Wednesday, August 1, 2007

No. 86: Let It Be

(just for fun)
Band: The Beatles
Album: Let It Be
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: "Let It Be" is not as consistent as other Beatles albums, but there are some wonderful tracks. As with every Beatles album, there isn't really a terrible song on it. The bad songs are still better than 99% of what's on this list.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Because it's so uneven, it's hard to justify keeping it in the top 100. Still, this isn't a bad ranking.
Best song: As a George Harrison fan, I adore "I Me Mine." "Across The Universe" is great, as is "Two Of Us."
Worst song: I'm not in love with "Maggie Mae," though that's clearly a jokey song, a la "Wild Honey Pie."
Is it awesome?: It is.

"Everyone involved in the sessions considered them to be disastrous."

Quoting Wikipedia probably isn't the smartest thing in the world, but the unnamed Wiki-er doesn't seem to be far off. The band openly discussed breaking up during the sessions. George Harrison quit during the recording. John Lennon had Yoko Ono, basically, attached to his hip. McCartney acted like he was the band leader in the absence of Lennon's coherence (he was quite involved in a heroin addiction).

Watching the "Let It Be" film (which is out of print and difficult to find. I have a copy and it's an interesting view), it's easy to see. How unhappy these people are. Harrison and McCartney are at each other's throats at one point. Lennon seems pleasantly detached while Yoko stars blankly off into the distance.

(By the way, I want to commend the style of the "Let It Be" film. As per any great documentary, there's no non-digetic sound, so it's eerily quiet when the band isn't playing. The visual style is sparse and, particularly, the shots of Yoko creepily sitting around really make you hate her.)

But what of the music?

"Let It Be" has some great tracks. Harrison's two contributions -- "I Me Mine" and "For You, Blue" -- are great. The title track, while not my bag, is pretty. "Across The Universe" is very cool and spiritual (especially coming from non-religious Lennon). "Get Back" is "Walk On The Wild Side," only years before. The brilliance of "Get Back" mostly lies in Macca's ability to take dark topics and filter them through his own cheery arrangement and vocals.

"Two Of Us" is one of those songs that depress you knowing that the sessions were so bad. While the actual writer is somewhat disputed (Lennon's claim that he wrote it is largely discredited), a wonderful song about friendship sung by the greatest rock songwriting duo of all time is great. Unfortunately, knowing that it was a precursor to the band's breakup a few years later is depressing. It's a look at what used to be and what could've been.

The band almost never worked on a proper track listing or mastering, so in March 1970 (almost a year after the sessions were finished), the band (with Macca's reluctance) just gave the tapes to Phil Spector. Spector did what he does ("wall of sound") and sequenced it.

It's a striking look at the band at its most unhappy. The records are still fantastic, but watching the film really gives you a look into the band at the end.

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