Watson, Dean: Unsettled
I have heard some fine instrumental albums this year and Dean Watson's latest entitled Unsettled is easily one of the best. We last heard from Dean Watson collaborating with drummer Barry Connors (Coney Hatch, Lee Aaron) on the 2008 release Desensitized To Insanity. Unsettled is a solo album in the truest sense of the word has Watson plays all the instruments himself including guitars, keyboards, drums and percussion.
According to the liner notes Watson was inspired by Toronto artist Ron Eady of which is painting entitled Unsettled graces the front cover of the CD jacket. Says Watson "When I first saw Ron's work at his Rosseau Studio I was struck by the power of his images. I felt that the progressive nature of his work complemented my own musical style." Drawing his inspiration from Eady's surreal artwork, Watson has produced an excellent album of progressive fusion. I am particularly captivated with the musicianship which is all the more impressive when you consider this was produced by only one individual. However, if you are thinking this is an all-out shred fest nothing could be further from the truth. That is not to say Watson cannot play fast because at times he does let loose, but the focus is on the songs and arrangements and there are ten excellent ones. His guitar and keyboard work absolutely shines throughout, particularly the keyboards. He uses plenty of instruments to generate a myriad of keyboard sounds that all fit together seamlessly. Solos abound here as Watson flexes his musical muscle but there is never a feeling of excessiveness or overindulgence as every note fits neatly into place.
Right from the start Watson lets loose with the progressive fusion of "The Encounter" with outstanding interplay between guitars and keyboards. The intro of crisp percussion is very cool and the intensity increases with heavy pounding on the keys. "The Push" showcases a jazz/funky groove with scintillating musicianship, especially on the keyboards. Watson also knows when to slow things down as he does on the pretty "Out Of The Mist" with subtle whispers of keyboard in the background and Floyd-like acoustic guitar before heavier chords burst forth and the orchestration intensifies.
My favourite song is the uplifting "Gray Matter" where guitar and keyboards trade solos demonstrating Watson's musical virtuosity . The album ends with the heavy fusion of "11th Heaven Blues" followed by the touching ballad "Still (Unsettled)" with swells of tender keyboards and gently flowing acoustic guitar, demonstrating just how musically diverse this album is.
Watson has made a bold statement with Unsettled as it's an enriching and rewarding listen. This independent artist deserves to be heard and supported; it would be great if he had a label backing him for his next release.
1. The Encounter (5:03)
2. The Push (3:36)
3. Out Of The Mist (8:25)
4. Sequence Of Events (3:25)
5. Dip (6:56)
6. The Departure (4:40)
7. Gray Matter (6:16)
8. Orb (7:47)
9. 11th Heaven Blues (4:00)
10. Still (Unsettled) (2:15)
Added: October 27th 2010
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Artist's MySpace Page
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|Watson, Dean: Unsettled
Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-10-27 16:04:06
A Unique Modern Jazz-Rock Success
Dean Watson is one talented guy if I've ever heard one. As a matter of fact, he's the type of musician that everybody's envious of. With his debut album, Unsettled, Dean plays all the instruments, composes all of the music, and then went on to mix, master, and self release the album all in less than one year. What's even more shocking is that Unsettled is actually an incredible album! Often times these 100% solo works can end up a bit messy in the end, but Dean Watson's proved that a completely solo album can still be very successful if done right.
The music on Unsettled is a pretty diverse jazz rock sound. Expect to hear plenty of influences from progressive rock, metal, and even some ambient and post rock sounds. If you're the type of guy who is only into the 70's jazz rock classics, this diversity may come as an issue for you. For everyone else (myself included), this diversity is part of what makes Unsettled so great. Songs like "Out of the Mist" (which is a beautiful work of art) are extremely unique and highly enjoyable. There are some more traditional-sounding jazz rock tunes (like "Orb", "The Push", and "Sequence of Events"), and these are great as well. For me, instrumental albums usually tend to drag on, but Dean Watson pulls off a 52 minute album with consistency and ease thanks to his diversified sound.
As you could imagine from such a spectacular solo album, the musicianship is pretty great as well. It honestly amazes me that Dean Watson has completely mastered so many instruments. It seems that his keyboard playing often takes the spotlight, but the other instruments are also played professionally.
The production is an acquired taste, but I like it. It's very clean and sharp, but it suits the music pretty well. A warm, welcoming seventies jazz rock production just wouldn't have worked here in my opinion.
Unsettled is a really great album from Dean Watson. It's rare that I hear a solo album this good, and I highly recommend all fans of jazz rock and prog to check this 2010 gem out. The songwriting, performances, and the overall quality of Unsettled makes it one of the best prog fusion albums to come out this year. 4 stars are warranted for such a great release.
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