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Dean Watson - Sum of Parts CD (album) cover


Dean Watson

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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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.

Report this review (#1728173)
Posted Tuesday, May 30, 2017 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
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.

Report this review (#1731882)
Posted Friday, June 9, 2017 | Review Permalink
Heavy Prog Team
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

Report this review (#1732015)
Posted Saturday, June 10, 2017 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. A step down in my opinion, and while it would be fair to say that there's not much to choose between Dean Watson's first four studio albums I do feel that this 2017 release is the first one where for my tastes we get some tracks that are just "okay". And the programmed drums haven't been a problem for me up until now but on here I noticed them a few times sounding not real. I was playing this record and "Fantasizer!" often back to back this past week so maybe it's more that "Fantasizer!" is just that much better and it's hard not to compare them when I was basically doing that all week. Anyway another great sounding record and virtuoso guitar and keyboard work abound but I'll stick with the first three and be very happy in doing so. The first three tracks fail to capture my imagination but then "Song For A Day" comes along restoring my faith and it continues with "Click Clack" where we get some darker and heavier moments. I like "Sense Of Urgency" a lot and "D Day" is hit and miss but mostly hit. But the closer "Afterthought" is going out on a high.
Report this review (#2538000)
Posted Sunday, April 25, 2021 | Review Permalink

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