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What If

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Album Review

Calling the Dixie Dregs a fusion band doesn't really do them justice. Granted, their music is full of the complicated forms, jazz-influenced improvisations, and heavy rock attitude of the genre, but the Dregs also incorporate country, folk, and classical elements into their compositions. Although there is more than a little of the 1970s fusion of Jeff Beck and the Mahavishnu Orchestra in their music and especially on this record, the Dixie Dregs transcend these genre limitations so well that they might as well be performing in a different idiom. On What If, their finest album, Steve Morse and company breathtakingly illustrate their peculiar musical vision. As per standard operating procedure, Morse is the primary composer and chief sonic architect. He is blessed with some of the greatest technique in rock guitar, and he utilizes every facet of it, whether burning unison runs with violinist Allen Sloan, chunking heavy, palm-muted lines along with bassist Andy West, or playing impressively contrapuntal classically inflected nylon-string guitar. Morse also has a very distinctive composing voice, and this shines through on seven of the eight tracks. The strongest moments on What If are Morse songs that incorporate a more folky influence into the fusion, such as the almost straight-up country of "Gina Lola Breakdown." Also impressive is West's lone songwriting contribution, "Travel Tunes." This song lives up to its name by moving between melodies apparently derived from British folk music, angular fusion grooves, a Caribbean-sounding interlude, and straight-up rock & roll. The fact that the Dixie Dregs do this is a credit to their creativity; the fact that it works is a testament to their musicianship. This is music without labels — emotional and logical at the same time, passionately played, and immaculately conceived. It is worth every penny.

Customer Reviews

Surpasses the Genre

Steve Morse elevated the instrument in a way few contemporaries did in the 70's. This record is more inventive and technically proficient than it, or the "Fusion " genre it is part of, is credited for. His finger style-- insistent and assured-- distinguishes Morse's playing from the frenetic pyrotechnics of McLaughlin or the spacey noodling of Steve Howe-- his only true peers . Even Eddie Van Halen-- while far more popular-- lacks Morse's precision and ability to phrase outside one specific genre. The title track and delicate 'Night Meets Light" are the most coherent tracks on the record and should be considered classics of the style. Rod Morgenstein's subtle and sophisticated drumming is a standout as well.

True Perfection

Being an audiofile, I'd say this was one the best compilations ever. Saw them live in Blowing Rock, NC in 1978 at PB Scotts Music Hall (anyone remember that shrine?) to this day one of the best performances I have ever witnessed. Super fusion.

What If...More people heard this music

I own everything the Dregs and The Steve Morse Band have released. What If will always be my favorite as it was my first Dregs record (not yet on CD). Folks who know much more about music than me have written about the wonders of this release. Beyond the incredible playing on every track, and amazing composition...take the last track...Night Meets Light...Imagine flying 20 feet over mountain peaks and valleys during a sunrise. You just don't get those feelings from other music from any period...I really love this music.


Formed: 1975 in Augusta, GA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the top jazz-rock fusion ensembles ever, the Dixie Dregs combined virtuoso technique with eclecticism and a sense of humor and spirit too frequently lacking in similar projects. Guitarist Steve Morse and bassist Andy West played together as high-school students in Augusta, GA, in a conventional rock band called Dixie Grit. When Morse was expelled from school for refusing to cut his hair, he enrolled at the University of Miami School of Music, where he met violinist Allen Sloan, who had played...
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