Monday, January 3, 2011

344. Berlin. An album that divided critics

Album: Berlin
Artist: Lou Reed
Genre: Rock
Year: 1973


  1. Berlin
  2. Lady Day
  3. Men of Good Fortune
  4. Caroline Says I
  5. How Do You Think It Feels
  6. Oh, Jim
  7. Caroline Says II
  8. The Kids
  9. The Bed
  10. Sad Song

Lou Reed is best remembered as one of the driving forces behind The Velvet Underground a band it's essential to list amongst your influences if you want to be taken seriously as a rock band in the modern age. After he left the Velvets (or more accurately they left him) he proceeded to record some fairly commercially accessible music (Satellite of love, Vicious and Walk on the wild side for example). Just when he had become a mainstream success he put out Berlin which divided the critics like a wall through a major European city.

Berlin was unlike anything that Reed had done before. While the Velvet Underground played simplified music without much overdubbing or musical adornment, Berlin has basically everything Lou could get his hands on to fling onto an album. There are strings, horns, choristers, sessions musicians and as many accessories as you can imagine on two sides of vinyl. It's also Lou's most low key contribution to one of his releases. Despite being competent on several instruments he limits his own input to acoustic guitar and vocals. He also hands production duties to Bob Ezrin who can be held responsible for a lot of the more bombastic elements.

Berlin has undergone a few re-examinations in its lifetime. It's initial release was met with some fairly harsh criticism from those who enjoyed Transformer and the hit singles it produced. Rolling Stone magazine even called it "A disaster" and said it was the end of his career. Other reviewers were equally disparaging. A few years later people had reassessed it's charms and decided it deserved to be considered a classic. Certainly at the very least the subsequent release of Metal Machine Music (two discs of guitar distortion) meant nobody could claim Berlin was Reed's worst album. Over the years public opinion has swayed again especially as demos and rarities from the Velvet Undergrounds career have come to light. When the VU back catalogue was extensively mined versions of many of Berlin's songs were heard in earlier VU versions which many preferred to the final product Lou put on Berlin.

I reccomend you give this album a spin. It's not catchy, it's not uplifting and it's not going to brighten your day but there's a lot in it to reward a detailed listen. And it's definitely more rewarding the more time you give it.

Influenced by: The Velvet Underground. Everyone is influenced by the Velvet Underground, even Lou.
Influenced: Future Bob Ezrin projects

Highlight: Berlin
Lowlight: The Bed

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Very bad lyrics, bad music and no flow at all make this a terrible album. The other listeners have to be blind (and deaf) followers of Lou Reed or get stoned when they listen to this album. Fingers on a chalkboard. That's what I hate about album reviews is that even if an album sucks fans will try to stick up for there idol and never rate them in a true manner."

-If you don't like something then all the other reviewers must hate it too and be either drugged out or blind to it's faults.

So what's your history with Berlin? Do you agree with those who hated it back then or are you with those who love it now? Let me know below.

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