Morphine, at the peak of their powers, were a sight to behold. Playing the second stage at the HORDE festival or playing an 8-song encore at Clutch Cargo's in Hamtramck, Michigan, this unconventional power trio was fierce and friendly all at once. Saxophonist Dana Colley might play two saxes at once. Mark Sandman exuded cool confidence with his brilliant 2-string bass, a living prophet of the full potential of minimalism. Drummer Billy Conway played in and out of the pocket, giving the grooves just the right amount of space and swing. The raucous bottled lightning of the live show transferred quite well to tape, actually, and Morphine gave us a string of great albums: Good, the amazing Cure For Pain, Yes, The Night, even the somewhat less polished Like Swimming. For those who couldn't get enough, compilations like B-Sides & Otherwise displayed the band's weirder, more expansive side. Bootleg Detroit hinted at their amazing live capabilities.
When I saw that a new double CD of unreleased Morphine material was out, it seemed natural to assume that it would be something like B-Sides & Otherwise -- odder songs, experiments, live tracks. Imagine my surprise and delight to hear the batch of previously unknown gems on At Your Service! By all reports, Sandman was a prolific writer and recorded songs constantly -- and At Your Service is a treasure trove. Many of these songs should have been classics, and might have eventually found their way onto studio albums if Sandman hadn't tragically died. Some others made regular appearances in Morphine's live set but the studio versions hadn't seen the light of day before this collection. Still others appear in wildly different forms. Then there's the material culled from two live radio broadcasts: familiar songs with unfamiliar spins and infectious live energy.
There are many, many standout tracks. While I might encourage the uninitiated to start with Cure For Pain (the album that turned me on to this great band) I can say with confidence that you'll eventually add this 2-CD compilation to your collection as it's hard to have enough Morphine. And impossible to have too much.