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Dixie Dregs

Night Of The Living Dregs

Review by Larry Toering

This is a half studio, half live recording, and one of the best Dixie Dregs outings from which to choose. Steve Morse seemed to do no wrong on his mission to conquer and divide concerning instrumental rock, and this is a big step in that direction. The first half is hot, and the second half hotter, as Morse progresses through just about every trick in his book of licks and solos, but one must remember, this is a band effort, unlike the Steve Morse Band. However, there is only one Morse/Morgenstein/Parrish/Sloan/West track included in the bunch, but it doesn't mean the rest didn’t contribute as much as Morse did. We all should know Morse did not write every single part of theirs either, he rather conducted them. There is no taking anything away from Morse’s virtuosity here either, as it cooks as much as on any other Dixie Dregs release.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Punk Sandwich

This is only to be attempted by guitarists who can comprehensively play at speeds in excess of one hundred miles per hour. A fantastic blend of styles and an attitude to die for, is what this is. It showcases Morse at his finest.

Country House Shuffle
With even more of a blend of styles than the previous track had, they go off with their country leanings on this one. It's proven to be one of their fan favorites, as it's a sizzling hot tune, with some of the most complex arranging ever heard by then. It’s important to remember that this was still 1979, and only Jeff Beck had really succeeded in this area of popular music, besides perhaps John McLaughlin. Morse was highly influenced by both. The drums take a prominent role in the beginning here, and it's not worth missing.
The Riff Raff
This is a killer tune with fiddle and other string arrangements. It all comes together like magic between the musicians, and it's a sheer joy.
Long Slow Distance
A lovely piano opens this, and, as the title suggests, it's rather slow, but massively interesting, with Morse playing some searing acoustic guitar. I love it every time he plays acoustic, as he is masterful in this area, with an alternate picking prowess comparable to no other, seriously. What a piece of music this is by the time it's over. There is simply no describing the complexity going on here.
Night Of The Living Dregs
This starts off with some crowd clapping, as side two is recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Things go straight into a violin from Andy Sloan. Combined with heavy bass and percussion, this carries things until Morse comes to life just a tad, but not before a fantastic bass solo. Here goes another beast of complex proportions, without Morse to lead. Instead he rather embellishes the others like the democratic guy he is. The hand claps once again surface to take the track out. This is simply an out of this world number, but not the best track featured on Night Of the Living Dregs.
The Bash
This is one of the most stand out tracks in the Dregs' catalog, and it, too, has a lot of violin from Sloan. For my money, this is one of the greatest all time Dixie Dregs pieces, and it also features some great drumming from Rod Morgenstein. Once again it's difficult to describe the complexity of it all, as they relentlessly dazzle the crowd on this amazing number.
Leprechaun Promenade
This is another favorite.  Once again a lot of strings are featured, and it's all cleverly arranged and pulled off with precision time changes. This had a huge impression on me when I first went on a mission to plunder the Morse catalog, which wasn't very big by then. I was a year or two late in discovering him after this particular disc was released. I recommend it as an entry into examining his work. I love this number as much as any other they recorded.
Patchwork
There is no yearning for an end to this great album, as they sound more like they're just getting started. Still, it's not a full live album, so it doesn't play like a concert that way. But man, they sure do rock the crowd, who must've been blown out of their seats with absolute amazement, as they likely had never seen or heard anything like it previously.
 
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