The Beatles’ Apple Records is planning a new version of Let It Be, the 1970 album that was released as the group’s swan song, for the fall. Though the album will feature the same track listing as the original, the music it contains has been stripped of the orchestration that was added by legendary producer Phil Spector — thus restoring Paul McCartney’s “back to basics” concept that originally underpinned the project.
“It’s the de-Spectorized version,” says Ringo Starr. “Same tracks, same people. I was listening to it recently, and it was really great. I’ve been away from it a long time too. It fills my heart with joy to hear that band that I was a member of. They were just great. And also, the quietness of the tracks: It’s a beautiful CD.”
Most of the Let It Be material was recorded in early 1969 for an album and movie originally to be called Get Back. Though the project was intended to showcase the Beatles’ returning to their roots as a four-piece rock band, it instead captured the band in the throes of its breakup. The album was temporarily abandoned, and the film, retitled Let It Be, was released the following year.
At John Lennon’s insistence, Spector was later brought in to compile an album from the hundreds of hours of tape. However, his work, undertaken after the group had effectively split, has always been a source of massive irritation to Paul McCartney, who took particular exception to the string arrangement on his composition “The Long and Winding Road.”
“Paul was always totally opposed to Phil,” says Starr. “I told him on the phone [recently], ‘You’re bloody right again: It sounds great without Phil.’ Which it does. Now we’ll have to put up with him telling us over and over again, ‘I told you.'”
Starr also says that George Harrison approved the release the stripped-down version of Let It Be before his death in 2001. The project has been underway for at least two years, and it instigated the recovery of the missing Let It Be audio reels by police in the Netherlands on January 10th.
Along with Starr and McCartney, another figure who will welcome the Let It Be reissue is veteran British producer Glyn Johns, who engineered the original sessions. “My version of [the song] ‘Get Back’ actually was released fairly quickly as a single,” he says. “And my version of [the song] ‘Let It Be’ was also released, before Phil Spector puked all over it. And I hope you quote me on that. If you hear ‘The Long and Winding Road’ without all that schlock on it, it’s fabulous just like it is.”
The Let It Be movie will be released on DVD to accompany the new CD, although it’s currently unclear whether any unreleased footage will be included. Fans can also look forward to the summer DVD release of the 1996 The Beatles Anthology documentary — replete with unseen interview material, much of it drawing on the one occasion when McCartney, Harrison and Starr were interviewed together.