OK, kiddies, it’s time for a new, hopefully recurring addition to the LET line-up. That’s right, it’s time for “Live and Direct,” an on-going series of concerts we’ve stumbled upon. In some cases, we’ll have been at these shows. Other times, it will just be a kick-ass performance we’ve fortunately found. In all cases, it’s going to be a band we hold dear for whatever reason.
I’m going to kick this off with one of my favorite bands of all times, the incomparable Morphine. If you don’t know these cats, shame on you. Sadly, the band ended in the late 90s with the unexpected death of lead singer and bassist, Mark Sandman, when he collapsed on stage in Rome due to a congenital heart condition. Two of the remaining members, saxophonist Dana Colley and drummer Billy Conway, reformed with Laurie Sargent as Twinemen, named after a cartoon originally drawn by Sandman.
Morphine’s sound is smoky, sexy and hep cat cool. With jazz sensibilities, this was THE college band back in the early to mid-90s. When I first heard their debut CD, “Good,” I knew this group was something special. Follow-up “Cure for Pain” cemented the deal for me. With tracks such as, “You Speak My Language,” Thursday,” “Let’s Take a Trip Together,” and “You Look Like Rain,” the first two albums were critically acclaimed and remain favorites of mine to this day. Their next two albums produced additional songs for the ages, like “Super Sex,” “French Fries w/ Pepper,” and “Whisper,” but then the aforementioned untimely death of Mark Sandman struck. One more album followed, the truly magical, “The Night.” This album deviated somewhat from the traditional Morphine sound, going beyond their normally minimalist set-up to incorporate additional players and instruments. Essentially completed before his death, the remaining members put together a tribute band made up of various people who had played with Sandman throughout his career to form Orchestra Morphine.
I was fortunate enough to see Morphine twice, once in Chicago and once in Philly. Ditto for Orchestra Morphine for both of their shows in DC at the Black Cat. I see Twinemen every opportunity I get, a couple of times at IOTA, a couple of times at the Black Cat. And I’ll be damned if I don’t see them the next time they come through town again.
And now it’s time to share the love and magic. For your listening enjoyment, here is part one of Morphine playing in Baltimore on April 13, 1996. I wasn’t at this show, but came across it on a Morphine fan site. Sit back, lower the lights, indulge in your favorite intoxicant and get ready to experience Morphine in all their glory.