After 35 Years, Beatles 'Let' Last Album 'Be'
In spite of the album's title, it wouldn't have been right to "Let It Be," given the circumstances and outcome of the Beatles' January 1969 recording project.In spite of the album's title, it wouldn't have been right to "Let It Be," given the circumstances and outcome of the Beatles' January 1969 recording project. Several attempts by engineer Glyn Johns to complete an album to the band's satisfaction, and additional production by Phil Spector notwithstanding, the Beatles' penultimate full-group effort had never attained the original intent: a live, no-overdubs recording akin to their first album, "Please Please Me."
Nearly 35 years later, the project comes full circle with EMI's de-mixed, remixed "Let It Be ... Naked," due Monday (Nov. 17) internationally and the following day in North America.
Surviving Beatles Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr had no creative input on the project, nor did Beatles producer Sir George Martin. Instead, engineers Allan Rouse, Guy Massey and Paul Hicks, of Abbey Road Studios in London, were given complete freedom to craft the new edition.
Starting from scratch with 33 reels of EMI tape, they spent much of 2002 creating a very pure, true Beatles album. Upbeat, punchy and full of life, the essence of the Beatles -- a four-piece rock'n'roll combo without Spector's strings -- has been uncovered.
Takes chosen for "Let It Be . . . Naked," most of them the same as those on the 1970 release, were transferred from original 8-track masters to Pro Tools, Rouse says. "There has been no noticeable deterioration," Rouse notes of the original multitracks, "and they did not suffer from any shedding of oxide during the transfer. All of the Beatles recordings are on EMI tape and have never given us any problems."
In the digital domain of Pro Tools and software-based processing equipment, the team was afforded the opportunity to mute or delete considerable extraneous noise. In addition to the unusual conditions under which the original sessions took place -- a film crew surrounding them as they worked at Twickenham Film Studios -- four "Let It Be" songs were recorded during the Beatles' last performance, on the roof of their Apple Corps offices in London on Jan. 30, 1969.
"Besides the usual noise associated with studio recordings -- i.e., vocal pops, amp noises and tape hiss -- the addition of a film crew created some problems," Rouse says. "Also, wind noise during the rooftop recordings" was eliminated.
Finally, the project has been overhauled to the fulfillment of all the key players. "Paul Hicks, Guy Massey and I worked on the album by ourselves," Rouse says. "When it was completed to our satisfaction, Apple sent CD-Rs to the Beatles for their comments and approval. We were expecting to make some alterations to the mixes and maybe even change the running order, which we had altered, but were very pleased when no such requests were made."