CD/DVD Label: Hi-N-Dry
Because of my love for rock and jazz, Morphine grabbed my attention immediately when I first heard them. I remember the day in 1999 that I read the story about Mark Sandman dropping dead on stage of a massive heart attack. I was mortified. I had just begun my exploration of their unique brand of rock music a few years prior to his passing. Mark Sandman was a brilliant musician; he was one of the few that played bass as the lead instrument in a group and he had one of the most entrancing and extraordinary vocal styles I had ever heard. He could make his bass sound so powerful and dominant; much like a lead guitar. He also had a lot of music in the can before he left us.
Sandbox is a collection of some of the best music Mark recorded outside the realm of his group Morphine. Most of it does sound like Morphine so it was easy enough to find a common denominator in a matter of moments. This is the pre-release two-disc set, minus the DVD (if you order it now you can get the complete set). I am very happy to have this in my possession even though the DVD is missing. There are 31 tracks of prime Sandman low-fi rock on this set.
The bass is predominant, although some tracks have some great guitar parts, which Morphine did not have. The trademark bass and vocals make each song a rock gem to hold and cherish in Mark's memory. I have always loved Morphine because they were so different. Sandman's interesting vocal style, in the groove thumping bass lines accompanied by the sexy saxophone, drove this music right along on its own private road.
I really enjoyed the tracks about women; they have so much energy and atmosphere, "Doreen," "Monas Sister" and "Justine." Then to take things in a different direction with a more progressive harder edged path, "Good Time Last Night" is a brief sojourn into a drone like state, with bass parts that pull you through right through until the end, setting you up for the second disc. I loved the way disc two opened with "Riley the Dog." He has a dog talking and howling to kick things off. It is quite funny and heartwarming, showing what kind of person he was in real life. His foundations hold firm but this is unmistakably Mark Sandman. Do not fret Morphine fans this music rocks, as you would expect, just with some different flavors-rock, pop, jazz, he even sings in Spanish on the track "Hombre." If I had to pick one song that clearly defines the Mark Sandman sound, it would be "Livin With U," what a great tune. There are many outstanding songs on this comprehensive set besides what I already mentioned. "Snow" and "They Bent Me" are real ear catchers.
Now we have another reason to continue to celebrate the life and art of Mark Sandman. I do hope more of this great music is uncovered soon. This was a definitive set; surely, this will be a revelation to so many fans that have not discovered Sandman's legacy on CD.