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The Big Takeover Issue #93
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Morphine – Journey of Dreams (MVD)

31 October 2016

Directed by Mark Shuman

Morphine was a rare beast indeed- one of few bands that literally sounded like no one else. To a fan, hearing that 2-string bass and baritone sax instantly transported you to another place, a smoky, late night place. It was music that hit you in the solar plexus, made you want to dance, drink…you get the picture. This excellent documentary by Mark Shuman is a reverent, adoring look at the band- leader Mark Sandman, saxophonist Dana Colley and drummers Billy Conway and Jerome Dupree- as well as their support system of soundmen, managers and Sandman’s girlfriend, Sabine Hrechdakian. Formed from the ruins of Sandman’s and Colley’s previous band, Treat Her Right, Morphine came from Boston’s happening music scene of ‘90s, quickly distancing themselves from the pack with their European fame and soundtrack work.

For a band so singular in sound, they hit at the right moment- MTV ruled the indie scene, and as interviews with Henry Rollins, Los Lobo’s Steve Berlin and others show, it was a ripe time for “alternative music” – whatever that means. Their 1993 album Cure For Pain, with the hit “Thursday” was a huge record, propelling the band into a touring schedule that spanned the globe, and allowed the already tight-knit band to further hone their unique sound.

Of course, fans know the sad end of the band, but watching the documentary you almost forget it, until the show in Italy where Mark Sandman collapsed onstage and died a few hours later from a massive heart attack. As Joe Strummer says in the movie, “That’s the way a performer would want to go- onstage, doing what you love”- and as tragic as it was, he’s probably correct. Morphine existed because of Sandman’s vision of a music that only he and his fellow bandmates could hear initially, but once unleashed on the world, the world has never forgotten them. No one will ever sound like Morphine, and if count yourself among their devoted fans, Journey of Dreams will instantly take you back to the first time you heard them. Essential.