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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Captain X lent me Steve Matteo "Let It Be" from the 33 1/3 series (the Beatle's side, not the Replacements-- there are 33 1/3 books on both). For a long time "Let It Be" was the only Beatles' album I owned, so it's fair to say that I'm pretty deep into it. It's a paradoxical recording. The band's last album, except it wasn't, it has always seemed to me to have an unfinished quality, even though the Phil Spector production was likely intended to make it seem final. They couldn't leave it alone, though. "Let It Be...Naked" is the only reworked album by the band, and I expect that we'll hear another version or two before it's over. You would never expect to hear an alternate version of "Revolver", or "Help", but "Let It Be" has always sounded like a work in progress. It's always seemed to me that the defining song from the record is "One After 909" rather than the big Spector-ized string filled numbers that were intended to give the album its valedictory quality-- "909" was one of the first songs John and Paul wrote together, and they were still working on it when the band was breaking up.

Books about the Beatles are a funny proposition- I can't think of any other pop culture topic that has been as thoroughly and compulsively reviewed and obsessed over. Matteo's book clocks in at a little over 200 pages, and is just about the right size-- it has the stuff about what guitars the boys had, and the microphones in the studio, and it has some gossipy bits, but for the most part it is about the experience of the recording process. Matteo's accomplishment here is to give us a window into what it might have been like to have been present as this record was being made as an onlooker rather than as a participant. He does a good job with a complex subject, and is never overwhelmed or overwhelming.

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