the rooftop session from the film's final sequence, which is an inspired live performance of most of the material from Let It Be.
- Richie Unterberger, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
Flawed, botched, and overproduced by Phil Spector, the final new Beatles album to be released (most of it was recorded prior to Abbey Road) nevertheless included the title song, "The Long and Winding Road," an abbreviated version of "Get Back," and such lovely tunes as "Two of Us," which, for one last time, presented Paul McCartney and John Lennon and their acoustic guitars, harmonizing together. * * * * *
- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
Let It Be is a grim reminder that there is nothing so depressing as the sound of breaking up. A salvage effort by Spector renders the LP's few worthy tunes unlistenable with lush strings and choirs. *
- Christopher Scapelliti, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
Let It Be is the sound of the world's biggest pop group at war with itself. John Lennon is at his most acidic; George Harrison's "I Me Mine" is about the sin of pride, sung with plaintive exhaustion. Only Paul McCartney sounds focused, as if the title song were his personal survival mantra. The original concept was a bad idea -- a live-in-the-studio album and film, begun in January 1969 -- that left the Beatles so weary they abandoned the project to make Abbey Road. But despite their oversweetening by Phil Spector, the Beatles' final studio release features some of the strongest rockers ("Get Back") and most poignant ballads ("Across the Universe") in their entire canon.
Let It Be was chosen as the 86th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.
- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.
Let It Be set out with the worthy intention of returning The Beatles to their raw, early recording days, but ended up creating yet more internal arguments among a band falling apart.
Despite various attempts at compiling an album from the sessions, the whole project's release was shelved and only revisited once Abbey Road had been recorded and the group had effectively broken up.
In a move which angered Paul McCartney, Phil Spector was given the tricky task of sifting through the recordings and finally an album was issued in May 1970. With John Lennon's few contributions including two revived songs, a re-recording of a 1963 cut "One After 909" and "Across The Universe," orignially part of a 1968 charity album, the tracklisting is dominated by McCartney. Three of his tracks were US Number One singles -- the old-fashioned rock 'n' roller "Get Back," one of several tracks featuring Billy Preston on keyboards, the hymn-like "Let It Be" and "The Long And Winding Road," in which Spector overdubbed orchestration and a female chorus to the fury of its author.
The album predictably topped the UK album charts and was a four-week chart-topper in the US, where it replaced McCartney's own solo debut (simply titled McCartney) at Number One. A new version of Let It Be, stripped of Phil Spector's influence, was released in 2003.
As of 2004, Let It Be was the #64 best-selling album of the 70s.
- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.
Work on Let It Be got so difficult the Beatles took a break to make Abbey Road. There's plenty of acrimony (George Harrison's "I Me Mine" is about the sin of pride), and the final album was patched together by producer Phil Spector, who sweetened ballads like the title track.
Let It Be was chosen as the 242nd greatest album of all time in a Rolling Stone magazine poll of artists, producers, critics and music industry figures in Oct. 2020.
- Rolling Stone, 10/20.
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