Morphine – At Your Service

January 01, 1970

(Rhino)

 

www.rhino.com

 

It’s
hard to believe 10 years has passed since Morphine frontman Mark Sandman left
this earth, succumbing to a heart attack after collapsing onstage at a July 3,
1999 performance at the Nel Nome Del Rock Festival in Palestrina in Palestrina,
Italy,
which is near Rome.
What was even more tragic was that his passing came just as the noir rock trio
was hitting their creative stride via their outstanding and underrated 1997
major label bow Like Swimming and the
group’s fifth album (and coincidental swan song) The Night, released in 2000.

 

 It has been a while since we have seen any
activity in terms of posthumous releases from the Morphine camp, the last one
being a Best Of compilation released by their old label Rykodisc in 2003. But
what a better time than the 20th anniversary of the band’s inception
than to raid its surprisingly robust vaults for At Your Service, an odds-n-sods collection of super rare studio and
live material unearthed by the kind folks at Rhino Records. 35 tracks in all,
this anthology contains some alternate takes on Morphine favorites like
“Buena”, “All Wrong” and “The Night” as well as nine tracks culled from a pair
of radio sessions for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s campus
station WMBR that date back to 1992 and 1993, around the time when the band was
gaining notoriety and press accolades for their first two albums, Good and Cure for Pain.

 

What
hardcore Morphine fans will really want to dig into here, however, are the 15
previously unreleased studio cuts, including a guitar-based reworking of their
song “Patience”, the “Kashmir”-nodding “Lilah II” (a sequel to Like Swimming‘s opening number) and the
Tom Waits-esque “It’s Not Like That Anymore”, all of which sadly foreshadow the
potential Morphine had to move beyond their initial formula had things turned
out differently. Mark Sandman and his two-string bass guitar are greatly
missed.

 

Yes,
it’s a beautiful thing that surviving members saxophonist Dana Colley and auxiliary
percussionist Jerome Deupree began regularly performing Morphine songs and new
material with New Orleans-based singer/multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Lyons as
Members of Morphine, including a performance at the very festival where Sandman
collapsed in honor of the 10th anniversary of his death. But as this
essential collection confirms, Morphine will never truly be Morphine without
the Godfather of “low rock” behind the wheel.

 

Standout Tracks: “Patience” [Alternate
Version], “Lilah II”, “All Wrong” [Alternate Version], “Radar” [Live] RON HART

 

 

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