The Beatles

Celluloid Rock

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In Beatledom, the film Let It Be has some unhappy connotations. As filming progressed, the camera's all-seeing eye got under the band's skin, and what began as a well-intended rockumentary ended amidst rancor and physical exhaustion. Unable to deal with the task of sifting through countless hours of taped (and in many cases, lackluster) performances, the Beatles punted the whole ball of wax to Phil Spector. Spector sweetened, orchestrated, and remixed what he judged salvageable, producing a controversial slice of revisionist history -- the album, Let It Be -- thereby defeating the original concept of "live" in-studio performance (no overdubs allowed). Yellow Dog's Celluloid Rock is the real McCoy -- the music that was laid down "B.P." (Before Phil). Surprisingly, there's a lot of good material here. Technical problems (feedback, microphone drop-outs) mar some tracks, and Lennon seems hoarse or lyrically impaired a good deal of the time, but even with these imperfections, the performances are warm and honest. Highlights include a great alternate take of Harrison's "For You, Blue" (with clinking ice and chuckle false start), and an extended version of McCartney's "Teddy Boy," which beats the pants off the chopped-down ditty on Paul's first solo LP. UnSpectored outtakes of "Get Back," "Don't Let Me Down," "Dig a Pony," "Two of Us," and "Let It Be" are all decent, as is "The Long and Winding Road" (which now graces the legitimately issued Anthology 3). The oldies numbers are rather loosely structured, but fun. Ringo's drums and Billy Preston's keyboard hold things together. OK, so some of Celluloid Rock's thunder was "stolen" by Anthology 3, but the versions offered there are different or edited down in many cases. Hardcore fans should still consider this bootleg as a worthwhile sketch from the abortive Let It Be sessions. Those with a more casual interest in the Fab Four should stick to the Spector LP or Anthology 3.