A singer, songwriter, poet, artist, inventor, and player of numerous instruments, as well as an all-around mysterious, charismatic rock & roll figure, Mark Sandman was the stuff cult legends are built on, a status hastened by his premature death in 1999. Best known as the leader of "low rock" band Morphine, Sandman forged an idiosyncratic sound out of swamp-blues rumble, smoky jazz noir, and beat-inspired lyrics. SANDBOX, a two-CD set that also includes a DVD and photo-packed booklet, offers a definitive look at Sandman's achievements, including his recordings with Morphine and early bands Treat Her Right and the Hipnosonics.
The best moments on SANDBOX map the terrain of Sandman's shadowy interior, from the bluesy isolation anthem "Cocoon" through the dreamy "Imaginary Song" to the minor-key soul-jazz of "Justine." While Disc One focuses on the familiar sax/bass/drums sound of Morphine, Disc Two collects some of Sandman's experimental outings (the percussion/voice duet "Riley the Dog"), early roots-rock tunes ("Doreen"), and genre curveballs (the call-and-response funk-rap jam "Deep Six"). All told, the set works marvelously as an introduction to and an overview of Sandman's unique achievements, and comes highly recommended for Morphine fans and lovers of offbeat rock.