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4.7 out of 5 stars
Berlin [Limited Edition Digipak]
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
These songs are harrowing but beautiful and ultimately rewarding if you can survive its labyrinthine descent into heartbreak and despair. The most melodic songs include Caroline Says I and II, the wistful Oh, Jim, the painful The Kids, the bleak The Bed and the soulful Sad Song. Over these beautiful melodies Reed lays his vocals that are so genuine, so apt and so gripping that listening to them is like being privy to the private details of a doomed relationship. Of course, these all fit the complete picture to create one of the most cohesive and searng concept albums in rock, from the jazzy intro of Berlin with its lounge piano through the spoken poem of Lady Day, right to the melancholy last refrains of Sad Song. The grand production and sympathetic arrangements add gravitas to the somber mood to create a dark masterpiece of epic proportions. Somewhat inaccessible to some fans, Berlin has nevertheless improved with time and remains one of Lou Reed's greatest albums.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 27 June 2004
From the cacophony of muted, distorted sound effects and twinkling piano of the opening title-track, right through to the coral backing-harmonies of Sad Song; Lou Reed's Berlin remains a shattering and deeply emotional trawl through the depths of misery, excess and theatrical despair. It's status as a cult-record is legendary; coming as it does on a wave of expectations (the most depressing album ever, the most intense listening experience ever, etc), most of which it lives up to... managing to fuse a sound that combines the heroin-chic of the Velvets and Nico with a further instrumental quality more akin to the thin white Duke (whilst also delivering what must be the most brutal album concept of all time).
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imagine the musical version of Donald Cammel and Nic Roeg's Performance would sound, if the LSD of the sixties had been replaced by the speed and junk of the era-of-Berlin.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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 11 July 2002
I have read so many times that 'Berlin' is a depressing album and admittedly at times it is very dark. However, the darkness is largely conveyed lyrically with much of the music quite euphoric in sound. These elements blend to produce one of the most beautiful and interesting albums of all time. In my opinion the closing duo of 'The Bed' and 'Sad Song' are absolute perfection. If you don't own this album then I strongly suggest purchasing it and giving it a few listens. It is a bit of a slow burner but well worth being patient with! Enjoy!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
These songs are harrowing but beautiful and ultimately rewarding if you can survive the album's labyrinthine descent into misery and despair. The most melodic songs include Caroline Says I and II, the wistful Oh Jim, the painful The Kids, the bleak The Bed and Sad Song which is soulful in its melancholia.

Over these beautiful melodies Reed lays his vocals that are so authentic, apt and gripping that listening to them is like seeing snippets of a movie. Of course, they form a complete picture to create one of the most cohesive and searing concept albums in rock.

From the jazzy intro of Berlin with its lounge piano & brief strains of Happy Birthday through Lady Day with its spoken & sung segments, right to the melancholy last refrains of Sad Song, the album holds one's ears & attention. Berlin is unique in Reed's body of work although tracks like Oh Jim & How Do You Think It Feels would have fitted well on Transformer.

The sensitive production & sympathetic arrangements add gravitas to the somber mood to create a dark masterpiece of epic proportions. It's not really a rock album & therefore somewhat inaccessible to some fans. Berlin has in my opinion improved with time and remains one of Lou Reed's most singular achievements.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
What is often overlooked in judging this bleak but great concept album, is the brilliance of the individual songs. It contains some of Reed's most memorable numbers like the melodic Caroline Says I and II, the tender, wistful Oh, Jim, the heartbreaking The Kids, the desolate The Bed and the majestic Sad Song. Over these beautiful melodies Reed lays his vocals that are so genuine, so apt and so gripping that listening to them is almost like seeing snippets of a movie. Of course, these all fit the complete picture to create one of the most trenchant and vivid concept albums of all time, from the jazzy intro of Berlin through the spoken poem of Lady Day, right to the melancholy last refrains of Sad Song. The full production and lush arrangements add gravitas to the somber mood to create a dark masterpiece of epic proportions. Somewhat inaccessible to some fans, Berlin has nevertheless improved with time and stands as one of Lou Reed's major achievements.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 October 2012
Looking back, it really is mystifying to me as to why the critics panned this 1973 album. I suspect that, following the relatively conventional rock/pop approach Reed adopted for Transformer, they just couldn't appreciate (or understand) such a grandiose orchestral concept as Berlin, even though its principal subject matter remained the hitherto Reed obsessions of drugs, doomed relationships, depression and death. It is, though, interesting to note that Berlin was much more successful in the UK than the US, just reinforcing my no doubt bigoted view that we Brits have more discerning musical tastes! Having said this, this view appears to be contradicted by the fact that Bob Ezrin (who Reed employed in a masterstroke to produce Berlin) had achieved equivalent success (using a similar production approach) with his star performer Alice Cooper across the pond.

One cannot, of course, detract from Reed's overall concept and songs that made up Berlin (even though a number were actually reworked versions of earlier Velvet Underground songs), but, in my mind, Ezrin's touch also pervades the album, from its sense of dynamics to its (at times) lush orchestral sound. Nowhere is this felt more obviously than on songs such as the vibrant Caroline Says I, the ironically lush sounding Oh, Jim (with its superb acoustic conclusion - a version of the Velvet's Oh Gin) and the sombre melodic brilliance and subtle instrumentation featured on The Bed. Production aside, Reed had also assembled a veritable British supergroup for the album, including the powerhouse rhythm section of Jack Bruce on bass and Aynsley Dunbar on drums (who are notably outstanding on - my favourite album track - Men Of Good Fortune, Caroline Says I and How Do You Think It Feels), together with Steve Winwood on keyboards. Reed also employed guitarists Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner for the album, who went on to excel on his later (more conventional, but still brilliant) live album Rock 'n' Roll Animal.

Berlin is, though, perhaps best known for the (much covered) superb acoustic ballad Caroline Says II, a devastatingly powerful song in which the heroine (no pun intended) of his 'opera' laments on her tragic lot of drug addiction and physical abuse. This is a song which, for me, stylistically follows his Transformer masterpieces Walk On The Wild Side, Satellite Of Love and Perfect Day, as well as the Velvet's Femme Fatale and Sunday Morning. Surprisingly, perhaps, the album actually ends on a relatively positive note (musically, at least) with the superbly lyrical Sad Song, which is another mega-production number from Mr Ezrin. The only point where Berlin overdoes the theatrics for me is the infamous children crying interlude on the otherwise suitably sombre and poignant The Kids.

As an overall concept, Berlin is a bravely uncompromising depiction of a key social problem and contains much brilliantly vibrant music to boot.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 December 2011
A stunning achievement, which was obviously way-ahead of what popular taste could handle in 1973, post Walk on the Wild side. An album that stretches the parameters/envelope of what pop/rock music can do and one that still sends shivers down the spine today. His best? I think so (it's my favourite), but it's interesting that it's only now that this album is getting the respect it deserves. How long will we have to wait for another LR classic 'Songs for Drella' to get the same?
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These songs are harrowing but beautiful and ultimately rewarding if you can survive its labyrinthine descent into heartbreak and despair. The most melodic songs include Caroline Says I and II, the wistful Oh, Jim, the painful The Kids, the bleak The Bed and the soulful Sad Song. Over these beautiful melodies Reed lays his vocals that are so genuine, so apt and so gripping that listening to them is like being privy to the private details of a doomed relationship. Of course, these all fit the complete picture to create one of the most cohesive and searng concept albums in rock, from the jazzy intro of Berlin with its lounge piano through the spoken poem of Lady Day, right to the melancholy last refrains of Sad Song. The grand production and sympathetic arrangements add gravitas to the somber mood to create a dark masterpiece of epic proportions. Somewhat inaccessible to some fans, Berlin has nevertheless improved with time and remains one of Lou Reed's greatest albums.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 March 2013
I have always loved this album but be warned it is seriously depressing at times. I just needed to update my copy from a rubbish recording from my old scratchy vinyl. Amazing that I paid £3.99 for the vinyl back in the da and paid just £4 this time. Great
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Lou Reed's masterpiece. Even taking The Velvet Underground into account, this is the best work that Reed has produced. Love, loss, wanting, hate, disgust - it's all here and more in the sorry story of 'Jim & Caroline' (it's a concept album). Theatrical in parts and suicidal in others, it's a haunting, frightening and exhausting listen. Highlights include the title track, and the whole of 'Side 2' (the last four tracks).

Oh, and the children crying on 'The Kids' - it depends which story you believe about how Bob Ezrin got his children to cry for their 'mommy'. He either told them that she had left them or that she had died. Whatever he said it got the desired effect.

This (re)remastered version is, thankfully, free of any unnecessary bonus tracks.
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