(All Album Reviews by Sean)
First off......, get past the name! I want to lay to rest any notion that the Dixie Dregs are a country band. Not true. Not even close. Prog fusion would be a better description. There is so much here for a fan of progressive music to like. The word Dixie is really deceiving. If you buy only one CD by the Dregs, BUY THIS ONE! It has some of their best numbers on it, a great cross section of their talents and styles. And all LIVE! This is a real jaw dropper!
This live CD is a document of their reunion in the early 1990's. Guitarist Steve Morse is the mastermind behind this bands sound. Much more than just a guitarist, Morse is a great composer as well with a singular style. His guitar playing is impeccable, mixing many styles and juggling them all at the same time with finesse. Also keyboardist T Lavitz (also with Jazz Is Dead) is in tow along with longtime drummer Rod Morgenstein, violinist Dr Allen Sloan and new bassist Dave La Rue.
This CD really shows how diverse the bands sound is. Often shifting styles in mid-song, The Dregs are masters of shuffling styles. While the band usually has one tune that borders on country or bluegrass on just about every studio album, all of those are absent here. So again, lay to rest the country notion. Bring 'Em Back Alive shows the bands other amazing facets. From celtic inspired numbers ("Holiday"), to prog rock workouts ("Odyssey"- one of the bands best numbers), to funk rock meets fusion ("Assembly Line", "Kat Food", "Bloodsucking Leeches", "Cruise Control"), there is great variety to behold here. These songs are all instrumental, but you would never miss the vocals. Great melodies abound and the arrangements are action packed. Never a dull moment here. Everyone in the band is a virtuoso and unlike some albums written by guitarists, everyone shines equally in The Dregs and are integral to the songs.
Some of my faves from this CD are "Kat Food", "Country House Shuffle" and "Odyssey" - all downright amazing tunes! Also be sure to check out the cover of Zep's "Kashmir", it's true to the original, but amped up beyond belief. Morse throws down some licks that would make Jimmy Page's head spin! It's all very tasteful too. It's the original reason I picked up this CD, but it only took one play to realize the entire thing was excellent! And also noteworthy is the finale, the bands theme tune "Cruise Control". In "Cruise" the band toss solos back and forth like hotcakes and in the end they get shorter and shorter, around the band it goes...8 bars, 4 bars, 2 bars, 1 bar, 1 NOTE! Tight as can be, and a real showstopper!
I think fans of fusion music would find a lot to like here. There's more than a faint trace of Mahvishnu influence at work here and it's a good thing if you’re a fan of that sound and intensity (I am). The instrumentation is the same, but the music is more calculated. A refined explosion of sound?? Yeah that sounds about right.