Recorded live by an audience member during Morphine's 1994 tour, Bootleg Detroit is a fitting live album for a band that personified lo-fi indie rock. What's more lo-fi than two-string slide bass, baritone sax, and drums, and what more fitting method to make a live album than have someone in the crowd taping it?
At about forty minutes in length, the performance is much too short, but that's partly why Bootleg Detroit succeeds. Morphine's performance is taut, intense, and laid-back smooth all at once, and it's so enjoyable you can't believe it when it's over. Billy Conway's drumming propels the band at a better, quicker pace than the studio versions of the songs, Dana Colley's sax playing is brilliant as usual, but the real star, of course, is the late Mark Sandman. His delivery of his Beat-inspired poetic lyrics and especially his dry, cool between-song banter sets the mood, from the opening strains of 'Come Along', through the band's intense reworkings of 'Thursday' and 'Buena'. As an added treat, there are two high-quality cd-rom video tracks from 1995 that are great as well, 'Cure For Pain', and 'The Saddest Song'.
Don't let the descriptions of the live cd's 'murky' sound fool you. Although it was recorded from among the crowd, it's excellently remastered, eliminating excess noise, toning down audience "whoo!'s" (a problem for every bootlegger), and sharpening the band's sound. Yeah, the sound is muddier than most other 'polished' live albums, but this is Morphine...what did you expect? Bootleg Detroit is good live music at its purest. Complete, with no studio overdubs, it's a snapshot of a great band, and along with 2000's studio release The Night, a great tribute to the great Mark Sandman. It's all good good good.