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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 23 June 2017
A very honest and dark album which is very beautiful as the honesty pulls you in ..
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on 19 September 2017
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on 15 July 2016
A brutal, dirty, dark and funny soundtrack to a film never made, a love story set in 70s Berlin that takes you on a journey. A work of epic beauty and violence. Utterly devastating.
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on 16 June 2017
love or hate it
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Few albums polarise people (and fans) more than the terminally bleak yet brutally truthful "Berlin". It took me years to like it - and even now in 2016 - there are parts of Side 1 I can't bear to listen to. But when I play "The Kids", "The Bed" and especially "Sad Song" from Side 2 all in a row - I also think it may be one of 'the' great unsung-masterpieces of the Seventies.

Some thought at the time that "Berlin" was uniformly cold and distant as all around Lou Reed seemed to be descending into a self-afflicted drug-addiction Hell. The infamous Rolling Stone review called it 'offensive' and wished it didn't exist somehow - while another more positive reappraisal likened its more grandiose moments to the inventiveness of "Sgt. Peppers". It also seemed like the Louster was trying to tear down the Glam Rock image and popularity of his huge "Transformer" album from 1972 with the monster "Walk On The Wild Side" hit single thrilling everybody (including David Bowie fans).

But "Berlin" was very different. Not a concept LP – not quirky happy-wappy crossover Pop either - just uber-realistic – aimless lives ending in casually bleak ways. It was probably just too much and too realistic for its 1973 audience - what with Cocaine and Heroin destroying everything around them and rendering certain areas of many US cities no-go zones (the same applied to cities in Europe too). "Berlin" only reached No. 98 in the US Pop & Rock LP charts - but faired much better in Blighty managing an impressive No. 7. Either way - I'd argue that the album's best moments are 'beautifully sad' and truly amazing. Lou Reed's "Berlin" sounds like no other record of the period. Which brings us to this exceptionally well remastered CD of it...

UK released March 1998 (reissued in May 2003) – "Berlin" by LOU REED on RCA 07863 67489 2 (Barcode 078636748924) is a straightforward Remaster of the 10-track 1973 LP and plays out as follows (49:34 minutes):

1. Berlin
2. Lady Day
3. Men Of Good Fortune
4. Caroline Says I
5. How Do You Think It Feels
6. Oh Jim [Side 2]
7. Caroline Says II
8. The Kids
9. The Bed
10. Sad Song
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 3rd Solo album "Berlin" – released October 1973 in the USA on RCA Records APL1-0207 and in the UK on RCA Victor RS 1002. Produced by BOB EZRIN – it peaked at No. 98 in the US LP charts and No. 7 in the UK.

The CD Reissue supervised by PAUL WILLIAMS - the famously elaborate 'booklet' that accompanied original vinyl copies has been reproduced in the elaborate 12-leaf foldout inlay. You get those heavy-hitting lyrics, album and reissue credits and a critique of the record and its cultural impact by MICHAEL HILL. In his overview he claims (and rightly to) that the album reveals the 'real' Lou Reed - an invested yet aloof outsider commenting on a lifestyle and people he knew all too well. But the big news is the Audio Restoration done by BILL LACEY and MIKE HARTRY that is gorgeous. You can really hear Jack Bruce's Bass contributions on "Caroline Says I" and Steve Hunter's guitar on "How Do You Think It Feels" as well as Michael and Randy Brecker on the Horns.

As if a precursor to the doom-to-come - "Berlin" opens with a grotesque 'Happy Birthday To You' racket from some drunken bar that slowly segues into a lone piano and Lou whispering in echoed vocals about a five-foot ten-inches-tall lady in Berlin. He sings of 'paradise' but it feels like he's channelling the saddest Tom Waits observation. RCA USA tried "Lady Day" as the B-side to "How Do You Think It Feels" on 45 in October 1973 (RCA 0172) - bit no one noticed either side. Steve Winwood (of Traffic and Blind Faith) guests to on Organ and Harmonium to great effect ably helped by Procol Harum's B.J. Wilson on Drums. But that caustic number is as nothing to the poisonous "Men Of Good Fortune" - a song that plays of 'men of good fortune' against 'men of poor beginnings' with neither coming off particularly well. The first of the "Caroline Says" songs hits you next where she 'can't help but be mean' and wants our Lou to be more ‘manly’. The Side ends on "How Do You Think It Feels" - a straightforward question about the effects of speed pills. But my fave is the threesome of songs that end the record - "The Kids", "The Bed" and the amazing "Sad Song".

A junkie-mum is having her children taken away from her in "The Kids" where Lou probably did his 'best guy in the world' ratings no favours with lines like "...in the alleys and bars she couldn't be beat...the miserable rotten slut couldn't turn anyone away..." If that sounds cold and brutal – it is – but the soft acoustic strumming that accompanies the seven and half minutes of the song make it feel crushingly sad and real and truthful and somehow not nearly as mean and detached as it sounds. The same softly approach comes with "The Bed" – a song about a woman who took her life in the bed where the singer’s children were conceived (nice). It ends on the truly beautiful and fully orchestrated "Sad Song" - a full on seven-minute masterpiece that amazes me even now.

I suppose only a curmudgeon like Lou Reed could have made "Berlin" - poised to take the world by its 'wild side' - but instead he depresses the crap out of all and sundry. Will we ever see the like of his opinionated genius ever again...
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on 9 April 2016
Back in 1973 Lou Reed followed up the success of the glammy Transformer and ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ with this heavily–orchestrated, morally ambiguous concept album. His proud, if rather misguided, record company RCA decided for some reason to christen this bleak offering as ‘The Sgt. Pepper of The Seventies’. Though it didn’t do badly here - it reached No. 7 in the album charts - some critics hated it, with Rolling Stone’s Stephen Davis hating it most of all. In a review for their December 20, 1973 edition he wrote 86 sneering words:

“Lou Reed's Berlin is a disaster, taking the listener into a distorted and degenerate demimonde of paranoia, schizophrenia, degradation, pill-induced violence and suicide. There are certain records that are so patently offensive that one wishes to take some kind of physical vengeance on the artists that perpetrate them. Reed's only excuse for this kind of performance (which isn't really performed as much as spoken and shouted over Bob Ezrin's limp production) can only be that this was his last shot at a once-promising career. Goodbye, Lou".

Though Davis’s review has become notorious, I don’t think his description is completely wrong. Engulfed at times by waves of fear, Berlin is “a disaster, taking the listener into a distorted and degenerate demimonde of paranoia, schizophrenia, degradation, pill-induced violence and suicide”. However, I feel for that reason it was actually the high point in his long, if chequered, solo career. Key moments in this occasionally proggy, sometimes senselessly cruel, song cycle are the scene-setting title track, the autobiographical ‘Oh Jim’, the much covered acoustic ballad ‘Caroline Says II’, and the harrowing ‘The Kids’.
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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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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 April 2003
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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on 4 December 2015
The first Lou Reed album I ever hear back in the day - wow! It still is one of his finest!
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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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