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From the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Berlin

Lou Reed

1973

Berlin

Album Summary

Berlin is the third solo studio album by American musician Lou Reed, released in October 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 by 2012 the album was ranked No. 344 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Wikipedia

Rating

3.13

Votes

5520

Genres

  • Rock
  • Psychedelic Rock
Reviews
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Sat Jan 16 2021
4

This one is completely and utterly new to me. Have not heard a single Lou Reed song. I don't even think I've actually heard a Velvet Underground song. This is probably the most "difficult" album so far (after 3 days). Some atonal melodies, some depressing subject matter. I, for one, love when a band or an artist is fronted by someone who kind of can't sing. Reed's vocals are the highlight here for me. I can hear how he influenced Bowie, and a handful of other artists. I can even hear a bit of Waters-era Pink Floyd in this. You can also see this being an early form of a rock opera or concept album. I can also hear how Reed influenced a lot of the punk scene. These songs maybe don't 'sound' like punk, but the lyrics are filled with anger, rage, shame, and malaise. I don't think Reed was in a good place when he produced this. The Caroline tracks really stand out to me, as does Oh, Jim and also The Bed. Interesting to end the album with Sad Song, probably the least sad song on the album, and the most heavily produced. I'll have to sit with this a while, but I could see myself coming back to it.

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Sun Jan 31 2021
2

Love VU but Lou Reed's solo stuff is real hit or miss with me. Love the album before this, Transformer, with Bowie's production. I'm sure we'll get around to that one. This one is a little too bleak for me though. I found The Kids to be unbearable, skipped the fucking track when it got to the kid crying. He's recycling a fair amount old unused VU material in places. Like the prominent bass by none other than Cream's Jack Bruce, but that's about it.

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Thu Sep 16 2021
4

I was expecting this to be much more dirge-like than it was. The subject matter and story is unrelentingly bleak, and I expected there to be no way I could enjoy hearing it set to music. But Lou's voice is the perfect vessel for the unsettling journey, in equal turns sneering, snide, vulnerable and broken. And musically, there's a lot to enjoy here. Orchestral arrangements! Wild drums! That soaring guitar solo in How Do You Think It Feels! Caroline Says I is actually a catchy-number. Others (Berlin, Lady Day) feel like show-tunes in their instrumentation and delivery. Producer and arranger Bob Ezrin would go on to work on Pink Floyd's The Wall, which this feels a lot like a precursor to (especially the wonderful Sad Song's Comfortably Numb-ish strings). Overall I enjoyed this album a lot, dark and devastating as it was.

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Wed May 12 2021
5

WOW. I love velvet and have some of his solo stuff ( I even like metal machine music). Never heard this. Fucking masterpiece. Tragic and bleak. Full of emotion, tells a clear story and has amazing instrumentation/ production.

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Fri Aug 06 2021
5

Casualidades que haya tocado White Light primero de Velvet, todavía sin el debut y ahora aparece primero Berlin antes de Transformer. Está dejando en un lugar extraño al pobre Lou Reed para quien no lo conoce mucho. Creo que este disco puede verse ya sea como una obra de arte de genio macabro o un pozo sin fondo de desesperanza y sonido estridente. No sorprenderé a nadie al decir que mi opinión está en el primer campo. Cuando la gente quizá esperaría otro disco hacia el rock glam después de Transformer este inicia totalmente barroco, con un sonido justamente como si fuera un cabaret de Berlin en los 20s y de ahí comienza musicalmente a saltar, con ese sonido característico en toda canción que se puede saber inmediatamente que, a pesar de ser unas caóticas, otras más romanticonas otras hacia rock, tienen ese sonido de Lou Reed. Puedo entender cierta parte de lo que algunos pudieran criticar en esa inflexión un poco repetitiva y cortada que tiene siempre al cantar y que se nota mucho en este disco pero debo decir que ahí de manera personal me agrada y nunca he tenido problema con ella. Líricamente ha quedado patente que me agradan los proyectos llenos de desolación y de historias trágicas (mira se enamoraron... ahora son drogadictos... ahora les quitaron a sus hijos.... ahhh ahora se suicido! AAAH vale madre que se vaya a la chingada otra persona se hubiera roto los dos brazos!) e incluso fuera de la historia literal tanto la prosa como rima de Lou Reed es como siempre inmejorable hacia lo que se puede interpretar de manera personal al ver el disco como la metáfora de un rompimiento y lo personal que pueden hacerse estas canciones. Un disco concepto que funciona de manera perfecta en su concepto y de manera separada. No tengo ningún punto malo personalmente, es musicalmente variado, atrevido e hipnótico y en su contenido temático perfectamente ejecutado. Como mencioné, puedo entender quizá algo de la crítica y por qué a alguien podría no gustarle (o incluso sentirse repelido de primera instancia y no terminar de escuchar el fondo real del disco), pero para mí es de esos discos que son prácticamente perfectos.

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Fri Oct 01 2021
5

Holy shit this album is sad. As a follow up to transformer I was expecting something along the same lines, but I can honestly say I was caught off guard and also extremely impressed. This album is the definition of “gauntly beauty”- I bet Tim Burton loves it. A really solid listen, but don’t listen to it if you’re depressed cause it won’t make things better

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Sat Aug 13 2022
5

5.0 + Lou Reed set out to create a novel-like album and to me this reads like "Thérèse Raquin" by Emile Zola. He offers us an unflinching look at the insanity of drug addiction - we hear children crying out for "mommy" ("The Kids"), delve into messy sexual liaisons ("Oh, Jim"), feel the humiliation ("How Do You Think It Feels") and witness the violence ("Caroline Says II"). Listening to this record, I can almost inhale the stench of these NYC hovels and see the grime on the counters and walls.

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Wed Oct 12 2022
5

A heartbreaking album, this. There aren't many albums like this for me, ones that I both love and fear. This is one of those albums I listen to and am grateful for my Lady's mantle to hide in while listening. This album is basically the chronicle of a couple falling in love over drugs and falling apart through the abuse of said drugs, the abuse of each other, prostitution, the disintegration of their family, and eventually suicide by one partner, while the surviving partner, though sad, sees the suicide as a necessary escape and relief. oh oh oh oh oh oh oh what a feeling!

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Mon Dec 26 2022
5

Lou Reed isn't one to placate the listener's imagination. As the Bowie sprinkled, roughed up glam of Transformer became the de-facto go-to album, one would assume that he would gain more momentum by ploughing the same field and reaping more plentiful results. That's not how he worked. He made Berlin instead. Centering on the doomed couple Jim and Caroline, peaking at the harrowing and heartbreaking one-two punch of The Kids and The Bed, this uncompromising study of hopeless love is Lou at his most unforgiving and yet most empathetic. To hell with this not being what anyone wanting to hear in 1973, it is still gripping, unsettling and unrelenting almost fifty years on. Oh, what a feeling.

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Sat Jan 07 2023
5

Sometimes you hear and album that makes you say, "Holy cow, I need to recalibrate my rating scale." This, folks. This is what a 5-star album sounds like. From simple piano melodies to wailing electric guitar over sax and horns, the story packs a heavy emotional punch. I'm overwhelmed.

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Sat Jan 07 2023
5

After the first listen, I thought that the album was interesting, but not one that I am likely to ever revisit. But as I listened again today, I became very captured by it all. I can now see spending much more time with this one.

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Wed Jan 13 2021
4

Can see cultural value, will not listen again

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Fri Jun 18 2021
4

When Spotify finished this album, it jumped to Nick Drake, which I thought was appropriate, because it has the same feeling of sadness and down-and-outness. Nick is more whimsical and poetic while Lou is gritty, blunt and degrading. The arrangements and muddy production add to the feeling of gloom. Kudos for even attempting something like this.

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Tue Nov 10 2020
3

Saaaaaad song

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Mon Mar 01 2021
3

big fan of Sad Song. the rest was just ok for me.

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Thu Apr 15 2021
2

Seems like a heroin riddled, disjointed, autobiographical confession set to music.

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Tue May 04 2021
2

Je suis sincèrement désolé Lou Reed mais je me suis levé du mauvais pied et tu vas prendre pour tous tes petits camarades à qui j'ai mis 3 alors que je n'étais pas franchement emballé. Maintenant écoute-moi bien petite merde, ce que tu fais est nul à chier, tu n'as pas une once de talent. Que cette critique te serve de leçon mais serve aussi d'exemple à tous ceux qui oseraient s'aventurer dans un style proche du tien.

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Thu Oct 01 2020
5

It was folk rock not really singing but kinda talking o er the music , still good stuff

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Mon Apr 05 2021
5

Story telling come to life. Rockin sound

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Sat Jan 30 2021
5

Quase literatura

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Sun Jan 24 2021
5

honestly gas. Might buy the vinyl

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Mon Jun 07 2021
5

I think I enjoy this album even more than Transformer, such as wonderful songs

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Mon May 17 2021
5

Third favourite Lou Reed record :).

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Fri Aug 06 2021
5

ME voy a arriesgar con éste disco y ponerlos entre los mejores que he escuchado en mi vida. Me gustan los discos conceptuales, tristes, grises, lúgubres y esté definitivamente lo es. Le vi mucho parecido a The Wall, no se si Waters estuvo esvuchando a Lou

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Tue Aug 10 2021
5

Precioso. Bastante triste. Pero precioso.

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Wed Sep 22 2021
5

I'm partial to storytelling, so I like the concept of a rock opera. I also really like Lou Reed as a lyricist and storyteller, although some of his songs leave me wanting the rest of the story. This album provides that. In my mind, I pictured the songs portrayed by puppets a la the rock opera that Jason Segel's character composes in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." But maybe puppets playing Caroline and Jim would make the tale even more tragic. Listening to the progression of characters through different songs does require a more concentrated effort. And "The Kids," with actual children crying and calling for their mother was really effective at selling the sad tale of Caroline. It also really grabbed the attention of my three year old.

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Wed Nov 03 2021
5

Sad Song is my favorite.

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Wed Nov 24 2021
5

First listen and I really really enjoyed it

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Mon Jan 31 2022
5

Lou knocks it out of the park with the Storytelling and ambience of this one. Excellent job.

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Mon Feb 28 2022
5

First time listening to this album, I’m a fan of transformer and the VU albums. Wow this was a bleak and haunting masterpiece. Great story telling throughout the album.

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Thu Apr 07 2022
5

Love lou Reed, this was a great album, I'm sure he'll have more on this list

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Thu May 05 2022
5

Oh, this was great - I've mainly listed to "Transformer" before, but this is much more consistent in tone and quality. I definitely want to revisit it more. Fave track - "The Bed", maybe? There's one hell of a suckerpunch in the lyrics...

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Tue Jun 14 2022
5

Lou reed does it again the madman

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Fri Jul 15 2022
5

Beautiful Sad album, even better than magic and Loss

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Wed Jul 27 2022
5

Great album! Lou Reed is an amazing song writer and the musical talent is insane!

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Tue Aug 09 2022
5

Some people just exude coolness. Lou Reed is one of those people. I feel like I should hate this album. It is depressing, but it's not a style I usually like... But it's so fucking good!

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Thu Aug 11 2022
5

Still a very impressive album.

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Thu Aug 11 2022
5

Classic Lou Reed album. I am sticking to general consensus here and rate this album as his best one. "Berlin", "Transformer", "Street Hassle" and "New York" are all 5-star albums.

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Tue Aug 30 2022
5

Nice

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Wed Sep 21 2022
5

Classic dadcore

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Sat Sep 24 2022
5

Loved the vocals on this

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Fri Nov 04 2022
5

gorgeous

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Sat Jan 07 2023
5

Amazing! Stopped what I was doing shortly after pressing play and just listened. Then listened to it again. And then again. Incredible. I’m loving every song on this album. Even though it is really heart-wrenching. Lou Reed knows how to explore some pretty dark places without making me question the artists feelings toward his subject. That’s something that I’ve grown weary of with some of the rap and hip hop artists that have been served up lately. This is the best new thing I’ve listened to in a long time. Absolutely perfect!

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Sat Jan 07 2023
5

This one is kind of rough and gets rougher as you go along. The story is quite upsetting but absolutely emotionally compelling. I really loved the instrumentation. It's such an interesting way to weave together songs that had been done before ("Stephanie Says" becomes "Caroline Says") and I love the idea of following what happens after a lovely romantic vignette like "Berlin," even if it does go to such a dark place. I couldn't get myself to listen to "The Kids" again the second time through and had to skip it—not because it is a bad song, but because it is so difficult emotionally. This one gets you involved and sticks with you.

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Sat Jan 14 2023
5

Recorded and released right after the success of the David Bowie-produced *Transformer*, Lou Reed's *Berlin* couldn't have been *more* of a 180-turn for those who had appreciated his former album. Not only is this a bleak tale about a couple going through the throes of physical abuse, drug addiction, prostitution and child neglect, but also, it's narrated from the point of view of the main abuser, which makes it a difficult and harrowing concept album to say the least. Obviously, the narrator is very unreliable here, so the hints he gives about his suicidal partner actually using him by proxy to destroy herself should be taken with a huge grain of salt. Cynicism and ambiguity abound throughout those dark lyrics, yet the latter also create a mesmerizing thread to help you go from one track to the next. Starting from a minor cut in one of his former recordings, Lou Reed here imagines the tragic fate of its cursed characters with a lot of vivid and striking details. *Berlin* is thus a very "literary" album, which probably triggered all those early criticisms about its depressing and "pretentious" nature. But in retrospect, a "Transformer, vol. 2" would have been far less interesting than what Reed offered us instead, even with such admittedly harsh lyrical contents. What early critics of *Berlin* also seemed to have missed is the fact that the record is actually worth your time if only for the music itself. Reed's wild card here was his producer, Bob Ezrin, mostly known at the time for his grandiose orchestral arrangements for Alice Cooper--ones he would refine a few years later with his legendary handling of production duties for Pink Floyd's *The Wall*. Listening to *Berlin*'s extraordinary closer "Sad Song", everyone who's ever enjoyed "Comfortably Numb" will be automatically be struck by the obvious connection between the two, with the string arpeggio in Lou Reed's song sounding very much like a wonderful draft of the one Ezrin would later pen for the Floyd. And what the producer brings to *Berlin*'s table is not only about orchestral strings: there's also a very dynamic feast of horns, woods and flutes throughout the record, along with soul-stirring guitar solos, slapping drum parts, and haunting background vocals (either gospel-inspired, as in "Caroline Says I", or drawing from the atonal and metaphysical experiments of György Ligeti for "The Bed"'s conclusion). Add to this a few delicate parts played on mellotron and piano by Ezrin himself, along with an impressive list of seasoned performers for all the other instruments (check it on wikipedia), and you certainly have an A+ production team to do justice to Lou Reed's usual melodic flair in those days... All the songs we've quoted up to now are the obvious highlights of this album, to which glorious music hall number "Lady Day" and rocker "How Do You Think It Feels" should be added as well. The first part of side 2 is a little less convincing, admittedly--and the absence of any genuine moment of levity in that LP probably adds to most listeners' fatigue by this point. But the two last tracks of the album--the slow, incredibly dark and despondent "The Bed", also particularly poignant and atmospheric, followed by the cynical yet totally epic closer that "Sad Song" is--easily make up for these potential flaws. Decades after its release, it is thus obvious that *Berlin* is not the debacle that rock critics said it was at the time. Sure, it's dragged by its own heavy weight once in a while, from the dark subject matter of its lyrics to its layered production displaying so many sophisticated arrangements, just like a pusher takes out different drugs from his coat to tempt an addict. Yet as "heavy" as this album is, rarely have trips to hell and back sounded so lush and enticing. It's probably because the devil usually lies in all the little details--and this whether that devil happens to live in Berlin, "Alaska", or anywhere else in the world... 4,5/5 then, here rounded up to 5/5. Number of albums left to review: 679 Number of albums from the list I find relevant enough to be mandatory listens: 158 (including this one) Albums from the list I *might* include in mine later on: 74 Albums from the list I will certainly *not* include in mine (many others are more essential to me): 90

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Wed Mar 03 2021
4

Great except for The Kids. Holy hell, what a stressful song!

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Tue Mar 23 2021
4

I prefer transformer, but theres beauty to be found here among all the death and sadness.

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Thu Sep 17 2020
4

I liked this a lot.

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Fri Nov 27 2020
4

7.5/10

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Mon Apr 05 2021
4

Thought this would be harder to like than it was but the musicianship is on point here

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Wed Oct 07 2020
4

Depressed, heroin addict, Bowie-esque. V. good.

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Wed Jan 13 2021
4

it didn't contain the only Lou Reed song I know, but did enjoy it.

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Wed Feb 03 2021
4

Iznenadjujuce dobar

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Wed Jan 13 2021
4

Really enjoyed it- Good work music.

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Thu Jan 14 2021
4

It’s alright, honestly an easy listen.

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Fri Mar 05 2021
4

It’s all over the place and a bit of a mess tbh. But it’s Lou, so it’s still gripping.

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Sun Feb 21 2021
4

gostei, nao conhecia esse

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Sun Feb 21 2021
4

estranho mas legal

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Tue Jan 26 2021
4

Lou Reed is always interesting at least. I don’t love all of his work, but overall this album is very good. Caroline Says II in particular is beautiful.

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Thu Jan 14 2021
4

nice and mellow, but not super engaging

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Tue Jan 26 2021
4

Really liked "How do you think it feels" and "men of good fortune"

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Thu May 06 2021
4

this is very, very good, nice lyrics, guitar, and sound mixing

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Fri Mar 05 2021
4

Not the Lou Reed I know but one that I did enjoy

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Sat May 15 2021
4

My loo read this week has been 'Jade: Fighting to the End' by Jade Goody. A terribly heartbreaking account of her winless battle with cancer. As erotic fiction goes, it was a right let down. Her earlier work of being naked and racist on Big Brother was much more stimulating. How am I supposed to keep an erection whilst reading about a dying woman? I'll tell you how - by simultaneously watching Fireman Sam whilst reading. Naughty Norman Price and dying Jade Goody. What a combo.

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Fri Jan 29 2021
4

not bad

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Fri Jun 18 2021
4

The opening tune is a great way to start an album. The listener is immediately taken to Berlin. Allan Macmillan's piano playing on the song Berlin has always been among my favourites. It's not the technical ability as much as the sound of his piano. If I bought the same piano would simple notes sound that good? Life's great mysteries. I quite like Lou Reed. The songs on his early  albums are much better live since I find his band at that time didn't really let go in the studio. It's still fabulous as Lou always is but the 5 stars will have to wait for his later records. (as I  cross my fingers that 1001 will include those later albums)

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Sun Jan 31 2021
4

Heard it, lol. Depressing album for sure when I first heard it. Not my fave Lou Reed. Its fine though.

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Sun Jan 31 2021
4

I used to have this on tape but I never really liked it at the time. 20 years or so on, I quite like this rictus grin dark glam cabaret. I still don't like Ezrin's glossy production which seems at odds with the dark subject matter. I still can't really find a narrative in the songs but it doesn't matter tbh.

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Wed Apr 14 2021
4

Gillar Lou Reed så detta blir säkert nice! Inte alls som hans bästa, hade satt 3,5 om det gick, tror dock sad song väger över så d blir 4

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Thu Apr 08 2021
4

Zweitbestes Album von Lou reed

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Thu Apr 08 2021
4

Schönes Album!

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Sat Mar 27 2021
4

pretty good better than last album

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Mon Jun 21 2021
4

Dakle, evo ga nakon dugo dugo vremena idem slušati, jer mi je ovo propušten album, inače 85. album, a mi smo sad na 418. albumu. Uglavnom, to je Lou Reed, il ga voliš il ne - nakon Velvet Undergrounda se okušao u solo vodama, prije ovog albuma je napravio Transformer jači od ovog albuma, međutim ovaj album se po meni više ističe tema koja govori o upotrebi droge, prostitucija, depresija, obiteljsko nasilje i samoubojstvo. Milina za pročitat a? Uglavnom, Reed u svom punom sjaju (Transformer - Berlin - New York), jedino sam te preslušao, vidit ćemo kasnije.

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Tue Apr 20 2021
4

I liked the album although I haven't listensedto the whole thing, it was definitely interesting and cool. I had never listened to Lou Reed before, but I definitely like it and want to listen to more.

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Wed May 12 2021
4

What’s not to like about Lou Reed. As an album it dances between big band rock and roll and ballad style blues, which fits pretty much perfectly with the themes of drug addiction and abuse that run through the album.

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Wed May 12 2021
4

It’s a dark and uncomfortable album but I enjoyed the story telling

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Wed May 12 2021
4

A great album!

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Fri Aug 06 2021
4

I love how dry and sad his voice is. the songs were all really great and “How Do You Think It Feels” was the perfect kind of catchy. a really solid album. 4.5

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Fri Aug 06 2021
4

Pretty standard for a Lou Reed album, and there’s nothing wrong with that

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Wed Aug 11 2021
4

Loved most of it. The baby crying was absolute torture though. And the parts of songs that were just kind of noise? No thanks. But his voice is perfect and, for the most part, the songs made me feel like I was in a dream.

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Sat Aug 14 2021
4

Mr. Reed is an interesting fellow. I liked the album, just strange vocals.

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Sun Aug 22 2021
4

Rating: 7/10 Best songs: Lady day, Sad song

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Tue Sep 07 2021
4

I think this might just be a work of genius. Ambitious, poetic, fascinating. I leaned five stars but wouldn’t be fair after just one lesson. But the potential is there.

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Fri Sep 10 2021
4

Great album. Seems very maximalist and I love the vocals and instrumentals. It had aged beautifully and sounds like it could’ve come out in the past decade.

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Wed Sep 22 2021
4

Reed sings almost without emotion, and his album has the character of a reportage. Reed's monotone voice and light boogie rhythm practically created a new kind of singer-songwriter, who can be a distant observer and an engaged protagonist at the same time. (7/10) Favourite Tracks: Caroline Says II, Sad Song

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Thu Sep 23 2021
4

A good artistic album but a bit slow for me and not one for my rotation.

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Wed Oct 27 2021
4

More like 4.7

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Fri Nov 19 2021
4

magnificently bleak - a bitter, gloomy heavyweight.

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Thu Nov 25 2021
4

Lou Reed certainly has an odd sensibility, but he manages to pull it off somehow. His desire to pull you into some of the darkest corners of the world and force you to look directly at it mixes in an interesting way with his desire to play beautiful music. 4/5

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Fri Dec 10 2021
4

Good music, bit depressing

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Fri Jan 14 2022
4

This was very good

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Sun Jan 23 2022
4

A great listen! I need to get into more Lou!

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Fri Jan 28 2022
4

Loved it! Lou Reed has a fantastic voice. The fact that it tells a story is cool, and it ranges across genres. I can see how the critical reception would have been bad due to the cross genre nature of the album, but I thought it was cool how the songs ranged from rock to folk to jazz

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Mon Jan 31 2022
4

Rough around the edges, and a little patchy in places. But this album delivers an amazing story, funky wild and artsy vibes, and some verifiable bangers. It ain’t perfect by a long shot but it’s going to be rattling around in my head for a long while.

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Sun Feb 13 2022
4

This was really good! Added to the list of purchases! Love this generator for bringing me stuff I’d never have actively sought out prior! Really good album!

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Mon Apr 04 2022
4

I'm glad I didn't have this album when I went through the really rough patches in my life.

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Wed Apr 20 2022
4

Quite low-key but one of his best

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Wed May 04 2022
4

very cool concept album

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Wed May 18 2022
4

Took a couple listens, but really liked it.

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Wed May 18 2022
4

I'm liking Lady Day. But I feel like this isn't necessarily the best of Lou Reed. Caroline Says and How Do You Think it Feels also decent. Oh Jim also is pretty good. Okay, actually getting into the second half of the album more than the first--Caroline II basically is just Stephanie Says, but slowed down, but it's a great song so I'm willing to overlook it. I like Sad Song a lot too.

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