Review Summary: Never overcooked, The Dixie Dregs are the perfect oven for Steve Morse's baking!
4 of 4 thought this review was well written
Steve Morse is a guitar player who has done quite well for himself. After forming his appropriately named Steve Morse band in 1984, he was able to get coverage by supporting Rush on their "Power Windows" tour. His talents were then recognised by prog rockers Kansas, and joined the band on guitar in 1986. He stayed on board for their 2 albums, "Power" and "In the spirit of things" before leaving to fulfil commitments to his other projects. Moreover, in 1994 he joined another famous rock band, by the name of Deep Purple, and is often credited with getting the band back on track after refreshing their sound. He has also been voted "Best Overall Guitarist" by Guitar Player magazine for 5 years in a row, which managed to gain him a place in their "Hall Of Fame" which only consists of 2 other guitar players; Steve Howe of Yes, and Eric Johnson. And if that wasn't enough to impress you then you can also blame him for influencing John Petrucci of Dream Theater to be as talented as he is.
But where did it all begin for Morse? Everyone has got to start somewhere and Morse started out early in 1975 with a 5 piece jazz fusion outfit called the Dixie Dregs. The Dregs are indeed recognised by most as a jazz fusion band, but incorporate a lot of other elements into their music, such as country, bluegrass, classical and hard rock. creating a very unique and diverse listen. Although having constant line-up changes throughout the years, the group is still going strong today, but also features loose collaborations from former members in live shows.
1977's Free Fall was the band's first release on a major label. (Their former LP, The Great Spectacular originally had 1000 copies pressed and sold amongst their local university of Miami.) All compositions on the album were written by Morse himself and are entirely instrumental. But Morse's arrangements are handled very skilfully by the bands musicians. Often regarded as the "Classic line-up" on this record, the band were:
Steve Morse - Guitar, Banjo, Keyboards, Guitar Synth
Andy West - Bass guitar
Allen Sloan – Strings, Violin, Viola, Electric Violin
Stephen Davidowski – Keyboards
Rod Morgenstein – Drums, Percussion
So why has Steve Morse been inducted into a hall of fame for a popular guitar magazine? Well, on this album, as far as song-writing and originality goes, and considering Mr Morse was at a young age, he is incredibly capable of creating diverse song structures, such as Funk, classical, jazz, ho-down, bluegrass, country, rock and the bizarre. His guitar playing on the other hand, is quite a surprise. Often hiding in the background of most of his songs, he leaves the showing-off to Sloan and Davidowski, only ripping out a blistering guitar solo when needed. This is a very fair way to go, because his playing style does not get boring and gives the other members a chance to keep songs interesting.
The song arrangements are also of very high quality but sound unique due to the instrumentation used. Take Davidowski's keyboard effects for example. Ever heard a jazz-country-funk breakdown with a digital synth alien laser beam effect solo, whilst a footstompingly good delay-drenched electric violin follows up with a pentatonic jam? (Free fall) The next track (Holiday) is a festive, Christmassy type piece, but with odd time signatures and terrific key changes and also features a blistering crunch soaked guitar solo over a jazzy breakdown, but still manages to sound Christmas-like! Another album highlight is the longest track (Cruise Control) which sounds like a straightforward hard-rock track, until it enters some kind of ceremonial medieval wedding/knighting event with a Brian May guitar leading the way. It then progresses into an epic guitar vs keyboard vs violin vs bass call and response battle of the band!
The last track on the album (Northern Lights) takes Steve's arrangement skills to a whole new level though. The track is a duet, with Steve on Spanish guitar and Sloan on violin, and could easily be a great movie theme, a classical number known worldwide or even an ode to a famous life. The piece is breathtakingly magnificent and should be heard by all.
Due to the high quality of the pieces, not all tracks can live up to them in comparison. The 6th track (Sleep) being a prime example of this, sounds utterly filler and could have been left off the album. But apart from that one mishap, Free Fall is a solid 4.5 in rating due to diversity, originality and quality of the compositions. Steve Morse, we salute you!
Refried Funky Chicken
Dig The Ditch
Dayum that was quick :D. Good review, a brief history lesson included :-). What an amazing band, and
to think Steve composed all the songs, especially at that age, speaks magnitudes of his musical
And there are a lot more dregs fans than we thought, already 14 ratings! And I love sleep, such a
gorgeous short track.
I need to listen to this album, Steve Morse's alternate picking is the craziest thing I've ever heard. haha, we had to play Cruise Control at my vocational school I just graduated from, such a fun song.
Steven Wilson is a modern day genius. Fear was a good album, but if it bored you then I'm not sure what to say :P. He produced deliverance and damnation as well and played keyboards on all 3. Fantastic musician with a great sense and who doesn't mind experimentation. He Remastered King Crimsons Red, In the court, and Red, as well as Aqualung and Caravans In The Land Of Grey And Pink, and remixed in 5.1. I'm from Pakistan actually :-).
@OmairSh, really? I own Red, Court and Land of Grey, but they must be the normal versions lol. I really want to hear these new mixes now damn. I was told to buy more porcupine tree though so i'll have to embark on another cd spree soon.
Pakistan? Haha, now I see why you wanted vindaloo, lucky son-of-a-bitch I bet you get the best tasting curry there too!
Yeah but he only remastered them recently, 40th anniversary editions. He loves producing and we love hearing his end product :D. Yeah Porcupine Tree is great, In Absentia onward is more metal inclined, with Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun being more Pop-ish/Prog rock and the early albums inclining towards psychedelic prog. All the work is quality so which ever genre inclination you like more, check those out. Plus you have plenty of reviews of the albums on this site at your convenient disposal :D.
Haha well it all seems more glamorous from the outside, as do a lot of things. We go for fast food when we're tired of the curry haha, but you're welcome to visit anytime for "authentic" curry ;-D.
Yeah undertaker if you're going out on that spree then don't forget ADHD! I don't know why I keep pushing you to buy it when I'm uncertain how you'll take it, hopefully it'll be better than the vindaloo!