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Long a contentious album among Beatlemaniacs -- and among the Beatles themselves -- Let It Be took a long and winding road to its ultimate release. The recording's original sessions -- for an album to be titled Get Back -- were made as a counterpart to an in-the-studio film in 1969, before Abbey Road. The album wasn't released, however, until 1970, after Phil Spector was brought in as producer and after the Beatles had broken up. This rethought rendition is less of an original version than it is 20/20 hindsight in action, and it stirred controversy even before its release. Naked removes much of Spector's studio frippery and lush orchestration, along with all of the between-songs quips and introductions, leaving many of the songs in comparatively stark relief. The difference is most notable on "The Long and Winding Road," where Paul McCartney's earthy vocal sounds clear as a bell atop a string-free arrangement guided by piano and organ. The bulk of the tinkering is subtler, with slightly less spaciness exuding from "Across the Universe," a fair amount of looseness from "One After 909," and an enhanced gospel tone to the haunting title song, which now closes the album. Other changes are more rudimentary: A pair of tunes -- "Maggie Mae" and "Dig It" -- were dropped altogether, and in their place, a new set of producers deigned to deposit "Don't Let Me Down," which long ago outgrew its hidden status as the B-side of "Get Back." Naked may pose more questions surrounding the original release of Let It Be than it answers, but its status as an essential release by rock's most formidable and creative group is indisputable.
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