The Dixie Dregs

20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of the Dixie Dregs

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The Dixie Dregs are one of those recording artists who have spread their catalog among competing labels, making a comprehensive compilation difficult to assemble. This midline-priced effort draws only from their initial stint at Capricorn Records, 1977-1979, with nothing from the Arista years (1980-1982), the second Capricorn sojourn (1992-1994, by which time the earlier Capricorn catalog was owned by PolyGram), or the Zebra period (2000). So, perhaps this album should be called something like "The Best of the Early Years." It draws three tracks from the band's first Capricorn album, Free Fall, and four each from their second, What If, and their third, Night of the Living Dregs. The Dixie Dregs never had a hit single, so the choice of their best recordings is subjective, but the selection here is reasonable and gives a sense of the breadth of their stylistic diversity, from the fusion music on Free Fall to the rock of "Punk Sandwich" from Night of the Living Dregs and the country hoedown of "Patchwork," recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1978 and also included on Night of the Living Dregs. Guitarist Steve Morse, violinist Allen Sloan, and keyboardists Steve Davidowski (on the first three tracks) and Mark Parrish (on the rest) each get to play intricate, fleet-fingered solos, and the rhythm section of bassist Andy West and drummer Rod Morganstein navigates their way through the often-tricky patterns and tempos. This is technically accomplished, showy music that often impresses more than it really engages, unless you are a musician yourself trying to figure out how it's being played. But that's the Dixie Dregs, and this is a good summary of the first Capricorn period.

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