Posthumous releases are usually difficult to judge. In a way, they’re forced to summarize a band’s career and provide an exit note — something that may not have been the intention when it was recorded. An element of tragedy surrounds the album, and whether it’s good or bad only seems to accentuate the positive and/or negative qualities. Morphine’s The Night , available a handful of months after Mark Sandman’s unexpected and untimely death, is undoubtedly a Morphine album, filled with what Sandman termed “low rock,” a red-light concoction of wandering slide bass, saxophone, and minimalist drumming. Tracks like “Top Floor, Bottom Buzzer” (featuring John Medeski on organ) and the subdued “Rope on Fire” remind me of what Morphine did best — low-pitched whispers of song whose meanings unfold like maps. Sandman’s talents will be sorely missed.
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