The Beatles
Get Back – The Glyn Johns Final Compilation
(Vigotone 182)

A bootleg so legit that it shows up in the CDDB, Get Back – The Glyn Johns Final Compilation is one of the finest unofficial albums ever released by the Fab Four. In appearance and sound it is extremely credible and in fact, so accomplished that after awhile you forget that it's contraband. Vigotone has outdone themselves with the packaging, which is so classy it makes the official Beatles CD catalog look bootleg by comparison. The liner notes are informative and entertaining, and in fact it is only as an afterthought that I mention that the music is of interest only to serious Beatle freaks.

The Get Back album had a very twisty path – the project took months to record, and the music was not assembled into an album until six months after the recording sessions had ended. Meanwhile, the Beatles had moved along and released their final studio album, Abbey Road, only after which they decided it was time to tidy up Get Back. Engineer Glyn Johns had assembled the first version of the album, and made some changes in this second version, which was the final arrangement of the album, and which was killed off when the band decided they just didn't like it much. The tapes were handed over to Phil Spector, who created Let it Be, the album that became the Beatles' final release. Let it Be is loved by many and loathed by just as many – certainly it's not the sort of album you think of in the same mindset as you do Abbey Road or The Beatles. Lots of hardcore fans cherish Get Back as the way the album should have been released, and regard Let it Be as a bloated, overproduced version of the same material.

In actuality, the difference between the albums is not as dramatic as you'd be led to believe. The first version of Get Back is extremely raw, and this second version is sort of halfway between that and what it became, Let it Be. The performances overlap quite a bit – in fact, the casual listener hearing The Glyn Johns Final Compilation will just assume they are hearing Let it Be. But to serious fans, the noticeable differences are pretty striking. This Get Back retains a lot more of the raw, jamming-in-the-studio vibe than Let it Be uses, and even though the track listing is very similar, the mixes and performances are much more organic on this CD. That said, I like both Let it Be and Get Back because they are the final fruits of my favorite Beatles period – the chaotic, unpleasant "back-to-basics" sessions where the idea to return to simplicity backfired miserably. Ultimately, I may give the slight edge to Get Back, and this is my preferred version of the two commonly circulated.

Confused? You're probably not a Beatle freak, but that's probably a good thing. In many respects it's like having OCD. Pity someone who is both a Beatle freak and has OCD. At any rate, Vigotone has done a bang-up job in shining light on a neglected page in the bottomless Beatle book. The standard Get Back bootlegs have traditionally used the first version assembled by Johns, and yet this version is the one that came closest to being officially released. Vigotone has proven itself once again to be the sharpest company catering to the hardcore fans – this is a knowing and informative package that remains very fascinating even though it's really not much different from Let it Be.

In some ways, the very existence of this CD obscures the content of it. The liner notes even acknowledge that this is not a "lost treasure," but the way they have released it, it is a treasure nonetheless. And I should mention the songs, I guess, even though my long-winded storytelling is undoubtedly spine-tingling. Some tracks are nearly identical to the versions on Let it Be (usually in slightly different mixes): "One After 909," "Across the Universe," "I Me Mine," "Maggie Mae," "Get Back." In all cases, the differences in performance, editing, and/or mixing are very noticeable. Some are different takes entirely ("For You Blue" is a totally different vocal, "Two Of Us" is a differnet take), and some tracks don't appear on Let it Be at all ("Rocker," an instrumental, and the wonderful, if short "Save the Last Dance For Me"). Vigotone has tacked on two mixes of "Teddy Boy," which ended up on McCartney but started out in the track listing of the first Get Back. One is longer, but both are from the same performance. These bonus tracks make this the most complete and interesting version of Get Back you can get.

All that said, how bad do you want this? After all, the overall listening experience is only, say, 30 degrees off from the real Let it Be. For serious Beatle freaks, it's nothing less than essential. For fans of unreleased albums (in my opinion, always the most interesting albums possible), this is also a great pick. For the casual fan, it's not necessary unless you love great packaging – a Beatles CD in a brilliant box and a glossy slipcover? Forget what I just said, this disc is worth owning just so you can fooking look at it.

Review by Arby Dodger