The Dixie Dregs

California Screamin'

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Guitarist and leader Steve Morse set up a Dixie Dregs family reunion for August 26-28, 1999, at the Roxy Theater in Los Angeles, and the resultant document is the 2000 live CD California Screamin'. In attendance were nearly all Dregs members, present and past (missing only early keyboardists Frank Josephs and Mark Parrish, and violinist/guitarist Mark O'Connor), with the bassists and violinists playing separately, depending on whether the material was new or vintage. That means original Dregs Allen Sloan (violin) and Andy West (bass) perform the introductory classic "Wages of Weirdness" before guest guitarist Dweezil Zappa harmonizes with Morse on a delicious cover of father Frank Zappa's "Peaches En Regalia." Later bandmembers Jerry Goodman (violin) and Dave LaRue (bass) play on the latter (and another great cover, the Allman Brothers' "Jessica"), and alternate with the original members throughout. "Morse," original drummer Rod Morgenstein and long-ime keyboardist T. Lavitz play continuously, hosting their old friends on "Freefall" before inviting back Goodman and LaRue for "Aftershock" (from the band's latest studio CD, 1994's Full Circle). But the shifting personnel takes nothing away from the continuity. Old live gems like the manic "The Bash" feature Morse adding new flavors to the lines that made him a multi-genre legend. Pick-playing bassist West had so much fun playing Dregs standards, like "Night Meets Light," "Refried Funky Chicken," and "What If," that he talked himself back into the band lineup afterward as a seven-string rhythm guitarist; LaRue's slapping and thumping fingerstyle bass drive newer pieces like "Sleeveless in Seattle" and the chaotic "Ionized." But Morse goes retro to end California Screamin', employing old warhorses "The Great Spectacular" and a reprise of "The Bash" for closure. The minute-and-a-half of "Dixie" provides further testimony toward Morse being a world-class rock, jazz fusion, country, and bluegrass player -- and the Dregs as one of the greatest jazz fusion bands of all-time. They may not record in the studio very often any more, but CDs like California Screamin' do what live albums are supposed to -- make you remember the event if you were there, and wish you'd been there if you weren't.

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