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Dixie Dregs - Bring 'Em Back Alive CD (album) cover

BRING 'EM BACK ALIVE

Dixie Dregs

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.52 | 35 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
5 stars Yeah.. Just buy it.

I could probably stop there, but I won't. This is one of the most stunning live albums in my collection. I would say it's the best live album in my collection except that I also have 'Frampton Comes Alive' and Kansas' 'Two for the Show', so that might be just a little bit of a stretch. Not too much though, as this one actually has much better production than either of those, and the quality of musicianship is far higher here as well. But for a child of the seventies it's hard to overcome the emotional high that those other two albums offer, so this one gets the nod for being just as awesome but not 'awesomer', if you know what I mean (and I think you do).

The liner notes tell the whole story, both of how the Dregs came together, and what led to this incredible album being made, so there's no need to rehash that in detail. Suffice to say that a decade after arguably the best rock/fusion band in history went their separate ways they decided to get back together and do it all again, at least for a few nights of live gigs. Lucky for us because not only do these guys sound like they never left, they actually sound like they improved while they were gone. It's hard to believe that five guys could come back together after a decade apart and put out music that is so tight, crisp, and vibrant that sometimes you wonder if they are all thinking with one brain.

There's really not much point in drilling down into each track here since the totality of the experience far outweighs any individual song. This is an hour-long, non-stop roller coaster ride of sound that cannot be appreciated in little snippets any more than half of an opera or just soundbites from a movie. You really need the full Monty.

There's something here from every one of the band's first seven studio releases, but the real treats are the various medleys and blended tunes that splice in a number of blues-rock and pop standards as only Steve Morse can do them. The instrumental version of "Kashmir" gets the crowd nuts when it kicks off, and Led Zeppelin themselves would have been impressed with the respectful reverence the band shows in delivering each note to perfection and with almost as much soul as Robert Plant did himself, even without the vocals. Magic!

During the big medley toward the end of the album, I would say that the Dregs actually managed to improve upon Mountain's classic "Mississippi Queen", since to-a-man they are better musicians than the old hairy Mountaineers ever were. And they're sober, which is a plus. I'm still stunned that someone with the incredible skill that Steve Morse has didn't completely dominate the world's airwaves during the seventies and eighties. Oh well, the world's loss and our gain, I suppose.

The little taste of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" is kind of gratuitous, but the blending in of riffs from Skynyrd's "Freebird" and the Knack's "My Sharona" is pure brilliance. Kind of lost in the shuffle are a couple of blasts from the old Spencer Davis Group summertime standard "Gimme Some Lovin", and only a real musician like Morse would have the genius to so seamlessly meld all that together into an entertaining and breathtaking explosion of sound. This one alone would have been worth the price of admission.

"Bloodsucking Leeches" is far superior in sonic pizzazz than the original studio version, but the best of actually saved for last. The band goes way back to when it all began with the encore "Cruise Control", probably the most popular of the Dregs live set numbers. This is their equivalent of Jackson Browne's "Stay" or Kansas' "Carry on Wayward Son", a signature tune that keeps both thanks the audience for coming out, and sends them on their way satisfied that they've had a full and worthwhile evening. The various solo excursions (especially Morse's and T Lavitz' keyboard forays) keep this thing going for about ten minutes longer than the studio version, but by the time it finally climaxes and thunders to a finish, you know you've been witness to the best these artists have to offer.

Progressive fans tend to turn up their noses at commercial success and industry recognitions, but I think it's important to note that this album garnered a Grammy nomination when it came out in 1992. High praise for a bunch of swamp rats from the Florida bayous who managed to establish themselves collectively and individually as consummate musicians and top-notch showmen 'back in the day'. I've toyed with writing this review for a while because I wasn't sure a live album could ever be considered essential, but as I started to put pen to paper (allegorically speaking of course - I'm actually putting fingertips to QWERTY), I realized that I led off mentioning two live albums that I definitely consider to be essential to any proper album collection. I don't see any reason to think any less of this jewel; so five stars it is, and enjoy.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 5/5 |

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