Lou Reed – Berlin

ARTIST: Lou Reed                      220px-Berlinloureed

TITLE:  Berlin

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #98 US, #7 UK

SINGLES: How Do You Think It Feels, Caroline Says

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Berlin, Men of Good Fortune, Lady Day

LINEUP: Lou Reed, Bob Ezrin, Steve Hunter, Dick Wagner, Jack Bruce, Aynsley Dunbar, Steve Winwood with help from Michael and Randy Brecker, Tony Levin, BJ Wilson, Gene Martynec, John Pierson, Allan Macmillan, and Blue Weaver.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: “Hey, let’s follow up our hit album with a song cycle about a couple living in Berlin who are hooked on smack and doomed in this life! That’ll keep the cash registers humming!”

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Wow. The themes and motif of this album should have about a billion trigger alerts for survivors of addiction, domestic violence, and suicide attempts. It’s Lou Reed telling a story of Caroline and Jim, two characters from a track on his debut album. And it’s not pretty.

The music and arrangements are outstanding, and there’s some great work by Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner on guitar. But the bleakness that Reed describes really hits home in the second half of the album – Side 2 for you vinylists. I don’t know if I can play it again it’s so dark and depressing, and Reed’s montone becomes creepier as the songs go along.

The most gut wrenching song is “The Kids” where Reed and producer Bob Ezrin put actual sounds from kids screaming for their mother in the background. I couldn’t deal with it.

It’s art and not pop, and I can see what Reed was aiming for, but it really stopped his career cold for a while as his audience couldn’t relate to the decay and desperation. It wouldn’t be the first time he did that.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Bob Ezrin and Reed had planned a stage adaptation, but 86’d it due to sales. That would’ve been a laugh riot. Or not…

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: This is a split decision. The second side is so bleak and dark I’m exiling ¾ of it. As a song cycle, and in artistic terms, it works. But as for enjoyment, oh man. No.

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