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DEAN WATSON

Jazz Rock/Fusion • Canada


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Dean Watson biography
Dean Watson is a Toronto, Canada based multi-instrumentalist who was inspired by his mother at a young age while listening to her playing standards on the piano. Since then he has played everything from country to latin but prefers progressive jazz fusion and started his first progressive rock band, AirKraft, in the late 1970's. He has attained Grade 10 level Royal Conservatory piano in addition to grade 2 music theory and has been actively involved in music education. Along the way he has owned just about every keyboard known to humankind but has sold most of them, retaining only a small subset of his once massive arsenal. Among his varied guitars he also plays his own homebuilt models. In early 2008 he entered into a collaboration with drummer / percussionist extraordinaire Barry Connors ( Coney Hatch, Lee Aaron ) with whom he had played with in AirKraft. Together they formed a crazed progressive fusion jazz experiment that also gave nods to 70s progrock called Where's The Nine ( see separate PA entry ) and released a CD appropriately titled " Desensitized To Insanity " on the Toronto based Cyclone Records label that also includes other noted Canadian artists on their roster such as Steve Negus ( ex- Saga ) and Holly Woods formerly of the prog / pop band Toronto.

Dean's most recent project, " Unsettled ", is another collaboration but with a different approach. Again drawing musical inspirations from 70s fusion jazz and progrock, this time he imagined his music from a single painting by prolific Canadian artist / sculptor Ron Eady entitled " Unsettled". Eady's unpredictable work has appeared internationally in exhibitions, publications as well as in various public and private collections. Watson's musical interpretations and concepts were spawned by hours of staring at the haunting expressionist-like work and the result, although not as inflamed as the Where's The Nine project, it is nonetheless technically out of this world with Watson handling all instrumentation ( keyboards, guitars, drums, percussion, et al) , recording, mixing and mastering.

Slated for release sometime in the second half of 2010 '' Unsettled " holds appeal for all those who miss the fusion jazz and progrock of the glorious seventies and can be heard in it's entirety on Dean Watson's myspace linked below. In the meantime another Dean Watson concoction is in the works based on another enigmatic Ron Eady painting yet to be disclosed. .

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Fantasizer!Fantasizer!
CD Baby 2016
Audio CD$9.99
Imposing ElementsImposing Elements
CD Baby 2016
Audio CD$9.99
Fantasizer! by Dean WatsonFantasizer! by Dean Watson
CD Baby
Audio CD$55.00
Watson, dean Imposing Elements Mainstream JazzWatson, dean Imposing Elements Mainstream Jazz
Records
Audio CD$36.45
UnsettledUnsettled
CD Baby 2012
Audio CD$12.80
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DEAN WATSON discography


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DEAN WATSON top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.82 | 50 ratings
Unsettled
2010
4.03 | 135 ratings
Imposing Elements
2012
3.97 | 50 ratings
Fantasizer!
2014
3.98 | 7 ratings
Sum Of Parts
2017

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DEAN WATSON Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Sum Of Parts by WATSON, DEAN album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.98 | 7 ratings

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Sum Of Parts
Dean Watson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by aapatsos
Special Collaborator Prog Metal and Heavy Prog Teams

4 stars ''What's the difference between a Rocker and a Jazzman? A Rocker plays 3 chords in front of 3000 people. A Jazzman plays 3000 chords in front of 3 people.''

The story for Dean Watson is probably somewhere in the middle as he manages to balance his virtuoso skills (Jazzman) with solid structures and catchy riffs (Rocker) and the combination seems to work. This is the fourth release after a number of highly ranked albums; listening to this album one can see why. This is no mere 'bedroom artist' with good ideas, rather an accomplished composer with a clear direction, skill and appreciation of structure; it is not just mastery of the instruments but also character, which is abundantly evident especially in the guitar solos.

There is delightful variation throughout the whole album and constant excitement, always something new, multiple layers of keyboards, clean and distorted guitars and measured soloing. Younger fans of the Rudess/Petrucci collaborations, Neal Morse enthusiasts and veterans of the Allan Holdsworth and Colosseum legacies will find a lot to enjoy.

As for me, I particularly enjoyed the way that Dean changes moods from blues rock ('D Day'), to light jazz ('The Climb') and heavy fusion ('Song for a Day'). 'Afterthought' brings some Focus guitar magic among the more intense beats and darker riffs. It is easy in instrumental albums to fall into a trap of prolonged jamming or repetition, a feature not found here. On the contrary, tracks grow and evolve ' see e.g. the up-tempo closing of 'The Climb' or the shift in 'Capture 1A' from a heavy fusion start to a Alan Parsons-infused mid-pacer.

Despite the efforts to create a solid rhythm section, the use of a drum machine is evident (particularly in tracks where it's ''upfront'' such as in 'Click Clack') and the album loses points on the enjoyment angle as it sounds weak on that front. It would be interesting to see how this album would sound like with a full band and performed live. Other than this limitation, there is very little to stop you from enjoying this excellent piece of work.

4 (-) stars ' recommended

 Sum Of Parts by WATSON, DEAN album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.98 | 7 ratings

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Sum Of Parts
Dean Watson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars

One day I was reading though some of the threads on ProgArchives and came across where someone called Dean Watson was asking if anyone would be prepared to review his new album? So, I popped over to his artist page on the site and was intrigued to see that here was a multi-instrumentalist I hadn't heard of, and that this was his fourth album. The others had received good reviews, so I thought I'd give it a try and got in touch. A short while later I was playing the album and was again trying to comprehend how an artist with this amount of talent had passed me by, and why on earth were people with no musical ability superstars when artists such as Dean had received virtually no recognition?

Anyway, Dean provided all the instruments on the album, and moves between providing the lead on keyboards and guitar, whatever is right for the moment. Some of the keyboard sounds give this a late Seventies feel, and I am sure that Allan Holdsworth has been an inspiration in the guitar stakes, with some wonderful fusion and glistening runs. That he is adept with different instruments is never in doubt, and this allows him to bounce ideas as he moves through different sounds and styles, with jazz fusion and progressive rock coming together in a beautiful whole. This is a light and uplifting album that I enjoyed immensely, so guess that means I have some research to do on his back catalogue. I look forward to it.

 Sum Of Parts by WATSON, DEAN album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.98 | 7 ratings

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Sum Of Parts
Dean Watson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Kepler62

4 stars If I'm very much mistaken Dean Watson's fourth mad scientist music menagerie is the aggregate of a myriad of musical concepts and ideas amassed in his conspiring mind over roughly a two-year period between 2015-2017. Hence the empirical title : Sum Of Parts. For those not familiar with Dean Watson, he is a consequence of the glorious seventies and some of the innovative music that that decade spawned. Sum Of Parts emits a raw in-your-face effusion of that era with visages of Genesis, Keith Emerson, Alan Holdsworth, David Sancious and others. So if you are entwined with that wondrously inspired epoch you will revel in Watson's latest edeavour. This could have come out in 1975 but I am overjoyed that fresh sounding albums like this that are still being conceived by stalwarts such as Mr. Watson. The seventies were rampant with a restless flow of ideas that abruptly ran aground when there was really nowhere else to go creatively. It seemed every plateau had been crossed. Personally I am not a big on these newer takes on progressive rock. All this neo- prog and prog-metal seems to be trying too hard at flogging a concept that belonged to an era. What we have here is a revival of that instrumental flavour and spirit of 70s prog rock and jazz-rock fusion. Don't expect any ground breaking musical revelations or technological advances here ; It's all about the music and Watson's unrelenting predilection for a seventies groove.

Artists who are audacious enough to go it alone take in all the risk factor, and are faced with full culpability if something doesn't turn out quite right. Watson is first and foremost a highly accomplished keyboardist, formidable guitar player and eclectic composer. These exceptional qualities form the foundation of 8 singular instrumental compositions that comprise Sum Of Parts that can be free-and- easy to precise and angular. However I can see the album coming under fire for comparatively weaker rhythm parts, but by no stretch sounding as generic as some solo artists who have a "go nuts Jimi" rhythm section playing alongside them. This is the only nit picky criticism I can offer and I actually enjoyed this album as much or more as I did Dean's first album "Unsettled" which I discovered back in 2010 perhaps because I knew what to expect: Sheer creative abandon and execution of colourful ideas. Those familiar with Dean's previous instrumental albums will notice a brighter tone on this one almost devoid some of his darker themes. The cover art even suggests this departure.

Each phenomenal track opens with a unique theme and then branches off, forming it's own morphology with contrast and variation. Despite the various influences heard on each piece there is unification that is a hallmark of Watson's compositional prowess. Although the album is solid throughout there are several tracks that I keep returning to. Song for A Day typifies Watson's blending of styles, Progrock meets Jazz-rock. Although a formally trained pianist he seems deliberate in avoiding classical motifs which makes his music all the more expeditious. D Day, with it's ominous intro showcases some great guitar work that for some reason reminds me a bit of some of Alex Lifeson's playing over the years.There might also be a nod to to Jan Akkerman's Hocus Pocus riff in there too! Definitely my fave on the the whole album. Watson's sharp edged style is outwardly his own which defines each piece and is demonstrated to great effect on Sense of Urgency. The finale, Afterthought, is a majestic mini-epic that recalls the heady days of progressive rock. Back in the day it could have been expanded to occupy the full side of a vinyl LP!

Dean Watson's Sum OF Parts is a neo-anachronism that encapsulates the vigor of a division of popular music that ruled for a few years, A must listen for seventies die hards yearning for something contemporary in a classic vintage tradition.

 Fantasizer! by WATSON, DEAN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.97 | 50 ratings

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Fantasizer!
Dean Watson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Epignosis
Special Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

4 stars Dean Watson continues to show his mastery of fusion and the world of keyboards. The emphasis this time is on the symphonic side of the spectrum, while in many places the piano accentuates the jazz element, with plenty of seventh chords and disjointed bass structures. While some of the compositions feel like patchwork pieces, the content of those pieces makes this easy to overlook. Although I enjoyed Unsetlled, this third album surpasses that in both technical skill and composition. The music doubles down on a single premise: Adventurousness. I am mainly reminded of Kerry Livgren's 1989 instrumental album, One of Several Possible Musiks, although Watson's work of course has a more modern sound. I recommend this to fans of Spock's Beard and The Tangent.

"Fantasizer!" Mobile piano dashes about symphonic washes that serves as an introduction to a series of stellar melodic movements. One semi-metal excursion exists halfway through the piece, which does a mesmerizing job moving the listener back into organ-led symphonic-jazz fusion.

"Twig" Ascending jazz chord voices create an ominous vibe alongside the choral keyboard. The synthesizer lead moves like a hummingbird evading capture. A delicate piano piece interrupts the otherwise forceful nature of the opus.

"Freak" Transitioning from light keyboard to breakneck synthesizer riffing and back again, the overall feel of the piece is especially like the music found on the aforementioned Livgren album.

"Nomad" Moving into more traditional jazz territories with light ride cymbal and dazzling electric piano runs, is "Nomad." In spite of a title that evokes restless wanderers, this is largely a relaxing piece of music- very smooth stuff.

"At Odds" The title could be describing the eccentric time signatures present, or the battle between Tarkus and the Manticore, as this piece thunders in with bursts of organ. Whether this was intended as a nod to ELP's second (and best) album, I do not know, but to my ears it is a fitting tribute.

"The Anomaly" A more straightforward rock piece, the velvety synthesizer bends set it apart and give it a sense of grace and beauty. It evolves into some inconspicuous heavy jazz rock and thankfully returns to that ear-catching main theme.

"Linear Tendency" Used primarily to highlight individual instruments, "Linear Tendency" features some fun percussive soloing and fuzzier synthesizer lead tones.

"Caged Creator" The longest piece initially conjures up thoughts of home, maintaining an uplifting and halcyon melody bathed in jazz. The middle section is less inviting, driven with a solemn urgency.

"Solemn" Here is a sad, beautiful postlude to an otherwise lively album.

 Fantasizer! by WATSON, DEAN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.97 | 50 ratings

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Fantasizer!
Dean Watson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Raff
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team

4 stars In the almost ten years I have spent reviewing progressive rock albums of every subgenre, I have come across my share of "solo pilot" albums: that is, projects written and performed by an artist without any outside help. Modern technology has made it increasingly easy for anyone with the know-how to record and release their own music, or even to collaborate with other musicians at a distance without ever meeting each other face to face. Unfortunately, the result of such endeavours is often unsatisfactory for a number of reasons.

However, in spite of the hundreds of technically impeccable but ultimately soulless one-man projects released every year under the expansive "prog" umbrella, there are some refreshing exceptions to be found, and one of them is Toronto multi-instrumentalist Dean Watson. I first met him here on ProgArchives, back in 2010, when he had just released his debut album, "Unsettled". Since I had more time on my hands than I have now, I offered to review it, and found a lot to like in the album, in spite of some flaws, such as the recourse to programmed drums. On the other hand, Watson's sophomore effort, 2012's "Imposing Elements", marked an impressive step forward for the Canadian artist: firmly rooted in the progressive jazz-rock tradition inaugurated by seminal albums such as Jeff Beck's "Blow by Blow" or Billy Cobham's "Spectrum" (not to mention the work of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever), it displayed an effortlessly natural flow that belied its "solo pilot" origins. Many of these features can also be found on Watson's third album, "Fantasizer!", released in May 2014.

Slightly longer than either of its predecessors at about 58 minutes, "Fantasizer!" continues the tradition of Watson's collaboration with Toronto visual artist Ron Eady, which this time focuses on a faintly disquieting, yet oddly riveting human face rather than the Gothic-tinged industrial landscapes that graced the covers of his first two albums. The compositions have also become more ambitious, with one track (the intriguingly named "Caged Creator") clocking in at over 11 minutes. Like Watson's debut, Fantasizer! occasionally treads paths familiar to fans of Liquid Tension Experiment and Derek Sherinian's Planet X - influences that are especially evident in the title-track's high-energy moments. The clear, crisp sound quality brings out each instrument in detail, making the most of the rich keyboard layers that form the foundation of Watson's music, and their exhilarating duels with an electric guitar in full flight.

The presence of the piano (a notable addition to the already lush instrumentation) adds a note of stately elegance to those compositions that privilege mood-building rather than adrenalin, such as the mesmerizingly intricate "Freak". Heady mellotron washes mesh with electric piano and synth in the sparse, atmospheric first half of "Nomad" before bass and synth take the lead in coolly sauntering fashion. "Linear Tendency" throws jaunty marimba into the mix, with a bright, sunny feel that introduces one of Watson's finest turns on the six strings. Conversely, "Caged Creator" starts out in a gentle, almost unassuming way, before developing into a vibrant, yet highly cohesive jazz-rock epic that juxtaposes liquid piano and marimba with emotional lead guitar, a sprinkling of heavier-edged riffs, and majestic keyboard soundscapes. Then, at the album's very end, the subdued piano piece "Solemn" shows Watson's skill in creating a wide range of moods.

Dean Watson is a very gifted, very talented musician whose work deserves as much exposure as it can get. Therefore, I cannot but wholeheartedly recommend "Fantasizer!" - easily the most mature of an excellent trio of albums - to all fans of instrumental progressive rock, especially of the jazz-rock persuasion. It is a pity that we will very probably never get to see any of those compositions performed on stage, where I am sure they would sound even more impressive than they do on CD.

 Fantasizer! by WATSON, DEAN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.97 | 50 ratings

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Fantasizer!
Dean Watson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by buddyblueyes

4 stars "I know, my dear Watson, that you share my love of all that is bizarre and outside the conventions and humdrum routine of everyday life." -- Sherlock Holmes Quote

Mr. Dean Watson, likewise, shares a music soundscape outside the conventions and humdrum routine of everyday life. Dean is a one man songsmith, well-versed in the fusion instrumental idiom and capable of driving home a solid, coherent release. Dean's titles get placed in the jazz/rock fusion category, but that's a wide, broad range of music. To clarify, Watson's music is more in the fusion rock territory not-so-much the Jaga Jazzist, The Wrong Object or Trioscapes vicinity of jazz, nor the genre-bouncing Dixie Dregs, or the mind-tripping, instrumental improvisational mastery of Hellborg, Lane & Sipe. Distilling Dean's zeitgeist down to the everyday progger, simply put, it's Planet X-lite. A lot of guitar and key laden pizazz, but without the overly edgy, skull-shattering, crotch-kickin' aggressiveness. Watson's album leaves you without feeling like your ears were just sodomized by big shot musicians who just schooled you in the "house of shred." It's more accessible -- and a nice change for once! I like Watson's approach. I had a similar giddy feeling recently listening to A Triggering Myth's The Remedy of Abstraction. (If ever there was a great pairing for a concert event?) It's the slightly softer side of complexity. It's unlike music that is sitting on my chest and giving me the equivalent of a sonic "wet willie" (moist finger in the ear... did you hear that lick? How about that one?) It's an aural hug, not a slap.

Some Fantasizer highlights: the 7/8 meter of "The Anomaly" was jovial sonic fun. Equally charming was the playful time of "At Odds." The title track's phrasings and solo runs were whimsical and well conceived. The atmosphere of "Twig" was a refreshing cool. "Freak" went in all sorts of directions with solid chordal punctuation and a nice contrast in conversations between the keys and guitar. It's hard not to admire the use of odd time signatures throughout, which don't sound forced, they are very fluid and blend seamlessly with the rest of the compositions. It's hard to got bored with Fantasizer, as a listener as it pays favor to keys, guitar, melody and creative chord structures almost exclusively. Not a lot of drumming or bass features, the rhythm section simply compliments the music, sometimes with complexity, but not really spotlighted. There's not much in the way of percussion or orchestral instrumentation, a la Änglagård or Maudlin Of The Well, as this collection of instrumental songs keeps focused on the meat and potatoes. Not a bad thing in the slightest, but if you're fat off a diet of Ske's 1000 Autunni, know that this is getting back to the nut of it all. Guitars, keys, bass and drums all recorded masterfully and with respectable engineering.

Going back to Planet X, however, (there's an urge to illustrate for those who grew up on the shred diet) Watson differs from them and many instrumental super-groups, though, by remaining just a one man band -- none of the great instrumental guests that Sherinian's solo works calls upon are entertained. It's missing the names of collaborating instrumentalists that musicians want to keep abreast of: Donati, Holdsworth, Jimmy Johnson, etc. Those cats bring so much of their own spice to the table that you know the sonic meal is gonna be tasty. Dwelling on that premise, however, one could even argue that "brand" names are not really even required. Indeed that's true. Outside "name" artists (here in the U.S.), 6-string whiz Kiko Louriero employed a fantastic rhythm section on his Universo Inverso which can leave aspiring musicians mesmerized and studying for months. Even the release Panopticon (add that one to the PA wish list), by new Berklee guitar whiz Alek Darson is pushing new horizons based off old inspirations (Vai, Govan) and has some incredible support by persons with names I will never be able to pronounce. Point is, the best part of instrumental music is the collaboration of ideas from masters of various backgrounds. It's showcasing ideas from a collective experience, something notably respected in the traditional jazz idiom. Fantasizer is a very strong release, but for future albums this reviewer is extra curious to see if the adventures of Mr. Watson will be one of collaboration with hints of improvisation. Collaboration usually leads to innovation, new territories that oftentimes wield pleasant surprises and new sonic landscapes. Now, savvy listeners are aware that budgets these days in the music industry are non-existent, and there are no longer label investments, only out-of-pocket expenses for the artist, so it's understandable when musicians have to forego traditional means of building a band and are forced to create music from a more monastic and all-encompassing role. But collaboration still has it's merits. There are innumerable, undiscovered and extremely talented instrumentalists that can record from home and collaborate remotely. We should encourage the idea of musical interaction and not loose sight of this in an overly convenient digital realm, no matter how realistic sounding the drum replacements are becoming (and, yes, I'm talking to you Plini and David Maxim Micic, as well). There's something about replacing a human musician -- some with decades of experience -- by a simple push of a button "in the box" that upsets this reviewer. Ok, it's a pet peeve of mine (hey, I've already encountered being pushed aside by a digital avatar in Logic -- so I'm starting a crusade)! :) Even replaced, the drumming dynamics are lacking. Quantized cymbal and drum hits, length and duration still feel a little sterile, even if midi velocities are attenuated, it's still inorganic sounding. Souless. Clinical. Machine-like.

(Aww, damn, I'm starting to preach! [waves hands in air] Sorry!. I do have to agree with another reviewer, however, as Fantasizer does contain some of the better sounding programmed drums and most listeners will be hard pressed to know the difference. They were crafted extremely well and compliment the music just fine.)

To recap the highlights, Fantasizer offers well thought-out compositions focusing on songwriting, not balls-out, devil-horns shredding. Yes, there's complex rhythmic structures and solos, but there are magical moments of space, contemplation and provocative arranging. Dean knows how to phrase melody lines that are rewarding to listen to and this is evident from the first track on the album. Fantasizer is a great stepping stone for newbs to dip their tootsies into the fusion waters without getting a mauled by the kraken of complex improvisation, microtonalities and chance theory dissonance. Definitely an album to check out if you're curious about more accessible instrumental songs. If you do take to this musical direction I would also recommend A Triggering Myth, and for something a little heavier, newcomer Alessandro Bertoni's latest release, Lalle Larsson's solo projects, and not-to-forget, the aforementioned Derek Sherinian are similar places to keep your instrumental ears happy for weeks. If you want to expand your horizons and jump fearlessly into the jazz genre, then Chick Corea's Elektric Band is your next logical step from here, of course, all after you've checked out Dean's other great work!

As a new fan I look forward to what Dean Watson will produce next!

 Fantasizer! by WATSON, DEAN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.97 | 50 ratings

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Fantasizer!
Dean Watson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 3.5 really

Third album named Fantasizer from 2014 of this excellent multi instrumentalist, is another worthy release in jazz fusion prog realm. I really like all 3 albums released so far with a plus on Imposing elements, to me his best album so far. Here Dean Watson plays all the instruments and I might say that he is pretty good on every instrument, some more then ok passages overall. What I like more is that Watson has many ideas, covering a wide spectrum of genres from jazz fusion a la return To Forever, to more heavier jazz fusion aproach not far from Derek Sherinian solo albums combined in places with more symphonic parts, the result is good for sure, but not so great as on Imposing elements. Twig, Freak or Nomad are definetly highlights with spectacular guitar arrangements and furious keyboards here and there. All in all definetly worth purchase any of his albums, he is one of most talented musicians in last years and he need a wider recognition world wide. I personaly even find this Fantasizer good towards great, my number on album from him remains Imposing elements. Not to forget another intresting art work. 3.5 stars.

 Fantasizer! by WATSON, DEAN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.97 | 50 ratings

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Fantasizer!
Dean Watson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Fantasizer!' - Dean Watson (75/100)

Upon occasion, I'll open up a review of an album by commenting on its artwork, and this is one such case wherein I'll indulge my love of good cover art. Multi-instrumentalist Dean Watson is presented here as were he in the midst of some transcendental metamorphosis, caught in a place where the lines between the real and imagined are blurred. Watching this solo fusioneer develop since his debut Unsettled back in 2010, I've also watched the Ron Eady's art grow along with it, and while its always possessed a sort of dreamlike atmosphere, it's never looked so bold and memorable. There's always been a weight of importance placed on the artwork in a Dean Watson project; the music and art are two sides of a collective experience, and the aim of the music (if I'm not mistaken) is, in part, to creatively interpret the feelings conjured by the art. With that in mind, when I opened my copy of Fantasizer! and found myself instantly struck by the cover, I knew there was a great hour of music lying in wait for me... and I wasn't wrong!

Dean Watson's music has long stood at the crossroads of intensely composition-based prog fusion. While most acts that bear the vague 'fusion' label tend to come across as jazz bands that discovered the virtue of rock rhythms (but still always rooted in jazz custom), Watson fancies himself a fairly impartial arbiter between jazz and rock, to the point where Fantasizer! could be labelled as one or the other without fault. His influences are much less ambiguous however; King Crimson is apparent in the music's rhythmic discipline and cerebral atmosphere. The shifting piano work is quickly redolent of Chick Corea and, depending on the style he's chosen at the time, his guitar work recalls either Pat Metheny or Joe Satriani. Dean Watson's work is eclectic and varied (I even recall progressive metal traces as far back as the debut), but there's a strong sense of style and identity here, something many an artist who dared to merge genres has sadly done without.

First and foremost (and this may be what separates him most from the jazzmen) Dean Watson is a composer. There are many in jazz and fusion that write material as a staging point for improvisation and spontaneity in the performance. Good improvising is a slice of heaven when it's done right, but Watson doesn't leave anything up to chance. Fantasizer! remains a haven for Watson's expert guitar and synth leads, but I don't think there's a single measure of music that was devised accidentally. Fortunately, Dean Watson has once again proven himself to be a master composer with this sort of style. Fantasizer! will shift between heavy and smooth passages with a near-cinematic grace, sometimes giving the impression there's less complexity at work than there really is. Unlike show-y or overtly technical music (an impression Watson's music has since drifted from), Fantasizer! lets the atmosphere and ease of listening through, although you'd be wholly mistaken to assume there isn't calculus spewing forth from the music's solid undercurrents.

Although Dean Watson hasn't demonstrated as much of an improvement in songwriting these past two years as I heard on the excellent second album Imposing Elements, the execution has been polished. This was an issue I've had with Watson's music since the beginning; while the drums are still undeniably programmed (and suffer for it accordingly), there's a livelier tone to the mix. As tends to be the case with prog fusion, Fantasizer! puts the virtues of the intellect before the heart; even so, there are some beautiful sections that switch the emphasis. For a song with a length that begs the 'epic' label, "Caged Creator" is surprisingly smooth for the most part, though it soon builds to a climax worthy of any progger's ears, complete with eerie mellotron warmth, with a melancholic beauty offset only by the twitchy prog freak-out that shortly follows it. "Solemn" is a fitting denouement to the album, a simple piano composition with a tugging sense of longing and melancholy. If Fantasizer! lacks any consistency in its emotional impact, all is well by the album's end.

Fantasizer! is another great chapter in the career of an artist I've been virtually following since day one. To be certain, it hasn't made as much of an impact on me as Imposing Elements, if only because Dean Watson's second album left that much less room for improvement. At the end of the day, many of the feelings (good and bad alike) I had for the first two records have come to bear once again on Fantasizer!. Regardless, whether you're coming from the jazz, prog or instrumental rock spheres, a truly gifted composer is hard to come by. With that in mind, Dean Watson comes recommended to fans of each and any of the three.

 Fantasizer! by WATSON, DEAN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.97 | 50 ratings

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Fantasizer!
Dean Watson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars Multi-instrumentalist Dean Watson has released an album bi-annually since 2010 with the debut "Unsettled", and followed up with "Imposing Elements" Both albums fuse jazz rock together with eclectic instrumentals. With Dean at the helm playing all instruments. The third studio release is "Fantasizer!" and again it is a one man show with jazzy instrumentals layered over with keyboards and a dose of lead guitar soloing. The drums are electronic but sound effective enough. The album opens with the title track, with splashes of heavy guitar and meandering keyboards with some fast phrases. At just over 8 minutes it is one of the longest tracks on this release.

'Twig' follows with jumpy time signature and staccato keyboards. The synth solo is frenetic and there are some very accomplished lead guitar solos that trade off. It is very up tempo music and there are some twists along the way leading to a lonely melancholy piano passage.

'Freak' focusses primarily on lead guitar with some incredible tremolo work and speedy fret melting playing. The keys counter balance the mayhem with sustained Mellotron pads. Watson tickles the ivories on an isolated piano, then quiet synths wash over like Summer rain. Some guitar breaks the peace with emotional outbursts, sounding a little like Fripp's style of King Crimson.

'Nomad' is replete with extreme jazzy electric piano as a hi hat percussion splashes. This one has a genuine jazz night club vibe and some wonderful violining guitar and Tron keys. It is even reminiscent of Mahavishnu Orchestra in places, the blend of rock and jazz over a complex metrical pattern. I like how it changes mood with sustained strings and then launches into heavier guitars and happy organ sounds.

'At Odds' returns to the rockier side of the music. The time sig is fractured and the guitars dominate on this track. There is even the unmistakeable feel of ELP's 'Tarkus' in the keyboard phrases and sounds. 'The Anomaly' is a synth driven piece, over a steady tempo and exploratory guitars. One section sounds like the riff of 'Lark's Tongues in Aspic' by THAT band again. I guess Watson is inspired by the masters of jazz fusion, King Crimson, and why not?

'Linear Tendency' has more fast paced sporadic lead guitar playing over a jazzy tempo. 'Caged Creator' is the lengthy 11 and a half minute mini epic of the album, and perhaps the one to hear for those who want an example of Watson's dexterity as a musician. It moves from peaceful keyboards to outlandish guitar soloing, showcasing the virtuosity of Watson and his inventive musicianship. 'Solemn' finishes the album with a short piano jazz solo. Watson plays calmly and beautifully a very soft piano, concluding the album on a tranquil note.

Once again Dean Watson has released a very jazzy and well executed album that crosses over into a range of musical styles. I was not as enamoured with this as "Imposing Elements", but I am still impressed with this one man instrumentalist and how he is able to compose some stunning instrumentals.

 Fantasizer! by WATSON, DEAN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.97 | 50 ratings

BUY
Fantasizer!
Dean Watson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

4 stars This is a nice Jazz-Fusion follow-up to 2012's excellent and accessible Imposing Elements.

1. "Fantasizer!" (8:17) is quite a nice, melodic, multi-instrumental-featuring opener. A little PAT METHENY GROUP feel to it--until the heavier section begins at the 3:25 mark, which becomes more prog-like. It also reminds me of some of HIROMI'S SONICBLOOM's work in the Naughties. (9/10)

2. "Twig" (5:39) opens, oddly, as if it is a remake of the previous song! Again, the HIROMI feel is quite strong. The synth vocal choir is awesome. At 1:12 the song breaks to establish a sparse, almost Minimalist soundscape on which a very catchy piano melody hooks us in. At 2:45 a Tarkus-like keyboard section begins and sustains this ELP feel until the 4:00 mark, when another silent, open spaced section allows a piano to speak a few phrases, before the return to a high-powered full-band section based upon the melody from Section B. One of my three favorite songs on the album. (9/10)

3. "Freak" (7:32) opens quite ominously, with some great rhythm and chord progressions, before settling into a driving pace not unlike an ALAN PARSONS instrumental. The guitar lead work is great but, for some reason, it is the backing keyboard work that keeps reaching up to grab my attention--including a very awesome LYLE MAYS-like keyboard solo at the end of the third minute. The slowed down piano-led section in the sixth minute loses some of the song's well-established momentum, but gradually builds back into some tension--which is then relieved by some nice ALLAN HOLDSWORTH-like guitar runs. Unfortunately this section sounds too much like some of the more awesome moments from Imposing Elements (specifically, "Past Present," "Pendulum," and "New Resolution"). (8/10)

4. "Nomad" (7:36) opens with a very jazzy electric piano solo. There is a CHICK COREA/DAVE STEWART kind of feel to this. As the song finishes out it becomes more NATIONAL HEALTH-like. Keyboards definitely rule the roost on this one. (8/10)

5. "At Odds" (4:18) opens with a wonderful bass, drums and organ rhythmic progression. Eventually some nice guitar work spits its way into the song--alone and over the full-band music. Probably my favorite song on the album because of the drum and organ interplay--as well as the odd time signatures and frequent tempo changes. (9/10)

6. "The Anomaly" (4:38) opens on a very upbeat, melodic fashion, with piano and synths establishing the song melodies over very solid drum beat and some very cool bass play. A spacious interlude at 1:15 has a PAT METHENY GROUP feel to it until, again, some electric guitar power chord strums bring us out. Some guitar riffs at 2:35 bring us to another level, setting up some more ALLAN HOLDSWORTH-like guitar soloing. The consistent background piano arpeggios and bass play make this my other top three. (9/10)

7. "Linear Tendency" (5:48) almost a RUSH "Tom Sawyer" intro leads to a very jazzy piano section over a very jazzy rhythm section. Soloing synth mirrors piano, then organ takes a brief turn at lead (awesome midi-bass-marimba chord play in the background!). Another LYLE MAYS-like mid-song keyboard interlude. At 3:30, the now-familiar HOLDSWORTH-like guitar enters, trading solo time with keyboard synths. Familiar Watson sound and structures. (8/10)

8. "Caged Creator" (11:32) is the album's "epic." It begins like a typical PAT METHENY-LYLE MAYS introspective: gently, yet cerebrally. At 1:43 the song finally shifts into second gear with cymbal, piano, bass, and, finally, drum entry. Mid-third minute, the sound empties out for some midi piano-marimba arpeggiation. Rock rhythm section rejoins and then, with electric guitar and then organ leading the way, the song tries to kick into third gear. But, no! It all hiccups again for a few bars until things really kick into Drive at the 4:08 mark. Electric guitar takes over leadership for a while (with organ playing a nice second fiddle), with slight additions from marimba, bass and drums, before yet another interlude has the song bottoming out in a METHENY-MAYS-like potential energy-laden piano and "horn-guitar" section. It's actually quite a nice section--especially as it sustains for a full two minutes, before downshifting into a one minute acoustic (tho mellotron supported) section. Shift back into drive as piano and guitar/bass chords mirror minor progressions, back to major and then return to the intro theme for the last 45 seconds. Good song that has grown on me over the past couple months. (8/10) 9. "Solemn" (3:16) is a beautiful little almost BILL EVANS/HIROMI-like piano outro. I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff. (9/10)

A well-crafted foray onto that elusive bridge over the valley between Jazz Fusion and instrumental Prog Rock that should stand up well over time as has its predecessor, Imposing Elements. I like the engineering/recording/production on this one better than that on IE, but there is something lacking, something exceptional or extraordinary, which keeps me from giving this 5 stars.

4.5 stars rated down for 'Dean Watson' familiarity.

Thanks to easy money for the artist addition. and to raff for the last updates

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