Lou Reed: Berlin a jpoc rock music review
In the early seventies, so many rock musicians were setting out to create a rock opera, or at the least, a concept album. So, why not Lou Reed?
The result was bleak, painful and beautiful.
Eight out of ten.
Love it or hate it. There is no middle ground for most folks!
Released in the same year as Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon", Berlin is narrower in scope but much bleaker in terms of its message.
The theme is of a doomed relationship between the singer and "Caroline" his "Germanic Queen."
The album opens with a scene setting cameo of the earlier song Berlin. Reed's voice and the piano of Allan Macmillan establish the mood for what is come to come. Like much of what follows, this is more of a poem read with incidental music than asong.
"Lady Day", "Men of Good Fortune" and "Caroline Says I" introduce us to the relationship. Musically the first two are nothing special and it is only when we reach the third of these tracks that we begin to see the pain and flaws in the relationship, the music builds and we hear anger in the singer's voice. MoGF does not seem to fit into the overall scheme of this album and as such, it is the weakest song. It could be left out. The album would be shorter but it would still carry the same message and emotional impact. However, we would then miss Jack Bruce's delicate bass line doodles.
The fifth track, "How do you think it feels" is the musical highlight of the album. Aynsley Dunbar's drumming really makes this song. We see that drugs and sexual dissatisfaction are beginning to poison the relationship.
"Oh Jim" and "Caroline Says II" combine delicate sad melodies with lyrics about hatred, violence and despair. The understated music on the second of these seems to make the message in the words even more
The same is true of "The Kids" and the singer no longer refers to his "Germanic Queen" but instead as "That miserable rotten slut" as she loses her children and hears their cries as they are taken away.
The penultimate track, "The Bed" returns to the style of a poem with incidental music. The words are simple, stark and unforgettable.
The album could almost have been finished at that point and the last track is more of an epilog than a conclusion.
Sad though the album is, it is not depressing. The content will pass some listeners by and the album demands more than one hearing fully to appreciate its qualities.