Lou Reed - Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals, Choir, Chorus
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Le Dude (July 25, 2008)
Well, I am a die-hard Lou Reed fan who would buy "Lou Reed reads the Financial Times" if it came out. But that's not to say I've lost all sense of judgement.
A lot has been made of Berlin, and generally I refer to my taste when I discoverd Lou in my teens, as I was less of an intellectual fart - simply liking it or no, which happend indeed for the VU music, but not really for Berlin. Berlin is great in concept, but the whole lush orchestration, while putting you "in the movie" maybe, actually *detracts* from the songs' individual power at times - which is why Side 2 works infinitely better. Also, let's not forget that the song "Berlin" dates from 2 years earlier, while the music and partial lyrics for Oh Jim, Sad Song, and the harrowing Caroline Says II date from the late VU period.
Many a Lou Reed album has had the problem of being simultaneously too smooth and being radically under-produced. This is one of the reasons people return to Berlin, because it comes of as, given the material, the best possible result, like Transformer. And it *is* good. But, compared to totally forgotten Lou Reed albums such as Legendary Hearts, the material pales a bit. Men of Good Fortune is great, and so are the 4 final tracks. But the rest... what's it actually about? Lyric-wise it falls somewhere halfway between Lou's brilliant poetic intuition of the VU years, and his more analytic later period (which kind of got started with The Bells), while not feeling comfortable in either niche. On Caroline Says II this direct analytic lyric change (compared to the VU's Stephanie Says), leaving no doubt as to Caro's situation, contrasts starkly with the beautiful, more intuitive VU-remnant "All of her friends call her Alaska", followed by the dry observation "It's so cold in Alaska". In this one song, Lou combines the direct and the intuitive with great result. On "The Kids" it's not as perfect, for I have no idea about that waterboy stuff.
Anyway, what I'm saying is that, had this album had, instead of Ezrin, an spare under-production like so many Reed-albums, half of it would have benefited, while half would have sounded sub-par. The Ezrin production, and Lou's very good singing and song-sequencing keep the whole thing afloat. Well, I guess it's an art also. In any case, an album like Legendary Hearts, while it may sound dull at first, only grows with each listen because of the thoughness in songwriting - *despite* bad production, while Berlin holds together *thanks to* production.
Buy it, but instead of doing like Lou sells it now, look at it as a pivotal point in his career, moving from the intuitive impressionist to the analytic realist. Of course, all the speed actually slowed the process down.
If you know this album you can review it.
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