At Your Service

Morphine

Rykodisc, 2009

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/10/2009

According to the liner notes in At Your Service, Morphine has about 60 unreleased songs in their arsenal. The notes, written by freelance journalist Ted Drozdowski, do an exceptional job of detailing the personality of the band's late, charismatic lead singer Mark Sandman. Drozdowski plainly states that Sandman was outgoing in embracing fans from the stage, but could be guarded with intimate friends. Drummer Billy Conway talks about Sandman's prolific nature – if a groove wasn't there, he would move on to the next song.

With that prolific nature, it's not surprising that some tracks on bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250
At Your Service function more as interesting "work in progress" takes than actual full-fledged songs. "Call Back" would eventually become "Wishing Well" on the band's 1997 album Like Swimming. The version of "Patience" on Sandman's double-disc Sandbox is vastly superior to the version on this album in complexity and warmth. If anything, At Your Service makes you appreciate the band's last full in-studio album The Night all the more after hearing alternate versions of "Take Me With You" and the title track.

The live tracks on At Your Service are actually in-studio recordings done at WMBR-FM in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Devoid of the typical crowd applause of most live recordings, the live sessions show how tight Sandman, saxophonist Dana Colley and drummer Billy Conway (and former drummer Jerome Deupree) could be as a band. Sandman's two-string bass guitar would lay a foundation that Conway and Deupree would expertly play off of, leaving Colley to fill in the gaps just enough with his saxophone.

It's hard to give a full endorsement to At Your Service. Some songs are too unfinished and some experiments like "Hello Baby" were justly left off of any album. Good, Cure For Pain and Yes are all greatest hits albums amongst themselves. There's enough quality material on At Your Service ("Women R Dogs," "5:09," the sensual "Lilah II" and "It's Not Like That Anymore") to push the album above "fan purchase only" status.

For fans, At Your Service can qualify as a "must buy." Even if some of the songs do not work, the two-disc collection gives listeners an ample dose of a band who created one of the most recognized sounds in the '90s. Spend fifteen minutes with Morphine and you could identify a Morphine song in a few short seconds. Few bands can claim that bragging right.

Rating: B

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© 2009 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rykodisc, and is used for informational purposes only.