The Dregs / The Dixie Dregs

Industry Standard

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Although they dropped the "Dixie" from their name in 1981, Industry Standard is still basically what one would expect from the Dixie Dregs. It also proved to be the band's last album before they disbanded, with fans having to wait ten years for a reunion and a new record. This incarnation of the band is actually the strongest one musician-wise, with master fiddler Mark O'Connor (in his lone appearance as a Dreg) making strong solo and ensemble statements. O'Connor really gets to show off his stuff on the requisite country-tinged instrumental, in this case the amusingly titled "Where's Dixie?" By this point, Steve Morse's compositional acumen had reached the level of complexity and polyphony that he would mine in his solo work throughout the '80s and '90s, and the sound of the band is more streamlined than ever before. Gone from Industry Standard are many of the Mahavishnu-isms that were so present in the band's work from the 1970s. One peculiar feature of this record is the presence of two vocalists, ex-Santana member Alex Ligertwood, and Doobie Brother Patrick Simmons, on one track each. This marks the first and only time the Dregs incorporated singing into their music. The album suffers somewhat from its inclusion, although there are some fine moments in the Steely Dan-inspired "Ridin' High." The excellent "Chips Ahoy" is perhaps the strongest track on Industry Standard, with a lilting, haunting melody played, paradoxically, at breakneck speed by Morse and O'Connor. Also of note is the driving "Assembly Line" and a lovely acoustic guitar duet, "Up in the Air," between Morse and Yes' Steve Howe. Morse, as per standard operating procedure, demonstrates his versatility, range, and chops throughout the album. The interplay between the guitarist and drummer Rod Morgenstein is particularly stunning, as in Morse's cathartic solo in "Conversation Piece." All in all, Industry Standard is one of the band's strongest albums, although it plays more like a Steve Morse solo record than any other Dregs release. To those not bothered by this, it will undoubtedly provide hours of listening enjoyment. [Long out of print, Industry Standard was re-released in 1992 by BMG, and is available as a Japanese import.]

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