Just prior to the show, i was hanging out with The Missus and some other like-minded chums who had seen EEWB previously. i was pretty sure all the members had been on-stage at one time during last year’s Mark Sandman Tribute Concert, but didn’t really know how this band differed from others i had seen with Dana and Jerome (and Billy Conway, for that matter). From what i pieced together from some on-line stuff, i was under the impression they’d be playing Morphine tunes, but with a newly added blues slant. One of said chums pointed out i was mistaken, and that the band was doing straight Morphine covers, along with some originals and other covers. “Not covers, originals,” a different friend argued, as two of the founding members of the band obviously were still playing the songs.
i thought that to be an interesting and valid point, and in the ensuing review, somewhat carelessly tossed off (snicker) the line, “As with Twinemen, A.K.A.C.O.D., Orchestra Morphine and every other version of the band…”
In that note from Mr. Deupree i mentioned earlier, however, he made a very valid point i now feel compelled to share.
“I have to say, however, that I don’t agree with your view of other bands being ‘Versions of’ Morphine just because they contain one or more former members or have a sound that is in some ways similar. As far as I’m concerned, Morphine ceased when Mark died. The songs and sound will live on, but the band is no more. All of the other bands ( Twinemen, AKA COD, Orchestra Morphine, EWB) are separate projects. They may have very close links to Morphine, but they are not that band.”
And you know what? He’s absolutely, 100% right. And because i’m such a fiend for all of those bands, i’m going to hopefully set the record straight by taking the time to actually differentiate between the bands these cats have played in/with/for and various other prepositions. Unfortunately, i’m not any of these folks’ actual and legitimate biographers, so my facts might be slightly off (hopefully, though, if they are, someone will tell me where i’ve gone wrong and i’ll fix things accordingly), but, hey, i’m a blogger. You get what you pay for, right?
This is the band that predates Morphine, and really had a much blues-ier feel than what was to follow. Both Mark Sandman and Billy Conway were in this one, along with the pimpingly named Dave Champagne on axe and Jim Fitting on harp, with all but Conway sharing vocal duties. For the purposes of this specific “History as Told By Your Uncle Terrible,” they first came across my radar years after they had formed as a mislabeled track i downloaded from the original Napster. That track was “I Think She Likes Me,” and it kicks ass. Definitely for the person who wants everything these folks have ever done, but also a must for fans of garage blues bands. i’ve since gone back and picked up a couple of CDs myself, and this is some good stuff, kids. Lost gems, even.
Well, this is the one that brought me to the table. i first heard them in college, and after a scant few bars into “Good,” i already knew this was going to be a band i would be listening to for a long, long time. You had the beat poet at heart, Mark Sandman, on vocals and various few stringed basses and guitars, Dana Colley doing things with a saxophone that good church going folks simply did not do, and Jerome Deupree and Billy Conway both playing the skins at various points in the band’s career. The band combined jazz and rock and blues and poetry and various other things that define “hep” and “groovy.” Morphine came to an unfortunate end with the untimely death of Sandman, just after the completion of one of my favorite of their albums, The Night. Whereas the band initially had a somewhat minimalist sound (they were, after all, a trio), The Night incorporated a much larger sound, additional musicians and what seemed like a brand new direction, at least temporarily, for the group.
If memory serves, Mark was alive for the completion of The Night, but not its release and subsequent touring. A large group of fellow musicians who had played with Mark over the years decided to tour the CD, in memory and praise of the work and the man. i was fortunate enough to see them the three times they came to DC (one two night gig, and then a follow-up some months later). Of particular interest was the inclusion of Laurie Sargent to split vocal duties with Christian McNeill. Ms. Sargent, who i probably have an unhealthy crush on, would come to front Twinemen, the first “post-Morphine” band to record new material for its own sake. I’ve also had the good fortune to catch McNeill’s band, Sea Monsters, but in emails with him, i’ve come to learn there are no CDs available, and since this post already is the longest thing i’ve ever written here at LET, i’m afraid you’ll just have to follow the link and do some of your own research on that bad assed mutha.
This time around, we’ve got Ms. Sargent, Dana and Billy, their name taken from a cartoon Sandman had drawn. While the sound is similar to Morphine’s, to call it identical would be a mistake. While their were obvious themes of loss in their first CD, Twinemen, the material tended to deal with different topics (less talk of bad luck women, more of midgets), and Laurie and Dana splitting vocal duties gave the sound a different nuance. With three CDs currently to their name, i’m not entirely sure if the band is “on hiatus,” technically furloughed or what. Here’s hoping it’s the former.
Unfortunately, this is the band i know the least about and never saw live, though i’ve spoken more than once with lead singer Monique Oritz, so i kind of feel like an ass for not knowing more. Along with Ms. Oritz, you’ve got Dana and Jerome again, along with Russ Gershon (from Either/Orchestra, who Mark performed with, and also Orchestra Morphine), Jim Moran and Jonah Sacks. Monique has a deep and throaty voice, and the sound is somehow darker and earthier. Not for the faint of ear.
Also Known As Colley, Oritz, Dersch. i read somewhere that Mark Sandman once said words to the effect of Dana plays sax like Hendrix played guitar. Here that is more apparent than with any other band with which i’ve heard him play. He utilizes a number of effects on his horn in this one, using the instrument as any other band would use a guitar. Larry Dersch of Binary System handles their percussive needs here. Monique has since left Boston for greener pastures (Austin, i believe, so she could hang out with my brother if nothing else), so i assume the band is defunct, too, but hopefully such will not be the case forever.
Which brings us to where we are today. Jerome, Dana and “newcomer” Jeremy Lyons, a Delta Blues and New Orleans jazz man. As mentioned at length in my earlier review, they play Morphine songs, originals, some of Lyons earlier works and a blues standard here and there. While the songs may be familiar, the band still puts their own spin on things, and the result is newly breathed life into old favorites. At least when i saw them, a good time was had by all. Fortunately since that review, Dana has graciously given me permission to post a track for your listening pleasure, which i do so now.
And that, kids, hopefully sets the record straight, a disservice no longer. i can’t say enough how much these bands and their various sounds have meant to me over the years. When and if The Missus and i ever have daughters, i’ve already informed her we’re naming each and every one after a Morphine song heroine. Lilah has been an easy sell thus far, but i might need the entirety of Orchestra Morphine to play at a baby shower or something to get anything to happen beyond that. That aside aside, there’s plenty of material out there for you curious kids, so go buy some music and prepare to have your worldviews changed. Barring that, it’s great fucking music, and isn’t that enough? Take the above as a starting point and go get wet.
Like swimming. Only different.