REVIEW: Dixie Dregs – Night of the Living Dregs (1979)

Dedicated to my dear friend Uncle Meat.  This CD was purchased off Joe “Big Nose” at the Waterloo branch of the Record Store at which I used to work.

 

scan_20161009DIXIE DREGS – Night of the Living Dregs (1979 Polydor)

If they could bottle genius, distill it down to its essence, sell it and serve it at a party…then the Dixie Dregs are the music that should be played at that party.

The Dregs are undefinable.  Just when you think you have them nailed down to a progressive jazz-rock hybrid, they go classical on you, or full-bluegrass mode.  Their instrumental chops are incomparable, while still managing to deliver such basic song pleasures such as “melody”, “hooks” and “grooves”.   These melodies are usually delivered at the hands of Steve Morse (guitar) or Allen Sloan (violin).  Listeners familiar with with the guitar stylings of Morse will have an idea of the kind of songs and arrangements he writes:  challenging, but rewarding.

Night of the Living Dregs is half studio, half live.  The first side, from the cleverly-titled “Punk Sandwich” to the ballad “Long Slow Distance” are carefully crafted studio recordings, each different from the last.  While each track is unique and showcases different sides of the band, it is “Long Slow Distance” that really shines.  This soft work captures so much of what Morse does well.  There are jazzy licks embedded within melodies, and so many different textures of guitar.

The live side is recorded nice and clean without a lot of crowd noise.  “Night of the Living Dregs” is an upbeat little number, featuring some absolutely jaw-dropping melodic bass playing from Andy West.  This is also where drummer extraordinaire Rod Morgenstein comes up to the plate.   His playing is so multifaceted and you can hear it on this track.  The most fun can be found on “The Bash”, a full-on bluegrass ho-down, chicken-pickin’ full steam ahead.  Any jaws left on the floor are hopefully picked up so they don’t miss “Leprechaun Promenade”.  There are celtic flavours thanks to the violin, and the song is comparable to Jethro Tull.  Then suddenly it turns into Frankenstein’s monster with some eerie keyboards (Mark Parrish).  This is complex stuff, not for the timid!

The whole experience ends on “Patchwork”, which works as a description of the album at large.  It is a patchwork of style and feels, which create the whole.  The Dixie Dregs are a challenging listen, but ultimately rewarding.  There is plenty of joy in the grooves.  The band does not play anything simple or easy.  Everything is a little bit of smarty-pants music, but for the listening, this is a delight.

4/5 stars

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36 comments

        1. Thank you Bruce, much appreciated. They really do touch on numerous musical bases. Steve Morse brought some of that into Purple when he joined. Purpendicular has touches of the celtic that Morse sometimes did.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Yes he did, I think I mentioned that in my “Best Hats” post…I have a couple Blackmore’s Night albums and I’ll be honest, I like the first one a lot. After that, from what I heard, they got a bit “same-y”. His wife sings on them, and on the first album, Ian Anderson dropped some flute, so that was awesome.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. I do not know, but when you gig as much as he does, do you have to practice as much?

      Steve Vai used to say he would practice so many hours a day that his fingertips would turn black and blue, so painful.

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  1. I’ve loved The (Dixie) Dregs since high school and your opening sentence really captures how great they are (as does the rest of your review). Not sure I have a favorite album by them but this one could be it.

    I never got to see them live but I did see the Steve Morse band a couple of times so that’s as close as I got. At one show, Rod Morgenstein was in the audience and Steve acknowledged his presence by playfully mocking Rod being a member of Winger. I bet Steve would have loved some of those royalty checks that Rod received from Atlantic.

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    1. Thanks Rich, much appreciated. Winger are a strange anomaly. You had these classically trained musicians like Kip Winger, and yet they really dumbed down their music from what they were capable of. I didn’t realize at the time just what kind of music these guys were capable of playing. Rod’s definitely a personal favourite.

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    1. Never heard of the Dixie Dregs? I am surpised so few are familiar with them! Maybe just because as a young feller, I was aware of Morse and Morgenstein, I was aware of the Dregs.

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  2. I think I’ve heard you mention these people? Or did you maybe review something else by them? Or something? I dunno.

    Ah well, a 4/5 at Lebrain’s oughta be proof for the rest of us!

    The only thing I can think is it’s pretty silly to add the word Dregs to your band name. Who wants to be the dregs? Haha!

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    1. A long long time ago, in a CD exchange not far away, I sent you one of your Aaron mixes with “The Bash” on it. That was back when we were doing “Mix Brothers” and reviewing each others’ mixes!

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  3. I have known of the Dixie Dregs for ages but for some reason, I have never given them the time of day. I should have because I know Morse and Morgenstein both were in the band and since I love both Deep Purple and Winger, I should have checked the Dregs out for that reason only.
    Your review is another reason for me to do so.

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