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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Dixie Dregs

What If

Review by Steve Alspach

What If was the second album by the Dixie Dregs, released in 1978. The band left Capricorn after one album and signed to Polydor (which may have been a good move - those who had never heard the band would not be blamed if they thought that this band from Miami, signed to Capricorn, would be another southern-fried boogie band). This album shows the Dregs unafraid to tackle any musical style and to do it with confidence and precision few bands could match. The personnel at the time was Steve Morse, guitar; Mark Parrish, keyboards; Rod Morgenstein, Drums: Andy West, Bass; and Allan Sloan, violin.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Take It From The Top
A blow-the-roof-off-the-house rocker opens the album. There are a couple of lick-trading sessions in the song, the first from Morse and West, the second from Parrish and Sloan. Morgenstein gives his double-bass drum pedals a workout in the appropriate places to good effect.
Odyssey
Ranging all over the map, this number is highlighted by a nice violin solo that is a pleasant contrast to the energetic and intense closing section. The song also has one of those trademark Dregs guess-the-meter sections that can baffle most listeners, this one included.
What If
A change of pace here, as the title track is much slower and relaxed. Morse is content to keep a low profile, giving Sloan and Parrish the solo spotlight in this one, and their solos keep true to the overall feel of the song.
Travel Tunes
Andy West wrote this song, and his songwriting style differs little from Morse's. West uses a 15/8 time signature to keep the listener on his toes - just when your ear gets used to a 4/4, it changes in mid-bar. The song settles in 4/4 long enough for Morse to get a strong solo in.
Ice Cakes
Again, the Dregs cover a number of different styles in a short period. The song is funky here, straight-ahead there, playfully bouncy in places, and Morse switches between bluesy and chicken-pickin' with little ease.
Little Kids
Most Dregs albums have a short neo-baroque number on them, and this is it. It's a lively little acoustic guitar-violin tune. Steve Morse is quite fluent in the piece, and Allen Sloan is equally adept, proving him to be the best anesthesiologist-violinist that I know of.
Gina Lolla Breakdown
Yahoo! Time to do the Texas two-step with this country song. Right down to the Jews harp and cowbell, this is a fun, high-energy tune. Morse, Sloan, and Parrish get in some nice solos, and Morgenstein even gets twelve bars to himself. This song does not reflect a rock band that decides "hey, let's try country-and-western" but rather a band that could easily make its home doing this sort of thing.
Night Meets Light
This has been described (by knowledgeable sources) as perfectly capturing the mood of a sunrise on the Florida Keys. The song has a dreamy feel to it in places, and in others it becomes rhythmically complex, typified by the guitar solo over a 13/4 time signature. Morse also slips into his solo rather unobtrusively, and has taken center stage before you notice. This song is a beautiful end to an album that proved that the Dregs were extremely talented, innovative, and a band worth noticing.
 
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