Sound — 8
The original idea behind the album Let It Be was for the Beatles to return to their roots. This meant creating songs and playing them together as a group instead of incorporating the wide range of strange instruments and studio effects that had dominated their previous three albums, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour and The Beatles (The White Album). The back to basics attitude is prominently featured on a majority of Let It Be's tracks. The sound of the album is very grassroots rock & roll, similar to many 1950's bands and even the earlier work of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles themselves. Though most of the album is composed to fit into this one theme, there is still a great variety to be found between tracks. The most common style present on the album is a basic 12 bar blues. While most people may think this style is very old fashioned and would not stand the test of time, the Beatles know how to get it right and they really show how versatile the 12 bar blues can be. While six of the twelve tracks found on the album are played in this style, the Beatles really mix it up there is very little similarity between them outside how guitar oriented they all seem to be. A prime example of this is the song Get Back. Most of the song is a very simple shuffle pattern, but the little bit of lead guitar played over top and the two solos really make the track come alive. In addition to the back to basics songs, three songs stand out as being odd additions to Let It Be. In a sharp contrast to the rest of the albums songs, Across the Universe, The Long and Winding Road and the titular Let It Be stand out as being virtually impossible to be played by John, Paul, George and Ringo as initially planned. Instead, they are filled with overdubs and symphonic instruments or missing bass. The overdubs in Across the Universe almost completely ruin the song in my opinion. I really like the acoustic guitar present, but all the strange sounds playing along side it really detract from the lyrics and make it incredibly hard to focus on actually listening to the song, adding little more than a good way to get a headache. The orchestral segment in The Long and Winding Road however are much more appealing. It truly is a beautiful sounding song and the string sections do a really good job of bringing out the emotional dimension of the track. My only gripe with the song is that it sounds out of place with the other songs on the album and probably should have been released as a single instead. In the same vein is Let It Be. While it is a very good sounding song with great piano playing by Paul, it seems very out of place with the rest of the album. The best sounding track on the album is easily I Me Mine. The verses sound great, played in a slower waltz like style. The chorus is what really stands out though, combining a driving riff full of power chords with a subtle but important keyboard riff playing alongside. Another important characteristic of the album's sound is the keyboard playing of Billy Preston. Although the keyboard never really takes a leading role on the album, it plays an integral role in the harmony sections in most of the tracks, and is definitely something original that helps Let It Be stand out from the rest of the Beatles' catalogue. My last thought on the music of Let It Be concerns the songs Dig It and Maggie Mae. All I really have to say is that they are terrible. They have the same overall sound as the back to basics songs like I've Got a Feeling and Get Back, but are highly unpolished. They sound like they are just extremely rough takes with almost no effort put into playing (which they are) and really don't deserve a spot on the album.
Lyrics — 7
Let It Be's lyrics are really hard to give an overall rating for. This is because a few of the songs have some of the best lyrics in the entire Beatles catalog, while others are utter trash. With this in mind, I've decided to highlight the two songs with the best and worst lyrics. Let It Be: the lyrics in Let It Be while very simple are also very powerful. It is a song that simply demands your attention whenever it is played. The song is about the singer facing a troubled time in his life, and how he is calmed and reassured that better things are to come by a vision he has of Mother Mary. She tells him that everything will work itself out if he will just let it be. I think that the reason the lyrics to this song are so compelling is that the message portrayed is one that everyone can relate to. Everyone has been in a position where they fell backed against a wall and their situation is hopeless, and this song provides a sense of comfort, and can lift spirits. Dig It: the lyrics to this song are complete and utter rubbish. All the lyrics are is the repetition of the words dig it with a bunch of total gibberish randomly dispersed throughout. It is very disappointing to see such an obvious lack of effort in the lyrical content of this track, especially when John Lennon is so well known for his song writing genius.
Overall Impression — 7
What I really like about Let It Be is that there is a really high ratio of great songs to average and bad ones. In my opinion, the songs that everyone should feel the need to listen to are Let It Be, Get Back, I Me Mine and I've Got a Feeling. However, Let It Be is an album whose success heavily depends on it's congruency with the simple and clean musical style it was intended to portray. A large portion of Let it Be does follow this back to basics attitude, but there are three songs that deviate from this old school sound making them seem slightly out of tune with the rest of the album. In addition to this incongruency between songs, the tracks Dig It and Maggie May do a good job of bringing down the overall quality of an otherwise great album. As a result, I feel that the album suffers overall, and is not as good as the sum of its parts.