The Beatles: Let It Be (Apple Special Edition)
Verdict: Long and Winding… but frequently fab
Coldplay: Music of the Spheres (Parlophone)
Verdict: Stellar but nebulous
When the Beatles released Get Back in April 1969, the chart-topping single was billed as the Fab Four ‘as nature intended… as live as can be in this electronic age’.
The song had been part of a bid to return to their rock ’n’ roll roots after the experimentation of Sgt. Pepper and the sprawling extravagance of the White Album.
But the album they were working on alongside Get Back was proving troublesome — and the tapes for Let It Be were put aside as the band switched attention to the more polished Abbey Road. By the time Let It Be emerged in May 1970, the quartet were no more, with Paul McCartney having announced a split a month earlier.
Now the relatively unloved Let It Be is getting the bumper reissue treatment, with a new mix by Giles Martin, son of original Beatles producer George, plus the customary out-takes and studio jams.
The Beatles: Let It Be (Apple Special Edition) is Long and Winding… but frequently fab
With a new book, and Oscar-winning Lord Of The Rings filmmaker Peter Jackson’s Get Back documentary set to air on Disney+ next month, an autumn of renewed Beatlemania looms.
Folklore has it that Let It Be was the band’s wild and windy night, its creation dogged by unending rows. The reality, on the evidence of the spontaneity and good-natured studio chat here, wasn’t quite like that.
The sounds of laughter that John Lennon sings of on Across The Universe were in short supply — but the band’s love of creating songs together clearly remained.
As with previous revamps, Let It Be arrives in a range of formats, from a single CD (£8.50) to 57-track ‘super deluxe’ boxes on CD (£110) and vinyl (£130). For the merely curious, the whole shebang can also be streamed.
Highlights of the original LP included two of McCartney’s greatest ballads in the title track and The Long And Winding Road, the latter featuring Hammond organ by ‘Fifth Beatle’ Billy Preston and overbearing strings by the subsequently disgraced producer Phil Spector.
One After 909, a 1950s-style skiffle tune, recaptured the spirit of the quartet’s formative years in Liverpool’s Cavern Club and Hamburg’s Kaiserkeller.
But, given that it was recorded in two locations (Twickenham and Mayfair) with three producers (George Martin, Spector and engineer Glyn Johns), it’s no surprise the original album was a patchwork affair, or that the band’s usual quality control standards slipped.
As with previous revamps, Let It Be arrives in a range of formats, from a single CD (£8.50) to 57-track ‘super deluxe’ boxes on CD (£110) and vinyl (£130). For the merely curious, the whole shebang can also be streamed
It’s hard to imagine such filler as Dig It, the ribald sea shanty Maggie Mae or I Me Mine (which didn’t even feature John) making the cut on previous LPs.
Despite a few formless jams, the out-takes paint a fuller picture. Preston shines on 1920s show tune Without A Song and there are early versions of future solo tracks, such as George’s All Things Must Pass and John’s Gimme Some Truth. Something and Octopus’s Garden eventually ended up on Abbey Road, recorded later but released before Let It Be.
The best moments arrive on an alternative mix of the whole LP, produced by Johns, though you’ll have to head for the pricier editions (or streaming services) to hear it. This 1969 version, with hardly any overdubs, is more coherent, with even a few false starts and impromptu session ad-libs contributing to the sense of a band playing together in a single room.
The classic Macca ballads have a more intimate hue and the coming together of John and Paul, sharing vocals on Two Of Us and I’ve Got A Feeling, is pure joy. ‘I hope we passed the audition,’ quipped Lennon on the original album. Let It Be might not be The Beatles’ finest moment, but this casts it in a fresh light.
Stung by accusations that they’d become predictable, Coldplay took dramatic steps on 2019’s Everyday Life, a wonderful double album that featured string-driven epics, Afro-beat horns and choral interludes. It was Coldplay that didn’t sound like Coldplay.
Music Of The Spheres takes them to another extreme, embracing current chart-pop trends to the point of sounding formulaic. The quartet have been edging away from their Radiohead-inspired rock roots ever since 2011’s Mylo Xyloto, but their attempts to woo a younger audience have never sounded quite as blatant as they do here.
Coldplay: Music of the Spheres (Parlophone) is stellar but nebulous. The band’s latest album came out today
The album is loosely space-themed, with each of its 12 tracks representing a fictional celestial body, but singer Chris Martin’s lyrics are so vague it’s hard to detect a coherent concept.
It’s better to focus on the tunes: with the help of super-producer Max Martin, best known for his work with Britney Spears and Katy Perry, there are choruses ripe for the 2022 stadium tour the band announced yesterday.
Some stellar guests also appear. Former Disney Channel starlet Selena Gomez duets with Martin on yearning piano ballad Let Somebody Go, and Korean boy-band BTS sing and rap on the digital pop of My Universe.
Human Heart is a lovely choral piece in the style of 2019’s Broken, but this is a disappointingly run-of-the-mill return.
- Both albums are out today.