The Best of Morphine 1992–1995
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2003, Volume 10, #3
Written by John Metzger
Of all the artists to emerge in the past decade, none have had quite the unusual line-up and unique sound of Boston’s Morphine. The group was ultimately a power trio, but instead of the usual guitar-drums-bass format, it featured two-string bassist Mark Sandman, saxophone player Dana Colley, and drummer Billy Conway (who replaced Jerome Dupree shortly after the release of the band’s first album). Morphine’s style was a bit too strange for mainstream audiences, but those looking for a different twist on the jazz and blues roots of rock ’n‘ roll found the band to be a welcome change of pace. As a result, its audience developed into a rather large and rabid, cult-like following, sizeable enough to attract the attention of the Dreamworks label, which subsequently issued the group’s final two albums.
Unfortunately, Sandman collapsed on stage in 1999 after suffering a heart attack, which killed him at the age of 47, and as a result, he left behind only five studio efforts and a collection of B-sides. Despite the exclusion of music from Morphine’s final two outings, The Best of Morphine sufficiently sums up the band’s Rykodisc era as well as its legacy, and augmented with three previously unreleased tracks as well as a vinyl rarity, it offers a terrific glimpse at a brilliant career. Combining the dark, literary edginess of both The Doors and the Velvet Underground with the dirtiest blues and the hippest jazz, Morphine turned the rock world upside-down and inside-out. The group grooves and swings better than most jam bands, and despite the inherent limitations of its sparse instrumentation, it pushes its often agitated music with grunge-like intensity — all the while pulsing with more emotional resonance than most acts could ever hope to muster.
The Best of Morphine 1992-1995 is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box