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Dixie Dregs - Live At The Montreux Jazz Festival 1978 CD (album) cover


Dixie Dregs

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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4 stars This was the Dixie Dregs lineup that I first come to know live and otherwise. The Montreaux Jazz Festival performance was used for side two of the LP Night of the Living Dregs. I had no idea the concert was filmed. This represents the band at their prime. Keyboardist Mark Parrish, would soon be replaced by T Lavitz, who is a better keyboard player, but this as this performance testifies, he was no slouch either. Oddly enough, the back cover of this DVD shows a band picture with the original keyboardist from Freefall, Steve Davidowski (guess there was only room for one Steve in this band). Steve Morse was at his most inspired around this time, even though he has certainly grown in skill over the years.

The set list is a little disappointing as it lacks some of the prime cuts from What If (Night Meets Light, Odyssey, Travel Tunes, What If), but I'm not complaining. Now I have something more than just memories of the many Dregs shows I saw back then. It is more of a forward looking set which includes Attila The Hun, that didn't show up on an album until three years later. Also of note, but of less interest to progressive rock fans, is the bluegrass style ditty, Kathreen, never released on a regular album, but only showed up on their demo album, The Great Spectacular, from 1975. If you have a copy of that album, you have something rare, indeed.

Thrown in for bonus are two live TV appearances, one on American Can'tstand (Bandstand) and one on Don Kirschner's Rock Concert. On the former, you get to see them both try out a vocalist, in an attempt to appeal to a more mainstream audience, and with Mark O'Connor, who only played with them for one album, but a few great live shows before the band disbanded for a few years.

As great as the band studio albums were, the live shows took things to an even higher level. Now you can see what you missed, unless you didn't.

Report this review (#125903)
Posted Friday, June 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Live video footage of the Dregs does not abound, at least here in Europe, so the release in 2006 of this performance at the 1978 Montreux Jazz Festival is to be celebrated. Just after having released their best record What If, one may well argue that this was the Dixie Dregs peak period.

The Dixie Dregs were rather unknown at that time in Europe and I guess that they must have been a bit of a shock for the jazz-oriented audience at Montreux, but they manage to captivate the public who for a big part give them a standing ovation. We have the lineup with Mark Parrish on keyboards and Allen Sloan on violin, plus the usuals Andy West, Rod Morgenstein and Steve Morse on bass, drums and guitar respectively. The band sounds very cohesive and seems to have genuine fun on stage.

Steve Morse looks maybe a bit shy, his playing is much less hard than it would eventually become, with very little distortion, but he already shows what a hell of a guitarist he is. 4 tracks from this concert recording would be included in the half-studio / half-live album Night Of The Living Dregs, the track with this name, Patchwork, Leprechaun Promenade and The Bash, their version of the traditional bluegrass tune Wabash Cannonball.

The performance is absolutely wonderful and I have only 2 negative comments: the first is the sound mix where Allen Sloan's violin is too prominent and Steve Morse's guitar too low, it gets better after a while but it's weird that this has happened in a 2006 release. The second is not really a fault but a personal taste matter, given my mostly classic prog orientation the tracklist could have been better, it features many great Dixie Dregs classics but also a bit too much of their country / bluegrass material, but I feel that this was somehow intentional in order to show something different and unexpected to the Montreux audience. I miss tracks such as Odyssey, Cruise Control, Night Meets Light or Northern Lights, but ok, this is what the Dregs did, so let it be.

The concert starts with 3 great classic tracks, Freefall, Leprechaun Promenade and Country House Shuffle, which regrettably suffer from the afformentioned low volume of Steve Morse's guitar. Then comes Patchwork which Andy West introduces as "avant-garde country".

Atila The Hunt is a track that would later appear in the '81 album Unsung Heroes, and features very nice tempo transitions from very fast to slow or medium, always seamless. The Bash is 100% country/bluegrass and while not my personal taste it's an impressive display of playing speed.

We then get another round of classic tracks with Night Of The Living Dregs, Wages Of Weirdness and Take It Off The Top, where we get to see great interplays between West, Morse, Sloan and Parrish, great stuff. The concert ends in 100% bluegrass style with Kathreen which appeared in their obscure demo debut The Great Spectacular joined to a very short Dixie.

The camera takes are good enough for a 1978 recording even if Allen Sloan gets a bit too much of the attention. Another curiosity for fans is seeing Steve Morse still playing his "Frankenstein" guitar with Telecaster body, Stratocaster mast, Gibson bridge and a peculiar arrangement of pickups and switches.

We have also 2 bonus segments, the first is a 1982 recording on american tv supporting the release of the Industry Standard album, with T. Lavitz on keyboards. On the first track "Crank It Up" we see Mark O'Connor on violin and Alex Ligertwood on vocals, sounding quite AOR, a bit like Journey. Then they play the instrumental Bloodsucking Leeches where Mark O'Connor plays 2nd guitar making things much better. A curious fact is seeing Rod Morgenstein playing with a minimalistic drumkit..

The 2nd bonus is a 1979 recording of Punk Sandwitch at the Don Kirschner program, the song and the performance are great but their looks show how they were looking for mainstream recognition, all of them with sunglasses, Steve Morse with a bow-tie, Rod with a bonnet....

In any case a great DVD very much worth watching.

Report this review (#438973)
Posted Monday, April 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Dixie Dregs is without question one of the prime jazz rock bands from the late '70's not only from USA but in general. With album like Free fall or their best What if, Dixie Dregs gained much popularity in that period, so for that metter they were invited at the prestigious jazz fastival from Montraux. This DVD issued in 2006 capture Dixie Dregs at their peak of the career, 1978-1979. As some of the previous reviewer observe , some of the better pieces from their best album What if are not featuring here, wonder why , because was their most succesful album for sure. Anyway good concert, with some fantastic playing like on Freefall for instance, excellent musicianship, specialy the Allen Sloan is excellent. Another pieces worth mentioning are: Leprechaun Promenade , Attila the hun a piece who will apear on Unsung heros album 3 years after this concert - 1981. Overall pleasent concert for sure, some fantastic interludes between musicians, recognazible style jazz rock with prog and country elemnts makes from Dixie Dregs an unique band for sure. In the booklet of the DVD it said beside the history of the band with a picture from the concert - "Dixie Dregs manage to make a performance of unparalleled magnitude with precise and passionate attitude", totaly agree this DVD and this concert is a must have for the fans and for those who want to see DD in their glory days.. Also the DVD has some bonus material, some live sections from 1982 promoting Industry standard and some again live parts from Kirshner rock concert . Also the band that performed befor them here in Montraux was anothe r fine jazz band named Sea Level, featuring with a picture in the booklet. So overall a worthy DVD for sure, 4 stars, recommened.
Report this review (#463595)
Posted Saturday, June 18, 2011 | Review Permalink

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