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Dixie Dregs

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Dixie Dregs What If album cover
4.17 | 181 ratings | 16 reviews | 38% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1978

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Take It Off The Top (4:07)
2. Odyssey (7:35)
3. What If (5:01)
4. Travel Tunes (4:34)
5. Ice Cakes (4:39)
6. Little Kids (2:03)
7. Gina Lola Breakdown (4:00)
8. Night Meets Light (7:47)

Total Time: 39:46

Line-up / Musicians

- Steve Morse / Classical, electric & synth guitars
- Mark Parrish / keyboards
- Allen Sloan / strings
- Andy West / Alembic bass, Fender fretless bass
- Rod Morgenstein / drums, vocals (5)

Releases information

Artwork: Diana Marie Kaylan

LP Capricorn Records ‎- CPN 0203 (1978, US)

CD Polydor ‎- 831 836-2 (1990, US) Remastered by Dennis Drake
CD Capricorn Records ‎- 314 536 359-2 (1998, US) Remastered by Fred Meyer

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
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DIXIE DREGS What If ratings distribution

(181 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(38%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (18%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

DIXIE DREGS What If reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by lor68
4 stars Well this creature by Steve MORSE was at his peek of career at the moment of this issue. He has been able to combine such a Baroque fugue-structure within a classical harmonization,enriched with some diverse "Celtic scales", naturally inside a burning context of classic rock. This is the main difference between his style and for instance that one of the guitar master John Mc Laughlin in the "MAHAHVISNU ORCHESTRA", another excellent composer of fusion music!! A blend of progressive rock, fusion, classic rock and country rock , managed by such a remarkable mastermind like Steve MORSE, former guitarist of KANSAS pomp rock band, a clever musician from every point of view!! Besides you can appreciate such Allen Sloan's violin work, which is especially remarkable and suitable to let the country American rock genre be fitted into the best progressive music, a sort of stunning adaptation!! For the above reasons at last this is simply instrumental classic rock music with complex arrangements, great melodies and skillful solos. That's enough I think...
Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars It is a good album but not the greatest from Dixie Dregs. There is a definite country feel to it as has a lot of their material but that does not make it poor by any means. Highlights for me are Take it off the Top, Ice Cakes and Night meets Light. Steve Morse's guitar as usual is fault free!
Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars As others have noted this record has a lot of variety on it. The constants are the violin, guitar and drums that all stand out so well. The violin play did bring KANSAS to mind at times, even though the music here is quite different from KANSAS' for the most part. Ironically Steve Morse did end up joining KANSAS later on though.

I really like the first three songs."Take It Off The Top" has such a great groove to it, a real rocker with the drums and guitar leading the way. "Odysey" is simply an amazing song ! Opening with violin followed by a very uptempo melody of drums, keys and guitar. The violin comes back and so does more great drumming and guitar, on this the most progressive tune on this record.

"What If" the title track is a beautiful slow paced song with lots of violin and a nice guitar melody. Not a big fan of "Travel Tunes" especially the toy-sounding keyboards half way through. "Ice Cakes" has some great sounding instrumental work on it. "Little Kids" features Steve playing classical guitar accompanied with violin. It's okay. "Gina Lola Breakdown" is a get down, hoe down, country song. Not a fan at all. "Night Meets Light" is a very good way to end the album. A beautiful tune with synth guitar and violin.

I have to take my hat off to Rod Morgenstein who does an incredible job on this record. I'm not big on that KANSAS or country vibe that pops up at times, but there's no denying that these guys are amazing musicians. 3.5 stars.

Review by 1800iareyay
5 stars To me this album is the second greatest fusion album behind Birds of Fire by the Mahavishnu Orchestra. After delving into websites looking for guitar heroes I quickly heard of Steve Morse, a man who won so many guitar polls in the 80s that halls of fame were created by magazines simply to give other players a chance. What's great about Steve is that he crafts incredible songs and dazzles listeners with his skill without the benefit of conventional solos. "Take It Off The Top," "Ice Cakes," and "Night Meets Light" display a variety of styles without ever yielding the floor to Steve. At all times, Rod, Alan, Andy, and Mark are as much in the forefront as he is. This album is a classic not just of fusion but of instrumental rock everywhere, up there with Jeff Beck's Blow By Blow.

Grade: A-

Review by b_olariu
5 stars Great, stunnining music, superb compositions. It's a really unique blend of prog rock and jazz fusion. The songwriting is varied and inspired, musicianship is outstanding, the result is a masterpiece to me. All tracks are fine and well played but odyssey is the highlight here, superb and very fresh sound.The duel between Morse's guitar and the key are really great. You could swear this is not an album from'78, the sound, production is excelent, made this album sounds like one of the '90. All in all i recommend this one not only for jazz-fusion fans, but to every one who enjoy musical skills at the highest level.One of the top bands from jazz fusion and one highly aclaimed by any serious prog listner. This album stands today pretty well after 3 decades. recommended , one of the most acomlished albums of the late '70's. 5 stars without hesitation and one of my fav albums ever from prog music.
Review by Gooner
5 stars This is The Dixie Dregs definitive album and fusion masterpiece. Pristine production from Ken Scott (Supertramp, Level 42). WHAT IF is their _Birds Of Fire_ or their _Mysterious Traveller_ as per Mahavishnu Orchestra or Weather Report. What sets The Dixie Dregs apart is that you have more of a rock feeling than the aforementioned fusion bands. Clearly, The Dixie Dregs are more on the rock side of things. For instance, _Take Off The Top_ sounds like an instrumental jazz rock fusion version of Neil Young's _Keep On Rockin' In The Free World_, so much so that The Dregs could win this battle in court if they were to sue for artisitic palgiarism. _Odyssey_ and _Night Meet Lights Meets Light_(as intricate as anything in the Pat Metheny Group catalogue) are the highlights. _Gina Lola Breakdown_ is the progressive bluegrass piece which set the stage for the *standard number* on each Dixie Dregs album to follow. _Ice Cakes_ has some great drumming(and grunting) from Rod Morgenstein and very funky. _Little Kids_ is Steve Morse's _Mood For A Day_(as per Steve Howe), just a gorgeous piece of guitar music with violin colourings from Allen Sloan. Essential!
Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars If you are only going to get one Dixie Dregs album, this is the one I would suggest. It is easily the most prog of all of their albums, and, as usual, it has exceptional compositions and musicianship.

"Odyssey", as far as I'm concerned is the best track the dregs ever recorded. It is prog fusion at it's best, with virtuoso performances on a complex tune by the entire band. And I challenge anyone to listen to this version, and then the "Bring 'Em Back Alive" recording, and still say Dave LaRue is a better bassist than Andy West.

Other prog highlights are the exceptional "Travel Tunes" and "Ice Cakes", both concert favorites, along with "Take It Off The Top". "Little Kids" is a beautiful, classical sounding duet for acoustic guitar and violin.

If you like great fusion, get this album.

Review by Flucktrot
4 stars What If is one those albums that doesn't have a single masterful or signature piece, but when you step back after going through it, it's difficult not to be impressed with the sheer variety of styles they sample, and pull off quite well I might add.

They can rock (Take if off the Top), they can prog (Odyssey), they can boogie (Gina Lola Breakdown), they can get funky (Travel Tunes) and they can let off the gas and explore tones (Night Meets Light) and moods (What If). Each of these tracks is a highlight, and that covers most of the album. Thus, this is an excellent album!

Dixie Dregs has a perfect lineup for this album as well, with a very flexible drummer, a tasteful keyboarder who can lead or back, a violinist who adds great texture and harmony with the guitar, and a solid bassist who they fortunately have turned up to more than audible levels.

And then we have Steve Morse. Just like Gentle Giant could play most styles better than bands who play only that style, Morse can easily cover everything from oozing, Holdsworth-style notes to good ol' country picking to classic rock soloing and power chording. He's just one of my faves. If he had gotten some classic rock exposure, he might be as well-known as the Claptons of this world, and certainly at the very least on par in notoriety with the likes of Joe Walsh and such.

Just a great mix--though rarely great at any one point--of music, with a little southern country flavor to taste. I'd recommend this to any fusion, classic rock, or guitar rock fan.

Review by Starhammer
5 stars What if the words ran out...

This album is a pristine example of the fusion sub-genre, combining elements of symphonic rock, bluegrass, jazz, and funk.

The Good: Whilst it would be easy for these variances in style to result in a juxtapositional discontinuity, the album actually flows brilliantly with an underlying southern rock feel to it. There is so much going on here that it's impossible to fully appreciate given only a couple of listens, and yet it's also instantly accessible. It opens with Take It Off The Top, a superb composition which to this day remains one of my all time favourite instrumentals.

Following up such a strong opener is a near impossible task but they somehow manage it with the truly epic Odyssey. The sudden time signature changes and contrasting dynamics reminds me of a jazzier Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 2. Other comparisons can be made, as the album's title track draws parallels to Mahavishnu Orchestra whilst Ice Cakes is reminiscent of Sorceress by Return to Forever. The final song, Night Meets Light, is one of the release's calmer pieces, but also one of the most intricate with some really interesting guitar work.

The individual performances found throughout are all outstanding, but a particular mention goes to Rod Morgenstein's drumming which takes the record to another level.

The Bad: I'm not a huge fan of Little Kids which to me sounds a couple of centuries out of place, but on the plus side it is the album's shortest track.

The Verdict: One of the best instrumental albums ever recorded.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After ''Free Fall'' keyboardist Steve Davidowski quit from Dixie Dregs, following violinist Vassar Clements.Original keyboardist Mark Parrish, having completed his studies at Georgia State University, returned to the line-up at the fall of 77'.The next year the group recorded the album ''What If'' at Chateau Recorders Studio in Los Angeles and this work was again released on Capricorn in March 78', produced by Ken Scott.

This is a very energetic Prog/Fusion album, reminiscent of Dixie Dregs' passionate approach on rich, instrumental compositions, with lots jazzy and a few of Classical references, with the group sounding even closer to KANSAS on this album, though the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA influence is still the major leading guide.The two long tracks of the album are really fantastic with impressive breaks and changes, going from Classical-inspired violin parts to jazzy interplays and full-blown proggy battles with nice use of keyboards, while it is doubtful if you'll find a more accomplished rhythm section than the one of Andy West and Rod Morgenstein.The shorter tracks are more straight but far from easy-going.Here the group can divide its influences to separate tracks, from the groovy Boogie Rock of ''Take It Off the Top'' to the light Jazz-Rock of ''What If'' anf from the superb Fusion of ''Travel Tunes'' to the funkier rhythms of ''Ice Cakes''.However the performance of Dixie Dregs will remain always on a very high level with lots of changing climates, technical playing and rich delivery all the way, while a few smoother passages are added for good measure in an attempt to keep things balanced.

Superb follow-up to the otherwise very good ''''Free Fall''.Passionate Prog/Fusion of high quality with tremendous both individual and team performances.Highly recommended.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars Despite the uninspiring cover art and a band name that has always led me to believe that they were in a musical category akin to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet or even the Allman Brothers, I was absolutely shocked to find out that the DIXIE DREGS were nothing of the sort. Although progressive bluegrass is included in the mix, what we have here is a very eclectic mix of styles and moods comprising a most magnificent musical gem. Steve Morse has always been referred to as one of the greats in the guitar world, yet most of the things i've heard from him have left me lukewarm at best. I guess the secret to understanding all the praise is to go back far enough into his discography before the watered down versions of the greatness appeared.

WHAT IF is the absolute perfect place to start. This was love at first listen with only the first and third tracks taking me several listens to appreciate but now they have weaseled their way into my soul and are stuck there until the great decomposition of body and mind occurs. This album is absolutely phenomenal in how progressive it is. It is labeled as jazz fusion and to be fair there is plenty of that going on particularly in a Mahavishnu Orchestra type of way but there are classical guitar pieces, bluegrass, Kansas type rockers and moments of calmness. Every track is impressive and my favorite idiosyncrasy of this band is how they play out a passage by alternating instruments to finish riffs and fills. A kind of lightning fast call and response that serves as the backbone for the melodic whole. Impressive album indeed that I never get tired of. It just keeps getting better after repeated listens. A perfect marriage of melody and technicality.

Review by Warthur
3 stars Reactions to the Dixie Dregs seem to fall into two distinct camps. On the one hand, you have their very enthusiastic fans, those with whom this music really resonates, for whom What If is a real gem. On the other hand, you have listeners like me - folks who can appreciate the technical chops on offer here, but who are left somewhat cold by the whole thing, the fusion package offered up here tasting flavourless and plastic-y.

Maybe it's the down-home Southern-ness of it all, but I just find the Dregs' music an impressively intricate way to express absolutely nothing, a crystal-clear example of how technical chops don't save your compositions from being just a little trite. I won't rate it below three stars, because it's clear that there's some real skill being applied here, but I think this is one where you'll either love it or find yourself entirely unable to see what all the fuss is about,

Latest members reviews

5 stars What If finds Dixie Dregs concentrating a bit more on the rock side compared to their previous effort, which had a ton of different styles. In this regard it is more of a progressive rock album. Regardless, the same musicianship and songwriting skill is present here. You have your classic rockers ... (read more)

Report this review (#771387) | Posted by Mr. Mustard | Friday, June 15, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars "Take it off the Top" opens up this album. It is one of their best known tunes. AC/DC-like riff with great guitar and violin solos as can be expected from this group. The second piece "Odyssey" is where it really kicks off. Excellent composition and of course the band plays well as always! You ha ... (read more)

Report this review (#126985) | Posted by Salviaal | Thursday, June 28, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I love this album. It's a really unique blend of prog, jazz fusion and country that actually works. I know it sounds horrible to some, but as a Southerner who grew up listening to Gentle Giant, Yes and Mahavishnu Orchestra, the music of the Dixie Dregs makes sense to me. The musicianship is ou ... (read more)

Report this review (#52231) | Posted by peskypesky | Tuesday, October 18, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Dixie dregs...those wonderfull boys from US. Now imagine a band with a country lode...and then put some some fusion....add to that a guitar player beyond believe (Steve Morse ex-Kansas..actually thats pre Kansas ,Now deep Purple)...then there´s : Fantastic music..fantastic played.... ... (read more)

Report this review (#26539) | Posted by Tonny Larz | Sunday, January 18, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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