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Year End 2008 - Best of 2008Lou Reed

Berlin: Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse

Matador

Nov 02, 2008 Lou Reed Bookmark and Share


Lou Reed’s 1973 studio album, Berlin, a follow-up to the widely acclaimed Transformer, failed to capture the same praise and accolades as that gender-and-music-bending endeavor. But 25 years on, Berlin is now recognized as one of Reed’s finest, most ambitious, and under-appreciated efforts. Essentially a rock drama about two addicts named Caroline and Jim living in Berlin, the album employed over-the-top orchestral embellishments to go along with a heavily melodramatic storyline. The results soured the tastes of listeners clamoring for more of the simple grittiness of “Walk on the Wild Side.” It needed a couple of decades to mature its peculiar opiate wine bouquet, or perhaps needed to wait around for the right palate to develop among music listeners.

Whatever the case, Reed decided to celebrate Berlin with a live performance in Brooklyn in 2006—playing all of the album’s songs from start to finish along with a few encores, including a memorable duet of “Candy Says” with Antony of Antony and the Johnsons. Berlin: Live remains surprising true to the spirit of the studio recordings, retaining much of the songs’ original arrangements and employing an impressive brass/wind instrument section and choir. And despite his occasional laziness with the lyrics, Reed puts some true tenderness into the performance.

In the end, Berlin: Live is wonderful closure for a black sheep in Reed’s discography as well as a vital document of an artist still infused today with the same spirit that guided his creative golden years. The album complements a separate DVD release documenting the same event by filmmaker Julian Schnabel. (www.loureed.com)

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