If I have to listen to Let It Be or Get Back or whatever is the most appropriate title for this most ridiculous project, Let It Be . . . Naked wins by a landslide.
Whatever your preference, this effort remains the weakest offering in The Beatles catalog, a work based on a silly dogma that they wanted to “get back” to the rock-and-roll sound of their earlier years and eschew the “tricks” George Martin used to enhance their sound.
Regardless of intent, there is nothing on any of the versions of Let It Be/Get Back that can be considered an important contribution to the art of music. It is indeed possible to explore one’s “roots” and create something artistic and enjoyable (McCartney partially achieved that on Flaming Pie), but here it’s just a bunch of musicians playing boring songs and occasionally pretending to have a good time. It’s still “the shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever” that they handed over to Phil Spector to make it even shittier.
Let It Be . . . Naked is stripped of Spectorisms, a simple trick that improved some of the songs but only raised the level of the work to mediocre. The fundamental problem with Let It Be is that the songs themselves aren’t very good. This version opens up with the strongest song of all, “Get Back,” where at least The Beatles showed they could still rock pretty well when they wanted to. After that, it’s a steep slide downhill to “I Dig a Pony,” a frittering piece of nonsense with zero musical value. George gets into the act with the perfectly unoriginal “For You Blue,” then McCartney serves up one of his most pompous easy-listening numbers, “The Long and Winding Road.” After having written the exquisitely perfect “Hey Jude,” McCartney fell in love with himself on the piano and gave us that turkey along with the faux spirituality and deadly predictability of “Let It Be,” which ends this version of the album.
Before we get to the blessed ending, though, we do have a couple of songs of minor merit. “Two of Us” is a nice bouncy little song with an interesting bridge and typically excellent harmonies. “Across the Universe” is way, way better without Phil Spector’s chorus of angels turning the song into a creepy Hallmark card. Unfortunately, there are more bad songs than good: “I’ve Got a Feeling” (yawn), “I Me Mine” (preachy), “The One After 909” (should have been left behind in The Cavern) and “Don’t Let Me Down” (displaying John’s imagination in compete atrophy).
Let It Be . . . Naked is another big step backward, just as The White Album was a big step backward and the vastly overrated Abbey Road would prove to be. When this album was recorded, The Beatles hadn’t performed as a band in quite some time, and without George Martin’s tricks, they sound positively pedestrian and anything but tight. But the real weakness here is in the quality of the songs, and if you ain’t got the songs, you ain’t got shit . . . a word one frequently associates with any version of Let It Be/Get Back.