Modern Classic Recordings, an imprint of Light in the Attic Records, proudly announces the deluxe vinyl reissue of Morphine's 1997 album Like Swimming, marking the very first availability of the title on wax.
The album has been lovingly remastered by Pete Weiss at Boston's Jade Cow Music, with lacquers cut by John Golden. The record was pressed at Austin, TX's Gold Rush Vinyl and is available in two colorways. The 1xLP Like Swimming (which features such favorites as "Early to Bed," "French Fries with Pepper," and "Eleven O'Clock") can be found on 180-gram opaque blue or translucent red wax.
Rounding out the package is a 20-page booklet, featuring rare and never-before-seen images from the band's archives, including photos by Lana Z. Caplan and Danny Clinch, artifacts from Morphine's career, and unseen art by the band's late frontman, Mark Sandman. A major highlight is the insightful new liner notes by Ryan H. Walsh - a Boston-based journalist, musician, visual artist, and author of the acclaimed 2018 book Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968. Walsh's notes include a handful of new interviews detailing the band's career, including one of the final interviews with Morphine drummer Billy Conway, who played drums in Sandman's previous band, Treat Her Right. The album is housed in a deluxe gatefold jacket, featuring gorgeous art direction and design by Darryl Norsen at D. Norsen Design, also of Boston.
Dedicated to the memories of Sandman and late drummer Billy Conway, both albums were produced with the full support of Morphine's surviving members (drummer Jerome Deupree and saxophonist Dana Colley), as well as the band's friends, family members, and collaborators - many of whom shared their memories with Walsh.
Like Swimming and The Night follow Modern Classic Recordings' acclaimed vinyl reissue of Morphine's sophomore album, Cure for Pain, first reissued on LP in 2011.
Formed in 1989, Morphine quickly gained a name for themselves in Boston's underground scene, thanks to their unconventional instrumentation, their clever, offbeat lyricism, and their utterly unique sound. Named for Morpheus, the Greek God of Dreams, the trio (singer, songwriter, and bassist Mark Sandman, saxophonist Dana Colley, and drummer Jerome Deupree) delivered a mesmerizing blend of tonalities that were moody, yet seductive: Sandman's intriguing baritone vocals and a two-string slide bass guitar (initially outfitted with just one string), Colley's baritone sax (he was known to play two horns at the same time), and the vibrant percussion of original drummer Deupree and then Billy Conway, who frequently stepped in as drummer. When it came to classifying Morphine's music, critics were at a loss. Was it jazz? Blues? Alt-rock? Beat poetry? To avoid the inevitable pigeonholing, Sandman coined his own genre: Low Rock.
Forming a creative partnership with producer Paul Q. Kolderie (whose credits read like a who's who of alt-rock heroes, including Radiohead, The Lemonheads, Hole, and the Pixies), the band released their critically acclaimed debut, Good, in 1991. When they followed with 1993's Cure for Pain, their fanbase had grown exponentially, leading to tours across the U.S., Europe, Australia, and Japan. 1995's Yes broke the Billboard 200 - by then, the trio had scored several hits on college radio, while videos for "Thursday" (off Cure for Pain) and "Honey White" (Yes) played on MTV. At the same time, Morphine's music was gaining further exposure through synchs in major films, including David O. Russel's feature debut, Spanking the Monkey (1994), Beautiful Girls (1996), and the GRAMMY®-nominated soundtrack for Get Shorty (1995). Amid the '90s signing boom, it was only inevitable that the major labels would come calling. As the trio began work on their fourth studio album, they received an enticing offer from the newly founded Dreamworks Records. But signing with the L.A.-based label would be both a blessing and a curse - particularly for Morphine's supremely independent frontman.
In his liner notes for Like Swimming, Ryan H. Walsh suggests that after years of uncertainties, the band's newfound sense of security carried over into their songwriting. "Like Swimming is an album about getting into the flow of things finally going your way, about comfortably making use of your talents and doing it all with confidence, grace, and style," he writes. That air of lightness marked a stylistic departure for the trio and can be heard throughout the album.
Single "Early to Bed," for instance, offers a sense of nocturnal joie de vivre. Inspired by Benjamin Franklin's proverb, the song is driven by a buoyant sax line, over which Sandman sings, "Early to bed and early to rise/Makes a man or woman miss out on the night life." Speaking to Walsh about the song, Colley fondly recalls, "I think [Sandman] was trying to make a case for his lifestyle…Everybody in his world were nine-to-fivers, including his parents. That he was living his life this way, making his own hours, was a victory he wanted to celebrate." That sentiment carries over to the hypnotic "Eleven O'Clock," in which Sandman repeats one mantra-like phrase about leaving his house at the same hour every night.
The frontman also details the simple pleasures in life in the playful "French Fries with Pepper," while "Wishing Well" (which offers a fantastic example of Colley's simultaneous talents on two saxophones) finds Sandman confidently declaring, "I'm exactly where I want to be right now." Indeed, Sandman was in a very good place. In addition to the highs of his career, he was also settling down with his longtime partner, Sabine Hrechdakian. Subtle romanticisms can be heard in songs like "Swing It Low," in which he sing-speaks assurances in hushed, rhythmic tones.
While Like Swimming is now held in high regard, not everyone took as kindly to Morphine's major label debut. But consider the context. As Walsh notes, "in the 1990s alternative music world, fans cared about an artist's perceived authenticity to a borderline extremist degree, punishing those they felt had sold out." This was certainly the case for Morphine, particularly when it came to the media.
Despite the pushback from critics, however, the album's commercial performance tells a different story. Released in March 1997, Like Swimming landed at No. 67 on the Billboard 200, becoming the highest-selling title of Morphine's career. "Early to Bed" peaked at No. 10 on the Adult Alternative Airplay chart, while its video, in which a group of children watch an inspired puppet show, earned a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Short Form Music Video the following year.
To support the record and pay tribute to their late bandmate, Colley, Conway, and a variety of Sandman's collaborators and friends toured as Orchestra Morphine. Nine years later, Colley, Deupree, and bassist/vocalist Jeremy Lyons formed Vapors of Morphine. While Deupree retired in 2019 (replaced by drummer Tom Arey), in addition to playing their own material, the group continues to perform Morphine songs through regular concerts and recordings.
Meanwhile, Sandman's legacy lives on through Morphine's music and the many artists the band has influenced and inspired along the way. Fans can visit the Morphine Loft, a virtual space celebrating Mark's life, writing, art, and music curated from his archives, with exhibitions on Like Swimming, The Night, and (soon) Cure for Pain's 30th anniversary. The site also has a forum where fans can share their own memorabilia and contribute thoughts on what makes Mark and Morphine so unique. Those who want to visit the many landmarks associated with the band, including the building where The Night was recorded and Mark Sandman Square just outside of the famed Middle East venue where Morphine played its first shows, can use Morphine's map of Cambridge, MA included in the liner notes for The Night.
What might Mark Sandman have wrought if he wasn't so unceremoniously ripped from this mortal coil in 1999? The question hovered over the release of The Night, the final album from his noir-rock band Morphine. And it lingers on some two decades later with the first ever vinyl pressings of that LP and the group's penultimate statement Like Swimming. The latter was seen at the time as the trio spinning its collective wheels after a series of brilliant releases that brought their unusual and intoxicating sound to the masses, but time has been kind to the record. It now sounds like the product of players who have memorized the playbook and now feel comfortable stretching out and getting playful. Both albums have never sounded better as they do on these vinyl pressings. The low end spills out of each LP in thick waves and the smoky midrange hovering in the air like fog.
- First Time on Vinyl
- Remastered from the Original Tapes by Pete Weiss at Boston's Jade Cow Music
- Lacquers Cut by John Golden
- 180g Vinyl
- Opaque Blue Vinyl
- Deluxe Gatefold Jacket
- Art Direction & Design by Darryl Norsen
- 20-Page Booklet with Lyrics, Unseen Photos, Ephemera & Artwork by Mark Sandman
- New Liner Notes by Ryan H. Walsh
- Pressed at Gold Rush Vinyl in Austin, TX
- Produced with the Full Support of Morphine's Surviving Members
- Lilah (Instr.)
- I Know You (Pt. III)
- Early to Bed
- Wishing Well
- Like Swimming
- Murder for the Money
- French Fries w/Pepper
- Empty Box
- Eleven O'Clock
- Hanging on a Curtain
- Swing It Low