Release Date: Nov 4, 2008
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Rock, Live
In case you hadn’t noticed, Lou Reed has been working rather doggedly to solidify his standing as a solo elder statesmen of rock ‘n' roll, feverishly recontextualizing his earlier and fairly inconsistent solo work to exemplify what missunderstood masterpieces they are (or he takes them to be). And it would smack of depressing overcompensation and desperation for adulation if it weren't for the fact that he’s not entirely incorrect in doing so. The live double-disc from 2004, Animal Serenade, lent a harrowing and classicist dignity to 30 years' worth of solo material (along with some Velvets classics, natch).
The legend of how 1973’s Berlin derailed Lou Reed’s solo career is a familiar one. Following up the success of Transformer with an album whose mood and tone were only a notch more optimistic than Nico’s The Marble Index, was either a deliberate FU to his burgeoning audience or just colossally bad timing. It’s worth considering the former, especially in the light of Metal Machine Music, the double album of pure feedback released two years later, but I think this new live album proves it was the latter.
The release of an audio version of Lou Reed's 2006 reappraisal of Berlin, which was staged at St. Ann's in collaboration with Julian Schnabel as a film documentary, might seem like an odd move unless you've seen the painfully dull results - Schnabel desperately trying to inject some excitement into the performance with quick cuts and arty camera angles. I'd say Reed's Berlin rerun is better off without the ghastly visuals but not at all an improvement on the original version.
Lou Reed’s Berlin, originally released in 1973 after the well received Transformer, failed to deliver “Walk on the Wild Side Part II”, that is, another radio hit. Instead, Reed gave fans and critics a theatrical concept album overflowing with instrumentation and desperate debauchery. They hated it. The album documents the degradation of the relationship between the (supposedly) fictional characters Jim and Caroline due to drugs, depression and general bad parenting.
The harrowing chronicle of Caroline and Jim is forever preserved in Lou Reed's cardinal work Berlin, a venerably filthy rock opera originally released in 1973. In 2006, he galvanized his energies and resuscitated the album in a live performance at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn after entreating filmmaker Julian Schnabel to record it. Mauling the melodious arrangements of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and accompanying orchestral pearls in addition to Steve Hunter, Berlin's original guitarist; Sharon Jones; and diaphanous-voiced Antony, Berlin: Live at St.