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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Dixie Dregs

Dregs Of The Earth

Review by Larry Toering

In 1980 this music was not an abundant commodity, and that is why it remains one of my favorite prog albums of all time. T. Lavitz pulled out all stops to beautify these tracks, and ever y time I revisit it I miss him more and more after his recent passing. Everyone put in their best to come out clean on this. It was one of the Dregs the first efforts to be nominated for a Grammy. The nominations without victory became so common that Steve Morse eventually stopped accepting the invitations to the event.  Everything from “Pride O' The Farm” and “Twiggs Approved” to the incredible “I'm Freaking Out” to the sublime “Hereafter” are displayed with sheer brilliance on this disc which is only actively selling on import at the moment. Although when it first came out, it did reach more people in Europe than the US. This is simply an all out masterpiece though, and worth snapping up new or used.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Road Expense
The odd time signatures can be noticed within seconds as the whole disc gets underway in standard Dregs fashion. This is one of the tracks that contain enough fills and runs from Morse to almost miss the searing solo, as there isn't a second lost between the notes. Altogether it's a great opener, but far from the best on offer, as things go from here to the sun and back as the disc wears on.
Pride O' The Farm
What a magnificent little tune this is, with not much beyond country and honky tonk parts played by all in very speedy fashion. It’s just a display of mastery from everyone here. I rate this right alongside a tune from another album, called “Runaway Train.” This is equally as mind blowing in terms of their skill set. The violin work by Allen Sloan stands out nicely and enhances the whole bluegrass approach. I always loved the touch at the end with the brief comical animals noises.
Twiggs Approved
This is undoubtedly one of the best on offer here, as it contains everything for which the Dregs are famous and then some. In fact it's an all time favorite DD track for me, with some absolutely killer guitar and organ sparring between Morse and Lavitz. Morse goes into some extremely wild rocking all over this thing of beauty, with some of the more complex arrangements on the disc.
Hereafter
Slowing down can't hurt after the speeds accomplished prior to this lovely track. This proceeds to sooth at every turn, and it even goes into a spacey vibe with sublime performances from Lavitz on keys and strings by Sloan. This is simply magical in every way. It is one of those things you have to hear to believe, and probably the album’s sleeping magnum opus. There are sections here where I am reminded of “Doctor Who” somehow, both from the old and the new TV series when reflecting back on this.
The Great Spectacular
Another highlight performance by all here, this is not only one of the best tracks on offer, but one of the best recorded works in their catalog. The hardcore fans eat this one up, and that is one reason why this should be a more widely known. Still, it remains a fan favorite anyway, and one of mine as well. Morse is just off the scales here, moving freely back and forth between them all, never missing a note along the way.
Broad Street Strut
Oh how I love this tune. Right away you get a positive rocking vibe from the percussion Rod Morganstein, and the work of Sloan here is simply majestic. To describe it I could go on and on about its greatness.  I do have to mention the awesome little talk box moment from Morse, as little touches like that make him shine with the likes of Jeff Beck.
I'm Freaking Out
This is probably where it all comes together best, as this is just amazing. All kinds of odd time signatures are included with fantastic percussion by Rod Morganstein. A killer Hammond performance from Lavitz really adds to the remarkable track. Dave LaRue gets a spotlight, as well. Then there comes that wicked organ again, with a very chamber-music-like sound that fills the track with the menacing charm I often tend to point out in a song. This is another fan favorite that deserves a lot more exposure because it's so good that it's unreal. Not only does Lavitz pull the Hammond stuff, but he also throws in some of the best electric piano playing you're likely to catch. There is simply marvelous playing by him here, as he almost completely dominates the track. This has got to be one of their all time best. Oddly enough here I feel a “Doctor Who” moment or two, as well. Something tells me someone was at least a fan of the first series run.
Old World
There are many sublime moments on this release, but this takes the proverbial cake. It includes an awesome display of fantastic melodies to finish off what many consider one of their finest hours on record. Morse once again is at his usual best in coming up with some of the most tasty work he's ever done.
 
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