(All Album Reviews by Sean)
Here is a cd by one of the best American 'fusion/prog' bands of the 1970's. If you ever wondered about the Dixie Dregs but hesitated when you thought of trying their music, this album is the one you need! Start today! The bands sophomore album What If was the first platter of theirs that showed the full scope of what the band had to offer. This album is a template for many Dregs albums to come. What kind of variety is on here?? Is it fusion? Well....
The album opens with a rock meets fuzoid number called "Take it off the Top". This tune is one of the Dregs better known numbers and has a bit of all they do all rolled into one- a live favorite. Odd meters, virtuoso caliber soloing, and a chance for all the members to flex their chops are all here. This is no wankfest though. Everything played is part of the composition. The other tunes on this album that capture the full stylistic array of the Dregs are "Ice Cakes" and the progressive gem "Odyssey".
"Odyssey" is most likely the bands most overtly progressive composition. Roiling Hammond organ lines, soulful violin soloing and mind bending guitar work are all over this number. Odd meters abound. This tune is a great one for prog rock fans to start with. While the band has been known to have a country tinge at times, there is none apparent in "Odyssey".
The 'country' aspect the band is known for is half driven by the band having "Dixie" in their title. But it sort of sets up twangy expectations that have sometimes boxed the band in. The Dregs play many types of music, so the country connontations sell them short. Only about 20% of their catalog would even come close to that category. The rest is closer to fusion or progressive rock.
Elsewhere on the cd, the title track is a big tip of the hat to Jeff Beck. Similar in tone to Beck's "Cause We Ended As Lovers". This is one of the most laid back and expressive numbers on the cd and highly recommended. Guitarist and Dreg's prime mover/visionary Steve Morse turns in one of his best, most understated solos.
After that the musical terrain veers from a celtic, barnburning hoedown- "Gina Lola Breakdown", to classical guitar driven "Little Kids", to the reflective "Night Meets Light", a majestic album closer that is obviously Mahavishnu Orchestra inspired in arrangement.
A little of everything the Dixie Dregs do is here on What If. Start here if you are looking to explore this bands music. Other albums by the band follow suit, but this one set the standard.
BTW, the cover looks like a country road, but when you turn the picture upside down it becomes clear that it is the ocean tide rolling in.