Berlin is the third solo studio album by American musician Lou Reed, released in July 1973 by RCA Records. A concept album, Berlin tells the story of a couple's struggle with drug addiction and abuse. Initially, critical reception was mixed but appraisals of the album have warmed over the years: in 1973 Rolling Stone declared the album "a disaster" but in 2003, the album was ranked No. 344 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Berlin follows Jim and Caroline, two drug addicts living together in the divided city of Berlin (which Lou Reed, notably, had never visited before the album’s recording). Loosely based on Reed’s own increasing drug dependency and his declining relationship with then-wife Bettye Kronstad, it tracks them through their quick and dramatic downfall into prostitution ( Lady Day ), domestic violence ( Caroline Says II ), substance abuse ( How Do You Think It Feels ), and, finally, suicide ( The Bed ). In 2008, Reed revived the album for a Julian Schnabel-directed concert film, Berlin: Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse.
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Berlin may be a great album, it’s just not an easy one to listen to. It's intensely dark in its lyrical content, charting the doomed relationship of Caroline and Jim following them through drug addiction, domestic violence and suicide. Not the cheeriest of subjects for a concept album. First released in 1973, it was a commercial failure but became a cult classic. Berlin came hot on the heels of Reed’s glam rock masterpiece Transformer. Anyone expecting a commercial follow-up was non-plussed to say the least
Instead, Reed released an album that's as introspective and painful as any album could be. Great beauty rests alongside the ache of "The Kids," inside the Bob Ezrin–produced orchestration of "Sad Song," and in the lyrical directness of "Caroline Says I. Berlin features an all-star cast of musicians, from Jack Bruce to Steve Winwood to Tony Levin. Its reputation has grown to the point of legend; it received a historic live performance at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn in 2006. At the time of its 1973 release, Berlin was met with quizzical stares. After the success of Transformer and the hit "Walk on the Wild Side," Lou Reed had positioned himself as a leader of the glam rock movement. However, the former Velvet Underground leader always found greater comfort on society's margins, and his college days studying with Delmore Schwartz had instilled in him a sense of literary purpose.
Transformer and "Walk on the Wild Side" were both major hits in 1972, to the surprise of both Lou Reed and the music industry, and with Reed suddenly a hot commodity, he used his newly won clout to make the most ambitious album of his career, Berlin.
Labels Sony Music RCA Records BMG Records. Re-Issue in 2007 and 2013 by Sony Music. 2. Lady Day. 3. Men of Good Fortune.
Berlin is the third solo studio album by American musician Lou Reed, released in July 1973 by RCA Records. A concept album, Berlin tells the story of a couple's struggle with drug addiction and abuse