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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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3.82 | 48 ratings
4.03 | 133 ratings
Imposing Elements
3.97 | 47 ratings

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Fantasizer! by WATSON, DEAN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.97 | 47 ratings

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 | 47 ratings

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 | 47 ratings

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 | 47 ratings

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 | 47 ratings

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 | 47 ratings

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 | 47 ratings

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.

 Fantasizer! by WATSON, DEAN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.97 | 47 ratings

Dean Watson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Gerinski
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Tantalisingly close to 5 stars, this music may be the perfect crossroads for many proggers. You love Jazz-Rock/Fusion but it is sometimes "too jazzy" for you? You love symphonic but it is sometimes "too bombastic"? You love eclectic but it is sometimes "too inconsistent"? You love metal but it is often "too trivial"? And you love instrumental music, with display of virtuosism but without falling into meaningless speed show-offs?

Well, Dean Watson may have a juicy proposal for you. This highly skilled and talented musician and multi-instrumentalist has produced a brilliant one-man effort like few I had heard in recent years.

While the music is clearly Jazz-Rock/Fusion, he covers a very wide spectrum of the genre, from classic JR/F ala CHICK COREA to heavy fusion ala TONY MACALPINE or DEREK SHERINIAN, while occasionally nodding at Symphonic classics such as ELP or UK or Eclectic kings KING CRIMSON.

Watson is so full of ideas but he does not hang on them for too long, no overdone noodling here at all, he changes and breaks continuously before one can get too much of anything, the album is incredibly dynamic switching from slow passages of piano or atmospheric keys to frantic ones with very fast soloing on synth or guitar, continuously. And yet the miracle is that none of those changes feels patchy. Many bands try to combine many ideas but the result seems unconnected, artificially patched. None of this here, the transitions are constant but they feel alright, everything fits.

It also helps that he uses a very wide pallette of keyboard and guitar tones, with lots of e- piano but also strings, percussive Hammond, classic solo synths with lots of great pitch bending, vibraphone and marimba and many more. The guitars are mostly hard-edged in the style of GREG HOWE or MACALPINE but never sounding "heavy metal", they sound great. Odd and complex rhythms abound as well as counterpoints and syncopated notes.

It is clear that Watson's strongest skills are in keyboards and guitars but the bass is also good, and he has done one of the best drum programming works I have ever listened to.

There's not much point in doing a track-by-track review since the whole album follows a consistent philosophy, but if you want to get a feel for the music in just one track listen to the brilliant 11 min+ "Caged Creator".

It's too early to say if this album will stand the test of time for me, and as good as the programmed drums are (I repeat, one of the best I have ever heard), they still lack the dynamics and feel that a great drummer could provide, and drums are a really important instrument to me, so for these reasons I'l stay with 4 stars.

 Fantasizer! by WATSON, DEAN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.97 | 47 ratings

Dean Watson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars I don't recall been disappointed with an instrumental progressive rock album. Or maybe it's because I have good taste to pick the best ones? Dean Watson plays all the instruments on this album and with plenty of talents. But I have to say that the technique here is not as important as the atmosphere. There is nice harmony between mood and textures. In fact, it's those different keyboards and guitars textures that seduce me at first listening to this album. Some songs like the title track "Fantasizer", "At Odds" and "Caged Creator" have some infectious grooves. It's really a nice jazz rock fusion release with progressive rock elements sometimes with some heavy guitars in the line of Tony Macalpine. The piano, the keyboards and some of the music are reminiscent of Chick Corea and the other Canadian Nathan Mahl. You can never get bored with the music here, because of the complex arrangements and the rhythm changes. Another nice addition, it's the use of the beautiful vibraphone throughout this release. I just hope that this unknown artist get more recognition in the future with his third album.
 Fantasizer! by WATSON, DEAN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.97 | 47 ratings

Dean Watson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars Dean Watson is definitely Canada's best kept secret, a superlative multi-instrumentalist that has chosen to shine in arguably the most technically demanding sub-genre in prog , the jazz-rock fusion department. To master electric guitar with so many role models out there, to manipulate ivories with so many icons, to bass around fluidly among the veteran players and drum like a Cobham/Walden/White and co?. well that is no small feat. Yet, as improbable and rare as that might be, Watson is a one-man show of the very highest caliber. His third album is on the heels of the triumphal 2012 'Imposing Elements', a complete tour de force that caught the prog world off guard and stunned and my review certainly contained enough drool to fil a swimming pool (nice rhyme!- editor) . Once again, influenced by artist Ron Eady's tremendous visualizations, Watson embarks on an orgy of brilliant tracks built on jazz principles but enhanced with typical progressive rock ebb and flows, silky contrasts between gentle and muscular, as well as some stellar soloing on all instruments. In fact, there are times when the listener is literally pulled out of his seat, rendered comfortably numb by some cool cat noodling that suddenly explodes into a near frenzy of shredding notes and blitz beats. Dean Watson may very well be one of the most original and accomplished artists around, certainly worthy of more attention and adulation. But the most obvious upgrade from his two previous works is the meritorious inclusion of the electric piano, an instrument that is to jazz/fusion what the mellotron is to symphonic. Watson colors a lot of the arrangements with pools of liquid ivory, giving the arrangements so much more depth and detail than ever before.

The 8 minute + title track has all the mentioned ingredients, setting quite the mood from the get go, busy bass reveling with swirly determination, a playful keyboard style reminiscent of Chick Corea and some unusually harsh guitar riffs that are closer to an Ian Crichton of Saga fame than to an Al DiMeola. Throw in some opaque mellotron and synths that add bombast and density and you have one fine adventurous introduction to a brilliant album. When the jazzy groove settles in, the shriek lead guitar rant is just outstanding, a classic meeting of prog and fusion that shocks the system and stretches new boundaries.

"Twig" has a sweltering bass shuffle that will bewitch the listener and a mellow mood that cries out atmosphere and cinema soundtrack, a platform for a devilish synth solo, and finally, an organ rumble with a marimba tone that seeks out applause. The piano enters the fray in solemn splendor, sensually deliberate as a brief respite for the bombastic revisit of a glorious theme full of edge and drama.

This leads straight into the highly proggy extravaganza where Watson searches out clearly symphonic attitudes, which is why this stuff is soooooooo utterly cool. "Freak' has a piano mid-section that will test one's level of enjoyment, a deliriously enchanting foray into a world where simplicity and complexity meet and join hands. Keyboard textures rule until Dean finally lets his fiery axe defy restraint and burst out some lava-inflamed leads. This mood bleeds right into the simmering and shimmering "Nomad" , a highlight track in my opinion, full loaded with that magical e-piano I mentioned earlier, conjuring reflective images of sun, sand and oasis. Enormous contrasts in mood and style, I just could not help rekindling images of Santana's monumental classic 'Caravanserai', a valid reference point for this alarmingly fabulous album. The second section is just pure laid-back fusion funk, a blistering foray of resolute coolness, Watson blitzing mightily on his fret board as well as the ivories. I am in awe of such talent.

A couple of shorter bruisers ensue, "At Odds" exalts with some petulant organ displays, definitely a harder edge at play here , with lots of flair and spurting guitar anger, bad ass bass and some serious 'cymbal-itis". Chugga-chugga jazzy explorations that recall the classic 70s fusion greats, all the usual British and American suspects are winked at, which should qualify as the loftiest praise possible. In fact, I would state for the record (pun) that this is among the finest recordings ever produced by the genre, as it grows on you with repeated listens.

The highest point is attained with the stellar "The Anomaly", a phenomenal sympho-jazz anthem, a clever little synthesizer-led ditty which suddenly utters one of the most classic prog riffs ever, I name Larks Tongues in Aspic part 2, and develops a sharp, raunchy and gritty ride, nothing antiseptic or sterile clean, this is oily, messy, dirty stuff that Jeff Beck would be proud of (Is that more praise, ya think?).

The vibrant and bodacious "Linear Tendency" has a closer relationship to Soft Machine or more precisely its legendary off-shoot Isotope, closer to the British jazz-rock school that has produced so many great albums and bands. Once again, the marimba patched organ and synth are sensational aspects of the diversity and technical knowhow discharged by Mr. Watson, a sheer delight to any progressive set of ears.

The marathon piece is the aptly named "Caged Creator", an instrumental homage to a solitary performer 'caged' in some melodious bunker, armed with a plethora of instruments of aural pleasure (I am glad I spelled that correctly!) and inspired to reach new and yet unexplored horizons. This 11 minute monster aptly showcases the tremendous talent and creativity of a well-honed and inspired artist. I am generally very fussy with this genre, as I possess very high expectations for arguably the most technically proficient of any music masters. Watson elongated guitar foray is enough to slay any critic, his playing is brash, attractive and refreshingly invigorating. Loads of piano, febrile bass, slick beat and a wondrous sense of adventure. The arrangement is brimming with flavor, zestily exciting and unpredictable.

This masterpiece is then finalized by a 'roll the credits' au revoir, the imaginative "Solemn" completing the experience to perfect effect. As the title implies, we are sent on our way with serenity and a glorious sense of satisfaction. A delicate piano anthem with echoes of nostalgia, hope and achievement.

Bravo Dean!

5 Fictional Fender Rhodes

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

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