I like The Bealtes, but I’m not a massive fan. I have only the most obvious and general knowledge of everything they accomplished as a band. And based on that obvious and general knowledge, I see most of their albums falling into three categories. There’s the early boy band period of screaming girl crowd pleasing puff like Please, Please Me and Hard Day’s Night. There’s the psychedelic, high concept gear like Yellow Submarine and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Then there’s the serious, world weary, no need for a gimmick, mature late period, of Abbey Road and what might be my favourite of their entire catalogue, Let it Be.
A great opening track, Two of Us sounds mournful of what’s been, but at the same time hopeful about what’s to come. Followed by Dig a Pony, the kind of rock that I would normally more associate with Joe Cocker blues rock than the pop perfection The Beatles.
With Across the Universe, I can see why someone might like it, but it’s also the kind of wishy washy contemplation that I associate with everything I don’t like about the band’s late period. Then comes I Me Mine, if you put just a little more polish on the chorus, it would be right at home alongside early pop gems like Please Mr Post Man or Can’t Buy Me Love.
Maybe the scarce length of Dig It is saving the listener from a lot of bad experimentation, indulgent jamming and filler that leads to the 50 seconds we get, but I wish we got a bit more. It sounds like a really solid freeform, improvised rocker.
There’s nothing new I can say about the title track. I assume everyone’s heard it and loves it. Its contemplative sound and lyrics punctuated perfectly with a killer George Harrison solo.
The second half holds the three real low points for me though. Where Let It Be makes its slower tempo the main part of its charm, Long Winding Road just bores me. It starts tediously, then goes downhill from there. For You Blue begs the question, even 44 years ago, did anyone need to hear yet another variation on the 12 bar blues? It’s even lazier and more tossed off than the novelty fluff of Maggi May, that appears four tracks earlier.
But Let it Be brings things home strong with Get Back. A no messing around rock song, stripped backed and to the point. Paul’s simple lyrics and straight forward vocals match perfect with Ringo’s driving drums and George’s blues soloing guitar.
I know it’s cool to like John more, but the more I listen to The Beatles, the more I realise I generally gravitate to Paul’s songs. And Let it Be confirms that. Plus, every time you hear one of Lennon’s “jokes” before or in between songs, he sounds like someone who’s been surrounded by yes men and adoring fans for the last decade, who’ve told him he’s hilarious. When he’s really more like an embarrassing old uncle who just thinks he’s hilarious.
But Lennon bullshit and the odd moment of laziness aside, Let it Be deserves any praise you’ve ever heard for it. Even with the odd clunker, there are still more unanimously loved, amazing songs on this one album than most bands have in their entire career.