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Berlin [Remaster]
Lou Reed
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List Price: $16.97
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Audio CD (March 24, 1998)
Original Release Date: 1973
Number of Discs: 1
Bmg/Rca; ASIN: B00000637V
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 11,941
Avg. Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Number of Reviews: 14

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To hear a song sample, click on the song titles below that are followed by Music. Visit our audio help page for more information.

1. BerlinMusic
2. Lady DayMusic
3. Men Of Good FortuneMusic
4. Caroline Says - IMusic
5. How Do You Think It FeelsMusic
6. Oh, Jim
7. Caroline Says - II
8. Kids, The
9. Bed, The
10. Sad Song

Eternally perverse, Reed responded to having a pop hit with Transformer by making a massive bummer of an album, built around reworked versions of a couple of older songs. Berlin is psychologically grueling and unremittingly dark (scariest moment: "The Kids," which ends with a very long tape of children screaming in terror), but the savage contrasts of its sound have gotten more impressive with time. The big production flourishes hit like a hangover, Reed's voice sounds like he's trying to stave off emotional involvement with his lyrics because it would hurt too much, and the multi-layered textures of "Oh Jim" surge and recede like details of a nightmare. The album takes strength to hear, and rewards it. --Douglas Wolk

What the Critics Say:
Berlin was a Number 7 hit at the time of its release, but critically reviled, partly because it contained lush upbeat orchestration - which equalled sell-out - and partly because it was emotionally cold. At times the first half toys with following-up Transformer's upbeat concerns but the general thrust is unrelenting fly-on-the-wall urban hell. Typical is Caroline Says II, which contrasts a musical arrangement bordering on schmaltz with Reed's monotone documenting Caroline's brutal beatings by her boyfriend and ridicule from her friends. Elsewhere there is drug addiction, suicide and children forcibly taken into care, all of which makes for uneasy listening but adds up to one of Reed's finest albums. Next was the turgid Sally Can't Dance. --Anthony Thornton -- 1998 Emap Consumer Magazines Limited. For personal use only. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Comments
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars Number of Reviews: 14

5 out of 5 stars a consummation devoutly to be wished
Reviewer: A music fan from Seattle      October 12, 1999
The liner notes for the "Velvet Underground & Nico" quote a review of an early Velvet Underground performance. The group it seems "[evoked] the decadence of Berlin in the 30's". Those of us familiar with Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises", his "A Movable Feast", and Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" will quickly see what Lou Reed is up to here. Kerouac makes it plain that his "beat generation" is the descendent of Hemingway's "lost generation" (after Gertrude Stein)--"beat" in the sense of "beatific", maybe (later), in the sense of "beaten", certainly. But this is silly: Hemingway called his first novel "The Sun Also Rises" (it rises and sets and rises and sets) to make his point that, as he put in "A Movable Feast": "every generation is lost by something". Lou Reed's "Berlin" makes the same point, at a time when it needed restating: just beneath the beatific veneer of post-sixties "peace and love" floundered another decadent "Berlin in the 30's", in New York, in London, elsewhere. The lush orchestration derided above and below is essential to convey that sense of decadence. (There exists an anti-art, anti-intellectual backlash that condemns the "concept album" out of hand as "over-reaching", "pretentious", etc. Oh, if all the world were as petty, vacuous, and unimaginative as we, its exponents seem to say. Let's ignore them.)

Also recommended: "The Blue Mask"/"Legendary Hearts"/"New Sensations" trilogy and, for musicians "Pentatonic Scales for the Jazz Rock Keyboardist" by Jeff Burns

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5 out of 5 stars No one "gets" Berlin
Reviewer: Larry Bottorff (mrprenzl@midusa.net) from Moundridge, Kansas      October 12, 1999
Many have tried to capture the vibe post-war/pre-unification Berlin put off. The glitter rock trio of Reed, Bowie, and Eno bottled the fog about as well as anyone in the '70. But Reed's "Berlin" is something like Karl May's Wild West America. May was a 19th-century German author who wrote Western novels without ever having set foot in America. He's still a smashing success in German-speaking lands and the definitive source of cowboys and indians imagery for Germans. Likewise, Reed probably never did a full immersion into West Berlin, never learned German, never ventured beyond the Ku'damm, never really went "underground" into the infamous Kreuzberg 36/61 quartiers which he purports to document. Yet, he decorated his basic New York motifs with Berlin symbols well enough to make a believable "documentary" album. West Berlin in the '70's and '80's was a bleak, desperate place. It had New York or London's push-and-shove trendiness, Beirut's shatteredness, and East Germany's empty heart. In Berlin cruelty was commonplace, but a loving, codependent, rarely violent cruelty. Reed's "Berlin" hits that nail right on the head. I might say no one truly "gets" Berlin, but not for lack or effort or talent. The vibe was just too big.
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2 out of 5 stars Reed's "concept" has many holes, and a few memorable moments
Reviewer: spazz@concentric.net from Oak Ridge TN      May 10, 1999
So Lou Reed didn't wanna give the people what they wanted and followed up the schmaltzy Transformer with this overrated, overbearing piece of work. The concept at best is patchy, congealing more on the second half than the first. Once again Lou dips into his VU leftovers and turns "Stephanie Says" into "Caroline Says II"...for my money the original VU tune was much better, oh well. Yes, this whole mess is at first listen a really depressing work. However, repeated listenings (if it does indeed invite such a thing) only seem to wear down the listener's patience. The funny thing about it is it's not necessarily the lyrics which add the most gloom - it's the music. Basically a string and brass/reed section playing what sounds like Cheerful Tunes on Barbiturates. Yes, "The Kids" will turn your stomach the first time around, but even it gets silly when you really think about it. "The Bed" and all of its details about suicide via razor blades goes for the throat as well...it probably wins the award for Most Depressing Song on Berlin. Finally, the whole thing closes with "Sad Song" which should have been called "I'm Bored", for Lou sounds as if he's about to fall out of the recording booth from ennui (pun intended). Again...this was a terrific VU song..a real pretty number, but here Lou has just turned it into trash. Buy this album only if you intend to break it out for unsuspecting friends whom you want to torture through audio melancholia.
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5 out of 5 stars definitive solo work of a master.
Reviewer: A music fan from san jose,california      April 1, 1999
Yet another example of the masses rejecting anything that doesn't sugarcoat things. This album is not cold, it's objective. Lou Reed presents the story, he doesn't judge it. The crushing lines in caroline says 2 "Caroline says as she gets up from the floor,You can hit me all you want to, but I dont love you anymore" illustrates the characters of this play perfectly,detached and hopeless. Many don't like believing these people exist. But reed has never been afraid to confront his listeners with such true depictions of the human condition. This album is also more approprietly produced than the critically acclaimed "transformer". "BERLIN" Belong behind only "blood on the tracks" as the best album of the 70's.
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5 out of 5 stars Lou's Masterpiece
Reviewer: vra@webtv.net (Visual Radio's Joe Viglione) from Boston, Mass.      March 31, 1999
"Berlin" by Lou Reed, was touted as"a film for the ear." Indeed it is. This is a soundtrack beggingto be put to celluloid...orchestrated folk/grunge...the backing by halfof Blind Faith (Jack Bruce and Steve Winwood - Bruce was theuncredited bassist on the BlindFaith album), with Aynsley Dunbarand the late BJ Wilson (Procul Harum) on drums, it is Lou at hisdarkest since...Sister Ray andWhite Light/White Heat.I can ramble on for well over 1000words on this...it's not for everyone...but it is a trip.
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5 out of 5 stars Powerful Powerful Stuff
Reviewer: rcarlberg@aol.com  1_stripes from Seattle      March 20, 1999
Music sometimes has the power to move us, and none moreso than Reed's "Berlin." This is some of the most harrowing music ever recorded. If you can listen without crying to "The Kids," with it's refrain "They're taking her children away" while terrified children scream "Mommy! Mommy!" in the background, well then you're lacking all human compassion.

It's not a party album. You wouldn't play it to cheer up after a hard day. But in terms of using the power of music to sweep you into another person's reality, and put you face-to-face with some of the darker aspects of a dark, misbegotten life, well, there's nothing stronger.

A long overdue reissue, and one of my favorite albums of all time.

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4 out of 5 stars Rock Hudson for the Teutonic Age
Reviewer: A music fan from Los Angeles, CA      February 14, 1999
Stella! Where are my pills?! Check: a modern-day sludge-piece that sounds like Sid Vicious-ballroom chic. No bullseye, but better than average. No, this turkey is as harmless as last night's boiled egg. The atmospherics lend a certain hype to the derivative story-line: wow! we've got a concept album on our hands. But then, maybe Lou's got his fingers wire-tapped to popular histrionics. In that case, not bad for a blathering idiot who stepped out of the Velvet time machine and decided to impregnate Lawrence Welk. Call it a blue-collar workingman's blues; call it anything you like. It's still Berlin, and it's still Lou Reed as the uncomplicated genius of musicaldom.
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3 out of 5 stars Another concept album, why?
Reviewer: A music fan from Corona CA      February 11, 1999
Lou Reed, a songwriter of enormous talent, must have realized how talented he was. That was his mistake. Concept albums, usually, are dreadful experiences, and this is nothing more than a slightly above average concept album. Produced by the guy who eventually produced rocks most overrated yawner "The Wall" by Pink Floyd, the grit and streetmuck feeling of The Velvet Underground is gone and replaced with Mantovani dribble. As far as the songs, "The Kids" is a harrowing song, and at times on "Berlin," the melodrama works. But now, due to the advance in reissue technology, the original versions of these songs by the Velvet Underground are superior ("Oh Jim" [on "Peel Slowly and See"] as "Oh Gin" and "Sad Song"], and make the "Berlin" versions sound extremely pretentious. Lou Reed fans must own this record, because it is his most elaborate recording, and reportedly, one of his favorite of his own albums. It will probably bore to tears just about everybody else. "Berlin" is well represented on the Lou Reed box-set, "Between Thought and Expression," which is highly recommended.
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