Rick Berlin | Old Stag

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Folk: Alternative Folk Folk: like Joni Moods: Solo Male Artist
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Old Stag

by Rick Berlin

Like an old stag in the woods, he still stands, unbowed, shaky legs - an astute, empathetic observer of the painful distance between souls and of the exhilarating, oddball way we all manage to survive.
Genre: Folk: Alternative Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. John Lennon's Nose
3:50 $0.99
2. Always
3:00 $0.99
3. Underground
3:51 $0.99
4. Happy Lesbians in the Snow
3:05 $0.99
5. How Can I Hate People I Don't Know
3:54 $0.99
6. Elle
3:02 $0.99
7. House On Fire
4:04 $0.99
8. Michiko
2:51 $0.99
9. Love On a Wire
3:48 $0.99
10. Psycho
3:27 $0.99
11. The Fan
3:01 $0.99
12. Unknown Soldier
4:34 $0.99
13. Your Light Is On
3:44 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Artist Information



"...brilliant lyricism (see: “Happy Lesbians in the Snow” and “John Lennon’s Nose”), tender and varied instrumentation, and Berlin’s tremulous vocal like a flickering bulb at the dark end of a creepy hallway. It may be his best recording yet — which is saying a lot. " (Michael Brodeur/Boston Phoenix)

"The old stag did it again in '08, but then, when doesn't he? For a lesser mortal, following '06's "Me & Van Gogh," might have been a near-impossible task. But Berlin's combination of frank, funny, and poignant storytelling and unvarnished soul-searching always sounds both refreshingly unfiltered and meticulously crafted. Plus, "John Lennon's Nose" is the song title of the year."
(Jonathan Perry/The Boston Globe)

"What do you call a record with songs like 'John Lennon’s Nose,' 'Happy Lesbians in the Snow,' and one about a prostitute roommate who doesn’t eat? Especially when it’s just voice, keys, some occasional strings, and recorded in a living room? I call it a small masterpiece. Berlin’s made all kinds of music here for decades, and never fails to surprise, but rarely does anyone’s material match its delivery with such finesse. It’s impossible not to feel his experience in your gut, as his voice floats from whimsy to heartbreak, from ecstasy to absurdity, from wisdom to mystification, all set to words and music that unspool countless reels of a life lived fully, gladly (I’m pretty sure), and recklessly. In a perfect world, he’d be writing Broadway scores, but of course he’s too smart and speaks a hundred times the truth of that swill." (Joe Coughlin/The Noise)

"...don't think for a second that this is a sentimental and polite excursion into modern lounge music – no fucking way. Leave it to a guy in his early 60's to write some of the most in your face, on the edge, thoroughly here and now lyrics regarding everything from straight boys drooling over lesbians and gay men lusting after twinks, race relations, sex, drugs, love, and rock and roll. In one solitary album, Berlin has captured almost  everything that encompasses what it is to exist in 21st century New England (even if Berlin's singing voice owes a bit more the South than the East)."(Nick Blakey/Your Flesh - Best CD '08)

"Old Stag (Hi-N-Dri), is an intimate affair. Even the string section ('recorded in a B.U. classroom) on 'Happy Lesbians in the Snow' feels homegrown and folksy. Berlin, who has been a recording artist for more than 30 years, retains his unique musical perspective, and continues to express himself for all who are willing to listen." (Gregg Shapiro/Bay Area Reporter)

"dazzling musical curiosities... lyrical magnum opus" (Tristram Lozaw/Boston Globe)

"...his most completely realized and thoroughly beautiful album, Boston’s legendary Rick Berlin has gathered another team of talented youngsters (most notably the string section of Joseph Simcox, Katie Franich, Christina Hornby and Meredith Cooper and Sand Machine singer Jay Dave Jeremy) in his Jamaica Plains apartment and an empty Boston University classroom and emerged with a baker’s dozen of musical treats. While the cracking heart-rending vocals and poetic pathos remain Berlin’s trademarks, the strings (arranged by Brendan Cooney) give the ensemble of lyrical observations a story without words." (Matt Robinson/Northeast Performer)

"A- The former Orchestra Luna frontman shows an uncanny ability for turning anguished poetry and sparse piano strokes into compelling music. Recorded in his Jamaica Plain living room and named for the Egleston Square bar, Berlin produces a theatric, gritty and emotional opera for the marginalized. With ambient street noise and the hushed sighs of a string quartet, his brand of art-rock cabaret recalls Lou Reed channeling Kurt Weill - and it’s just as spooky. Download: Your Light Is On." (Nate Dow/Boston Herald)

"...his wonderfully craggy voice -think Nick Cave meets John Cale. His lyrics are, fittingly, a heady brew of lament and cynicism, and his sound is a mostly successful, and often bizarre mash of baroque pop and folk." (Claire/Boston Tea Party.com)

"Rather than simply frame his arrangements with standard rock backing, he juxtaposes a string quartet against piano phrases, with his vocals adding a jarring, combative or sometimes just wry undertone. You could call Old Stag alternative rock with a folkie tinge, or even orchestrated Americana, but it’s certainly both stylistically different and very refreshing...provocative lyricist and edgy vocalist." (Ron Wynn/Nashville City Paper)

"a childlike faith in the way Berlin’s songwriting takes people just as they are. Not drawn to introspection - 'I’m tired of myself,' he laughs - Berlin’s songs tend to be humble, honest slices of sidewalk reportage, little stories about people he knows or things he overheard. Berlin cites a Nick Cave quote as the model for his style: 'He says there’s always a song walking down the street, and if you don’t catch it, someone else will.'...For him, people’s stories are just like songs. There’s always one walking down the street, waiting to be caught." (Brian Jewell/Bay Windows)

"Berlin remains one of the best songwriters to ever come out of Boston. Like Roy Orbison, Rick Berlin sings songs for the lonely. His characters are just a shade different from Orbison's however. On second thought, many shades different." (Kevin O'Hare/The Plain Dealer-Cleveland)

"From the delicate strings and even more delicate feelings put across on this latest album from one of the area's most beloved legends, 'Old Stag' simply reeks with beauty...It's simple. It's complex. It's low-tech. It's high art. It's beautiful." (Matthew Robinson/Music Dish)

First off: what has been said:

"...plucked-from-life stories, tough piano playing. Berlin approaches the piano like a good punk-rock guitarist, driving the grooves in a spare forceful way, yet darting into angular blocks of sound and laying snatches of melody over his rhythm lines. Next to his voice — which rises and sinks like an emotional barometer of his lyrics, his homespun piano style is a most distinctive instrument. He holds nothing back. There's something genuine and special in the chemistry of his voice, playing, and songs."
(TED DROZDOWSKI Cellars By Starlight - The Boston Phoenix)

Simple, skeletal portraiture. The Song Itself - unadorned. "...the melodies could have passed muster in the Brill Building." (Robin Vaughan - The Boston Herald) "For the uninitiated, be prepared; the songs are startlingly confessional, filled with the kind of soul-bearing + rapid-fire beauty that has always been Berlin's trademark." (Kevin O'Hare - THE SPRINGFIELD UNION-NEWS)

As blatent as a torn pocket. As confused as a kid stuck in jail. As sad as a beautiful girl alone on a street corner, her heart + loss a thousand miles away. Absurd as a leering drunk with a beer gut or a drive past midnight to nowhere - Berlin creates a world, a town, a topography that seems as familiar as it is unusual. "Berlin's songs evoke characters as colorful as the crowds that gather to hear them, and he willingly shares the highs and lows of his life with a level of depth rarely captured through song." (Christopher Muther - BAY WINDOWS)


1945 Born Richard Gustave Kinscherf III, Sioux City, Iowa

1957 Shook hands with Richard Nixon at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago. (Weak grip.)
1967 Graduated from Yale University. (BA Pre-Architecture, American Studies, Whiffenpoofs). Turned down full scholarship to Yale Grad School of Architecture. Designed toilets for Vincent Kling & Associates. Rejected by Peace Corps.

1968 Taught special class in Moosup, Connecticut public school system. Quit.

1969 Taught English and photography at Whitman School_in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Got fired. Dropped acid before_physical exam for the draft. Rejected, 4F.

1970 Accepted to Yale School of Drama, full scholarship. Dropped out. Auditioned for Jim Steinman's Neverland. Wrestled with Richard Gere.

1971 Spent three months making a movie in Grenada, West Indies. All 35 members of cast and crew arrested and jailed for nudity.

1972 New Haven, Connecticut. Worked in porno bookstore, started writing songs.

1973 Formed band called Orchestra Luna in Boston. Met Danny Fields, shopped demos in NY City. Performed at Frank Zappa's 10th Anniversary party with LaBelle and Patti Smith. Rubbed elbows with Andy Warhol, Lance Loud, Jane Friedman, Susan Blond, Peter Berlin. Opened for Weather Report, Roxy Music, Split Endz. Began dropping names.

1974 Orchestra Luna is signed by Epic Records. Released eponymous debut album. (WBCN begins tradition of playing 'You Gotta Have Heart' for the Red Sox on opening day.) Springsteen, the Eagles, Linda Rondstadt join CBS. Orchestra_Luna is dropped.

1976 Orchestra Luna II is formed, including Karla DeVito. Band becomes regulars on the NY City/CBGB's scene with Talking Heads, Ramones, Blondie, Television, etc. Seymour Stein (Sire Records) offers O.L. a contract. Band rejects offer, feeling they could do better. They couldn't.

1977 Orchestra Luna performs at Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. with Ellen Foley in Jim Steinman's production of Neverland. Orchestra Luna showcases for labels at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, NY City. All labels pass. Rick breaks his foot. Karla DeVito joins Meatloaf. Orchestra Luna disintegrates.

1978 New band called Luna is formed, has hit single 'Hooray for Hollywood'. Rick changes last name to Berlin. No one can spell Kinscherf.

1979 Luna is offered deal by Steve Popovitch at Cleveland International/Epic. Band's former producer gets greedy, refuses to release the recording rights for less than $100.000. Deal fizzles, as does Luna.

1981 New band, Berlin Airlift has major success on Boston radio with 'Over The Hill' and 'Don't Stop Me From Crying'.

1982 Ron Alexenberg signs Berlin Airlift to Handshake/CBS Records. Band releases eponymous debut album. Six weeks later Handshake declares bankruptcy, album dies in infancy. Rick writes quasi-autobiography titled Kami Kazi.

1983 Berlin Airlift opens for J. Geils Band holiday tour. Releases six-song EP called Professionally Damaged, featuring 'Hunger Strikes,' which becomes number one local song of the year on Boston's WBCN.

1984 Berlin Airlift crashes to earth. Rick writes The Kingdom, a stage/movie musical about a whacko cult in Vermont and a boy with magic powers. Disney passes, saying 'It's not family'.

1985 Yet another new band, Rick Berlin-The Movie.

1986 Taught drama and songwriting at Boston Technical High School. Co-created 'Boston For The World', an ill-fated attempt to raise funds for the homeless through concert and event promotions.

1987 Rick Berlin-The Movie has a hit with 'Rock n Roll Romance' which wins Rick Indie Songwriter of the Year at the Boston Music Awards.

1989 The Movie ends it's run. Rick begins working as a waiter at Doyle's (an Irish bar in Jamaica Plain). Writes a screenplay/murder mystery called I Never Loved A Man.

1990 New band, Rome Is Burning. By now a lot of managers and musicians have been chewed up.

1991 Rome burns to the ground. Rick begins solo career. Starts recording new material with former band mate Chet Cahill producing. Appears 47 times as informed bohemian citizen on local PBS affiliate WGBH talk show called The Group.

1992 Shot no-budget video of new song, 'Two Drunks Dancing'. Wins 2nd Prize in Boston Phoenix Video poll. Worked for Clinton/Gore Campaign Headquarters, Boston.

1993 New eleven-song recording of solo effort distributed to everyone in Rick's phone book.

1994-5 Performs monthly at Don't Tell Mama's in NYC. Plays NY Gay Pride '94 & '95. On the pier. Follows cast of Angels In America. Verrry quiet afterwards.

1994-03 Performs 9 years (432 Monday nights) at Jacques (the oldest drag bar in the country) in Bay Village. Picks up showbiz tips from the Ol' Rimma Rama herself, Sylvia Sydney.

1995 Dreams up/organizes 1st Annual Drags Dicks & Dykes 4 Life at Jacques. (20 bands, 14 Queens, etc). Raises 3.1 grand for AIDS Action Committee.

1995 Goes Abroad. High-school pigeon Frawnsaaay. Encounters rea life KGB-type PoliceBoy at Radost Cafe, in Prague.

1996 2nd Annual Drags Dicks & Dykes 4 Life at Quest. (40 bands, More Queens, etc). Raises 6.3 grand for AIDS Action Committee.

1996 Records LIVE AT JACQUES, 5 Mondays in a row. (Dan Cantor, producer.) Mike the queens at the pool table.

1997 Writes Go For It Girl about trip abroad. Who could have predicted that nobody wants to publish the genius novella?

1998 (January) Berlin dreams up Rock n Roll Romance Revival. They overtake local clubs with diverse local artists for one brief racing ride (April) Berlin fakes it up w/ ControlFreakInk: Produces (July thru December) a Corner Store (circa: End Of Century) variety show: Marlene Loses It At The Lizard (Lounge) Jugglers jiggle, tap dancers don't show up, magicians flame out, Flamencos spin and clack, comedians laugh at their own jokes, teen, bald spoken word performers get their face in the Globe, independent movies are shown on sheets...

(September) GarageDog Records releases RickBerlinLIVE@Jacques (Rick pushes sells his own record like crack out of a backpack)

1999 Sick of watching other people hog the klieg lights (+ many horrible band names later) THE SHELLEY WINTERS PROJECT brakes the bubbly over the bow + hook up with David Minehan (Producer Of The Year, Boson Music Awards: 98, '99) to begin recording at Woolly Mammoth Sound

2002 1 baby, 3 drummers, 2 bass players + 2 violinists later the CD is complete. Sign with Windjam + play all over the place. Bill Anderson (film maker) follows band around like a bloodhound + begins rough cut of Lightbulb in a Dark Room - a docu-drama about Berlin's endless kareer + SHELLEY in all her glory.
2003 SHELLEY gets ugly passport photos, washes her hands (SARS - thinks about China) + opens in a ballpark for B52's. SHELLEY WINTERS (herself) calls Berlin from LA (his teeth hit the floor). Back in Woolly w/ Min O'Han for SWPII.

2004 SHELLEY (the band) in a coma. Berlin mixes up last gasp CD (Forced To Swallow) at WOOLLY. Records new solo CD (Me & Van Gogh) – piano + voice only at Hi-N-Dry (Billy Conway producing, Tom Dube engineer). Stages MOVEON.ORG benefit (BOSTON TEA PARTY 2 – DRUM BEAT AROUND THE BUSH) at the Milky Way one day after the Democratic Convention (raises 6 grand). Continues inevitable housework + changing of wallpaper in all inappropriate areas.

2005 Learns Final Cut Pro, interviews 60+ locals for 2008 documentary entitled JAMAICA PLAIN SPOKEN (Un-Gated Community In The 21st Century?)

2006 Releases Me & Van Gogh. Hot ink all over the place. Out of control CD release with 40 friends chosing one song of his from forever backwards.

2007 Begins new CD: working title: An Old Girl In A Young Dress. Half-way through filming and editing documentary. Web site: www.jamaicaplainspoken.com

Berlin plays piano.


Orchestra Luna (Epic) 1974
Berlin Airlift (Handshake/Epic) 1982
Professionally Damaged (EP - Self-released) 1983
Rick Berlin: The Movie (LP unreleased) 1989
Half In The Bag (LP unreleased) 199 2
The Kingdom (LP of musical of the same name - unreleased)
Rick Berlin LIVE @ Jacques 1996 (Garagedog Records)
The Shelley Winters Project (EP – Self-released) 2002
I Hate Everything But You (Windjam) 2003
Forced2Swallow (Self-released) 2005
Me & Van Gogh (Hi+Dry) 2006
Orchestra Luna Re-Release on SonyUK 2007

Many of these records can be heard on his website:

Rick Berlin site:

Rick Berlin's MySpace:




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