Morphine The Night

Like Jeff Buckley, listening to Morphine has changed forever. Pairing the sudden onstage death of bassist, singer and songwriter Mark Sandman last July with the arrival of Morphine’s new album — the best of their career — makes The Night a poignantly beautiful listen. Taking a chair behind the boards for the first time in his home studio, Sandman assembled an impressive crew — including John Medeski (Medeski, Martin & Wood) as well as cello, violin and back-up singers — to flesh out the band’s low-rock two-string slide bass, saxophone and drums sound. Make no mistake, this remains vintage Morphine, a slow, grinding burlesque that hovers tentatively between testifying to above and wallowing down below. The two years spent making this follow-up to 1997’s Like Swimming were well worth it, and the most notable progression is the variety of sounds and textures featured here. It effectively counteracts the one knock against the band to date — if you own one Morphine record, you own them all. That’s no longer true. You won’t really know Morphine until you disappear into The Night. (Dreamworks)