|2. Lady Day|
|3. Men Of Good Fortune|
|4. Caroline Says I|
|5. How Do You Think It Feels|
|6. Oh Jim|
|7. Caroline Says II|
|8. The Kids|
|9. The Bed|
|10. Sad Song|
First released in 1973, it was a commercial failure but became a cult classic. Berlin came hot on the heels of Reed's glam rock masterpiece Transformer. Anyone expecting a commercial follow-up was non-plussed to say the least. But 30 years after its debut, Reed is now touring the album for the first time, hence the re-issue.
Lou Reed has never been the most melodious of singers, but his gravelly, nasal, mumble-y singing suits the subject matter perfectly. His voice sounds like he has been there, done that, and adds an air of jaded, cynical depression to the tracks.
Who else could carry off lyrics like, 'Caroline says as she gets up off the floor/You can hit me all you want to, but I don't love you anymore/ Caroline says while biting her lip/ Life is meant to be more than this, and this is a bum trip'? It's not exactly Kylie Minogue territory.
But doom and gloom aside, musically Berlin is brave, adventurous and keeps on surprising you.
''Caroline Says I'' is a particularly odd track, sounding generally upbeat. Until you listen to the lyrics, that is. More creepily, ''Kids'', about Caroline's children being taken away, features producer Bob Ezrin's children screaming for their mother.
''The Bed'' sounds like a love song, but is instead about Caroline's suicide. The words are filled with regret and the soft acoustic sounds help you picture her drifting into unconsciousness.
Berlin is definitely a challenge, and is about as far away from pop, or dinner party music as you can get. But thanks to Ezrin's production it has a rich, lush sound with the string and horn sections, and backing choir (and occasional cracking guitar solo), showcased best on ''Sad Song''.
This was the sound of Lou trying something new, brave and ambitious at a time before he was in thrall to rock 'n' roll history. As such it's stood the test of time and you won't regret the time you spend listening to it. Just don't expect to be cheered up! --Helen Groom
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Forget the public-school boy navel-gazing of The Wall... this is the real deal. A song-cycle about a couple of doped-up, washed up, drop outs going mad in a Berlin hotel room; cast adrift amidst an ocean of drug-use, mind-games, abuse, assault and sexual jealousy. It's how we would imagine the musical version of Donald Cammel and Nic Roeg's Performance would sound, if the LSD of the sixties had been replaced by the speed and junk of the era-of-Berlin. Reed opens himself up emotionally in a way few artists would dare to do; relating lyrics that point to a damaged and bitter psyche left hurt and destroyed by excess and paranoia, whilst leaving his lyrics to some extent, open to interpretation... though at the same time, they're as clear as crystal (if you get what I mean??).
It is this kind of emotional back-and-forth and juxtaposition of light and dark aspects that makes Berlin what it is... with the first half of the record featuring Lou's painfully bitter lyrics backed by an almost up-tempo musical bed - showing Reed's willingness for Berlin to find a commercial audience (after all this did follow Lou's all-time commercial peak, Transformer) - whilst the second half of the record features a more stripped-down approach to instrumentation. This is obviously going to be a problem for those unprepared for Reed's magisterial misery, with standout moments like children screaming 'mummy' and lines like 'this is the place where she cut her wrists, that odd and fateful night' having already been covered by previous reviewers... though for me that standout moment is Reed's closing refrain of Sad Song in which he opines "I'm gonn'a stop wasting my time... somebody else would have broken both of her arms".
As evident, this is darker than anything by the likes of the Red House Painters, Lenny Cohen, Jeff Buckley, the Cure, Roger Waters, or Ryan Adam's Heartbreaker LP... with Lou creating a movie of emotions for our ears (less blockbuster, more video nasty!), whilst subsequently taking us on a decent into suicide and hell. However, if we step away from all the pain, we find that this is, regardless of the downbeat atmosphere, still one of the all-time great records. Deft instrumentation from a largely British collective featuring Jack Bruce, Tony Levin and Steve Winwood add a depth and panache to Lou's compositions, whilst the production is overseen by prog-rock supreme-o Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, et al)... because of this, the record has a grand, cascading style all of it's own, reflecting both the sordid background of the artist and his creative flare as a musician. So in a word: excellent.
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