Monday, December 31, 2012

Morphine Yes 1995

A very unusual thing happened at Christmas this year. Someone (my son in-law) actually bought me music he was pretty sure I'd never heard (he was correct). As a music collector, people rarely buy me music for gifts since I typically buy myself anything I know I want. So it was a bold move.

The record is Morphine's Yes. The third of their five records, it's very good. They are an unusual band of which I previously new nothing. Featuring a lineup of bass, drums and baritone sax (!), made all the more odd by singer-songwriter-bass player Mark Sandman playing an oddly-tuned, two-string bass with a slide. There are episodes of jazz, beat raps, and rockers. Deep, low-rumble rockers. Sandman sings in a baritone/low tenor, so there's little going on at higher frequencies in the mix. In fact, the tenor sax on Sharks comes as a high-pitched surprise 3/4 of the way through the record. Singles Honey White and Super Sex both deserved more air time than they garnered, and they benefit from fine melodies and strong choruses.

Side one kicks off with Honey White, Scratch, and Radar, and it's an up-beat, rocking trifecta to start things off. Whisper is darker, and the only one that slows the side down just a little. The title track, which includes a near-spoken vocal, and All Your Way continue with quality songwriting and performances.

Most of the first side plays it pretty straight (considering the instrumental context, anyway), while things get a tad weirder on side two. After the twisted Dragnet theme that is Super Sex, I Had My Chance and Free Love are both sax-heavy dirges, and The Jury and Sharks both feature beat raps from Sandman over loose jazz-rock. The closer Gone For Good is a sad, gentle guitar ballad that makes a great ending to a terrific album.

All three musicians are talented guys working well together. Sandman and drummer Billy Conway get in deep grooves. Sandman's songs are good, and the lyrical content is strong. Dana Colley's sax must receive special mention, since he's responsible for keeping melodies and momentum going on top of the fine rhythm section. All layed down in black grooves on clean new vinyl.

It's a treat to get turned on to something so good.

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