To a certain extent, The Beatles' last released studio album, Let It Be, does not deserve the bad rap it often gets. However, due to the rather strange circumstances surrounding its release, it is necessarily haphazard by nature, and as such it is not able to reach the lofty heights of all the albums--dating back to Rubber Soul--that preceded it.
As I noted in my review of Abbey Road, the project that became Let It Be was Paul McCartney's idea. They wanted to forsake the studio trickery of their previous albums and return to being a simple rock ensemble. The group tried, but ultimately collapsed under the weight of McCartney's demands (not to mention a whole bunch of other external forces). As a result, the sessions were abandoned. The group eventually summoned the strength to record one more album, the sterling Abbey Road. Yet there were all these other performances that hadn't seen the light of day. It was decided they utilize the services of Phil Spector, arguably the greatest producer of the 1960s (along with maybe The Beatles' producer George Martin and Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys). Maybe he could weave his magic onto these tapes.
Given what Spector had to work with, he did a pretty stellar job. Sure, tracks like "The Long and Winding Road" and "Across the Universe" are vastly different from the way they were originally performed, augmented with Spector's famous Wall of Sound approach. In the case of "The Long and Winding Road," he transformed a pretty tepid studio performance by the group (largely because of Lennon's subpar bass playing on the track) into their final number one hit; as for "Across the Universe," Spector turns a beautiful lyric into a soppy mess. His version of the title track is vastly superior to the George Martin-produced one that appears on the single for the song. He reinstates a searing George Harrison guitar solo, probably his best as a Beatle. In the case of Harrison's "I Me Mine," he adds an effective string arrangement and extends the original performance by about 30 seconds using clever editing. The result also improves a rather slight song (at best) from the very final Beatles session (January 3, 1970, with John Lennon absent, as he had left the group by then to form his Plastic Ono Band). As for the rest of the material, Spector pretty much leaves it alone, opting for a documentarian approach, leaving in between-song banter and even a few of the performances from their final live "concert" atop 3 Saville Row's roof on January 30, 1969 ("Dig a Pony," "I've Got a Feeling," and "One After 909").
Because of the slapped-together nature of the recordings, it lacks the coherence of their past efforts. Side One has most of the stronger tracks, including the solid opener, "Two of Us," the rocker "Dig a Pony," and, of course, "Let it Be," the best song on the album. Side Two gets off to a great start with "I've Got a Feeling," the last great collaborative effort between Lennon and McCartney to appear on vinyl. "One After 909" is a simple rocker dating back to their days as The Quarrymen. "For You Blue" is a lazy George Harrison blues, not even better than the heavily Spector-ified "I Me Mine" (which appears on Side One). "Get Back," which concludes the record, is another bluesy number (following Harrison's slide guitar-dominated track), and was also a number one hit, though it lacks even the power of "The Long and Winding Road." The absence of a singular vision definitely hurts the record. Still, it consists of a pretty solid collection of songs, several of which are bona-fide classics. For some reason, certain audio purists HATE that these songs were tampered with, and that's somewhat understandable. But for the millions of listeners who never had access to the bootlegs, this collection still represents a rather solid unit of tunes. It works as a representation of Let It Be, the film it was meant to promote. It is also a mess of an album that metaphorically resembles the messy breakup of the most popular rock group of the 1960s.