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Berlin Import, Original recording remastered

109 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, Original recording remastered, March 24, 1998
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Lou went for Baroque on his third solo album, singing about such light subjects as suicide and drug abuse over grandiose Bob Ezrin production. 10-tracks. Sony.

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
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 24, 1998)
  • Original Release Date: 1973
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import, Original recording remastered
  • Label: Imports
  • ASIN: B00000637V
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,979 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By dandurand on December 16, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Lou Reed's "Berlin" is perhaps the darkest album ever made. That said, it is a masterpiece. The subject matter is unremittingly bleak but the lyrics are startling in both their empathy and detachment. In "The Kids" Reed sings, "They're Taking Her Children Away", and it is about just that, chronicalling the disintegrating life of a single mother, "Caroline Says Pt 1" tells the tale of an uberbitch and the man who licks her boots, while "Caroline Says Pt 2" (same Caroline?) offers the contrast of a beaten and abused speed freak at the end of her rope. The utter apotheosis of despair is realized with "The Bed", in which a man takes us on a mordantly matter-of-fact tour of the apartment in which his wife, and the mother of his children lived, loved and killed herself. It is absolutely unapproachable as a hymn of resigned desolation. "This is the room where she took the razor...and I said, Oh, what a feeling." The orchestration of "Berlin" is likewise stunning, ranging from full-on horns and strings ("Caroline Pt 1") to bare acoustic minimalism ("The Bed"). All in all there is nothing in music I can compare Lou Reed's "Berlin" to. It is perfect in its despair, but not for the clinically depressed.
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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Mark Begley on November 29, 2001
Format: Audio CD
I bought BERLIN after reading Victor Bockris's brutal biography of Reed, TRANSFORMER. It was hailed as a "masterpiece" throughout the book, and having been a big fan of Reed and VU for years, AND since it had just been re-issued on CD, I snatched it up. I had no idea what a surprise I was in for. Having heard many of the VU versions of these songs, and based on my other Reed discs, I was completely stunned by the theatrical-German-tavern orchestration, and the blatant violence (particularly misogyny) in the lyrics. None of this turned me off of the album, as I was determined to see it as a testament of a certain state of mind, which was discussed at length in TRANSFORMER. And according to the book the recording of this album was a catastrophe, what with Reed's increasing dependence on speed, and his emotional state. Knowing this, it is amazing that the album turned out as well as it did. But like so many other "masterpieces" it wasn't hailed as such until much, much later, when it could be listened to within its own context, and not just as the follow-up to the album TRANSFORMER. This leads me to my calling it an "accidental masterpiece," as obviously Reed's vocals aren't up to par, there's nary a Reed-guitar crunch in sight, and much of the orchestration is close to being absurdly overwrought. However, my reason for giving it five stars is that it IS a perfect testament to Reed's state of mind/being at that particular time, flaws and all. Not many albums achieve this. One last thing, I wish people would stop with the: "I like the VU version of this-or-that song better." I happen to like Reed's later takes on those songs, and in this case think that the BERLIN version of "Sad Song" is much more powerful than the original.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Caratzas on January 6, 2000
Format: Audio CD
It's sometimes hard for me to think about "Berlin" without conjuring up Mike Myers' Saturday Night Live character, Dieter (the host of "Sprockets"). Like Dieter ("I find your agony delicious"), Reed seeks -- and finds, in abundance -- the beauty in pain and despair on this unforgettable album.
"Berlin" is all about darkness and decadence, though not the kind Lou Reed explored on "Transformer", his previous release. Rather than continuing with that disc's celebration of camp fruitery, "Berlin" takes a major turn onto seriously grim sidestreets littered with broken souls. A conceptual meditation on feelings most of us would rather not acknowledge, "Berlin" is a bitter narrative about the cruelty people can inflict on each other in the supposedly safe confines of a relationship.
The most amazing thing about "Berlin", however, isn't the subject matter, it's the music. Producer Bob Ezrin assembled an array of the era's most talented musicians (including Steve Winwood, Jack Bruce, Aynsley Dunbar and Tony Levin) and embroidered the album with lush, breathtaking string and wind orchestrations. The music and lyrics offset each other in stark contrast, much the same way a German expressionist film utilizes black and white.
Throughout, Reed delivers his trademark off-key vocals with a more pronounced sense of detachment than is usual even for him; on "Berlin" he's not so much an impartial observer, but a willing accomplice to the proceedings who angrily refuses to do anything about the destiny unfolding before him.
"Berlin" has been blasted as the ultimate downer of Reed's career -- quite an accomplishment, given the breadth of his depressive catalogue. Which is fair enough, for the faint of heart. For the rest of us, "Berlin" is a groundbreaking masterpiece.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAME on July 23, 2007
Format: Audio CD
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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Topic From this Discussion
Berlin live tour 2007
I would be very interested in a DVD of Julian Schnabel's documentary of this tour, but think it is not available in US-compatible format.
Jan 31, 2008 by Robert M. Baird |  See all 2 posts
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