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Dixie Dregs - 1978 What If



ARTIST: Dixie Dregs
ALBUM: What If
LABEL: Capricorn
SERIAL: CPN-0203
YEAR: 1978
CD REISSUE: 1995, Capricorn, 314-536359-2

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Steve Morse - electric & synthesizer guitar * Rod Morgenstein - drums, vocals * Andy West - bass, alembic bass * Mark Parish - keyboards * Allen Sloan - strings

TRACK LISTING: 01 Take It Off The Top * 02 Odyssey * 03 What If * 04 Travel Tunes * 05 Ice Cakes * 06 Little Kids * 07 Gina Lola Breakdown * 08 Night Meets Light/td>


Background
I love good jazz fusion or jazz rock depending on which side of the fence you sit, but perhaps I should be more specific. I favour the rock side of jazz from the 70's up until the mid 80's when the genre went pear-shaped with formats like smooth and pop jazz promoted by the likes of the permed and pastel bland Kenny G and Spyro Gyra although I did enjoy the latter's first couple albums buoyed by the singles 'The Shaker Song' and 'Morning Dance'. I also prefer fusion with that 'something different' and the Dixie Dregs certainly fill that bill. The Georgia based band on their 1977 debut 'Free Fall' offered a unique mixture of jazz, country and bluegrass which had never been heard before. Combined with outstanding musicianship and a live reputation second to none and you have a tangy recipe for something great which their second album 'What If' certainly attests to.


The Songs
Some familiar names in the line-up including future Kansas/Deep Purple guitarist extraordinaire Steve Morse and drummer Rod Morgenstein who would later end up in GD favourites Winger. British readers will recognize the smokin' hot chugalug of 'Take It Off The Top' as it was used as the theme song by the BBC for the 'Friday Rock Show' during most of its run. The violin of Allen Sloan brings to mind Kansas on both this tune, 'Odyssey' (later covered by Dream Theater) and throughout the entire record really. The lilting melody heard on the title track is gorgeous and Morse's guitar work is truly stunning. This is fusion as it should be and the southern funk of 'Ice Cakes' lets it all hang out, highlighted by Morgenstein's tremendous percussion abilities. 'Gina Lola Breakdown' is hokey as heck, but brilliant and would not have been out of place on the popular but now ridiculously maligned by out of control political correctness: 'The Dukes of Hazzard'. Set closer 'Night Meets Light' is another winner of instrumental balladry and I seem to gravitate to the albums slower songs but overall 'What If' is an excellent album and receives my highest recommendation.


In Summary
With critics and radio behind the group, Dixie Dregs spent a good portion of 1978 on the road supporting Alvin Lee, Marshall Tucker Band, The Outlaws, Santana, Climax Blues Band, and Atlanta Rhythm Section as well as a brief European tour with Sea Level including an appearance at the legendary Montreux Jazz Festival.


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