Despite the implied illegality of the album title, Bootleg Detroit
is a far cry from the sort of sonically-dodgy audio contraband one would expect to pick up at a record fair. An officially sanctioned, high-quality audience recording taken from a date on Morphine's Cure for Pain
tour in March 1994, the tapes were mixed and edited by beat-poet band leader Mark Sandman only weeks before his fatal heart attack on stage in Italy, July 1999. Regrettably then, given the untimely demise of this truly ground-breaking combo, Bootleg Detroit
now stands as an item of nostalgia. A grainy, black and white snapshot of the swarthy Bostonian minimalists (Sandman's smooth vocal sulk and elasticated two-string slide bass, drummer Billy Conway's swinging percussion, Dana Colley simultaneously honking away on the baritone and tenor saxes like a choir of traffic-jam car horns ) in all their early jazz-hued, sexily low-rent rock & roll glory. Imagine John Coltrane
meeting the darkness of Joy Division
via the street-wise suss of Lou Reed
. Completists note; the album contains a brace of previously unreleased tracks in "Come Along" and the spoken word "My Brain", plus video footage of Morphine performing two songs at the 1995 Montreux Jazz Festival. --Kevin Maidment.