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Simon Says

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4 stars In 1995 I ordered a album from the small record label Bishop Garden. It was the debut album "Ceinwen" from a Swedish band called SIMON SAYS. I remember I used to play the album quite often; actually it was probably one of the albums I played most frequently that year. As the time passed by and new records were bought I forgot "Ceinwen" and didn't listen to it until I heard that the band still existed and were going to release a new album on the small but high-quality label Galileo Records. SIMON SAYS new album "Paradise Square" sounds as a natural follow-up, and nothing indicates that it has gone 7 years between the two albums except that this album is even better than the debut. Their music is symphonic rock with catchy choruses and hooks, but there are also lengthy intricate instrumental passages. The band is reminiscent to GENESIS and MARILLION, but they have their own unique sound and I can easily separate them from almost any other band. If you haven't heard SIMON SAYS before I suggest a listening. (The drummer Mattias Jarlhed has also done two magnificent albums with the band VALINOR's TREE, which is highly recommended).
Report this review (#16009)
Posted Thursday, January 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars I thought that this group was dead after a sole album that had left me no imperishable souvenir but none displeasing either. I was aware of one or two members playing in another band (Valinor's Tree) so I was not expecting to see anything more from them especially 8 years after.

On with the music, and oine can say that they stayed true to their sound , even though they changed guitarist and drummers , but now many more bands have filled the gap left empty after such a long absence (meaning that back in 95 , they were the only one to sound like themselves which is not the case anymore). I might say that Valinor's Tree's second album and Twin Age's third actually sound much alike. I have less feelings for this second album (another concept album - like their debut) due to the fact of the extreme amount such prog music on offer in this present era, that this quickly slid from my deck onto the outgoing pile of disc to trade. It will probably be joined soon by their debut. I have rounded up to three stars - not that it deserves less or more but I find this relatively pointless with a rather tedious concept.

Report this review (#16013)
Posted Thursday, October 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
4 stars This CD from the Swedish band SIMON SAYS is another gem from the amazing Mellotron- loaden Skandinavian progrock scene. In my opinion "Paradise Square" is one of the best releases from 2002! Most of the 7 songs are long, alternating and elaborate pieces with lots of surprising ideas: classical guitar and piano, a jazzy intermezzo, sensitive Spanish guitar or sitar and tablas. The 24-carat symphonic sound is very inspired by mid-GENESIS but has also echoes from ANGLAGARD (sumptuous Mellotron waves), SPOCK'S BEARD (shifting moods and fiery electric guitar), MARILLION (keyboards) and MANFRED MANN'S EARTH BAND (Minimoog flights with pitchbend). The vocals are at some moments a bit theatrical but in general strong and convincing. Funny self-mockery: SIMON SAYS has integrated some musical moments from GENESIS albums ("The Lamb..." and "Foxtrot") but the way they have done this, showcases the mature compositional skills. I hope SIMON SAYS is still alive and will release a new album.
Report this review (#16014)
Posted Saturday, October 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars An interesting album this. Having heard that it was 'Genesis with a modern, Swedish, twist', I thought I would indulge myself and buy it. Well, the links to Genesis are tenuous, to say the least, although there are moments on the keyboards when Tony Banks is called to mind. Musically, it is a concept album, and quite a well done one, as well. The vocals take some getting used to, as the singer has quite a strong accent and does not possess the best voice I have ever heard, but the music makes up for this. I won't single out any tracks, as they are all part of the story, but there are some nice touches here and there, although the use of the gong once or twice rather drowns out the music going on around it. The guitar work is probably the weakest thing here, sounding far too modern and heavy for my liking, and indistinguishable from many other modern guitarists. Not bad technically though. Bass and drums are up to scratch, but, as mentioned before, the, at times Banksian, keyboards make up for everything else, with some nice melody lines and intricate playing going on. Fast and slow passages, quiet and loud passages, these are all present here, and the record deserves a listen at least. It wouldn't be easy, however, to listen to a single track on its own satisfactorily, as they should all be heard together. The album needs listening to in one go. Not the best cd I have heard, but nowhere near the worst either. One I played today, in fact, and one I may play again in a month's time. Best not to try comparing it to other bands, best just to listen to it for its own sake, and on its own merits. As I said at the start, interesting.
Report this review (#53042)
Posted Sunday, October 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. This is a concept album about a man named Simon who has a dream, and in his dream he is searching for God. So because it's a dream there are a lot of fantasy type moments. We are helped by the liner notes that give us a narration of what Simon is thinking or doing etc .This is better than actually having a person speaking before each song letting us in on what is going on. There is an accent to the vocals but it was not a distraction to me. I really enjoyed the mellotron that is featured on every track except the only instrumental "Darkfall".

The song "Paradise Square" is my favourite, with the GENESIS sounding keyboards, this tune is a trip with lots of twists and turns."Fly In A Bottle" is pretty good, opening with acoustic guitar and vocals that leads to a full sound. The last two songs are over 25 minutes combined and both have their moments, again the mellotron is great, and there are some very good piano melodies, some sitar and even orchestral movements.

Overall this is a good record that is worth pursuing.

Report this review (#100719)
Posted Monday, November 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars What are you looking at? Yes, 5 full stars! Why not if it deserves them?

Greatly recorded/produced/played/written sympho-prog album from Sweden (Scandinavian prog is a synonym of quality for me!) will take you in the world of GENESIS mixed with Scandinavian retro-prog and some modern touches (drum loops and funny keyboards on ocassion). It opens with great half-ballad/half-proghit "By the Water" (imagine a mix of Gentle Giant and Yes ending like Genesis classical tune!) followed by the title track - REALLY GREAT!!! Roaring bass with Hackettesque guitars with mighty organ on the background...after short ballad break the mid-part follows (imagine "Apocalypse in 9/8" played by Angledoten! ;-) ),and then the logical ballad outro (what a wonderful melody!!!). The third track is the weirdest.First I was annoyed by the vocalist voice ("where the hell his emotions?can he sing?he sounds like cheesy 80s pop-singer!"), but later it all took its places.Some Gentle Giant-like pieces scattered through this track and Harold-the-Burrel- like mood makes this epic very memorable! Following ballad is the only song which requires REALLY EMOTIONAL vocals - Daniel is unable to provide them, so the song sounds a bit drained.Short sitar instrumental with modern drums makes you relax before the longest song of the album.Starting with peaceful melody a-la "Supper's ready" intro, "White Glove" progresses with great instrumental parts ending with major part in 7/8 (pure YESism!). Closing "Aftermath" begins with a bit sentimental ballad which turns later into awesome insrtumental coda - Pink Floyd smokes! The only thing you want after listening this album is to listen to it once more!!! Highly recommended for all New Symphonic/Symphonic/Neo/Art-rock fans.It is a must from the recent prog. Comparable in its greatness to DISCIPLINE's "Unfolded like Staircase" and ANGLAGARD's "Hybris"

Report this review (#104599)
Posted Tuesday, December 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars Analog keyboards and acoustic guitar always makes for an interesting combination, and both are present on the opening track and throughout this interesting work. I’ve no idea where the band disappeared to for nearly eight years, but that long after their debut comes this second and presumably final album from the band.

This is a concept album of sorts, something akin to a modern-day Pilgrim’s Progress. The story is a bit hard to follow unless you read along with the liner notes, which is distracting so I don’t recommend it. The influences are rather obvious but not overpowering: clearly Banks keyboard tendencies, although quite pleasant. The piano parts remind me of Salem Hill quite a bit, although I doubt they were an influence. The guitarist is new since the first album, and has some mild leanings in the direction of Marillion, but nowhere as aggressive. The vocalist has a slight accent and sounds a bit dated like too many early nineties MTV bands to really impress, but not really a distraction either. At times he sounds like he’s trying to emulate Gabriel’s story-vocal gesturing, but he’s not all that forceful or convincing.

None of the tracks stands out particularly, although the arrangement of the album as a whole is a bit of a throwback with four ten-minute plus meandering tales and two shorter ones, plus one very short kind of bridge piece.

The piano outshines the other keyboard work in my opinion, although it is more like easy listening than progressive really. There are a number of places where the band wanders off with some keyboard effects and somewhat discordant arrangements that might be King Crimson influenced, or might just be partially improvised instrumental passages to try and heighten the storyline.

The most memorable tracks are the lengthy and varied title track; the eleven-minute “Striking Out A Single Note For Love” with keyboards that are very reminiscent of Salem Hill’s ‘Robbery of Murder’ or ‘Mimi’s Magic Moment’ but vocals that border on Joe Jackson ala ‘Big World’ and some very jazz-like passages; and the piano-and-organ laden “White Glove”.

This is a very decent album, a little obscure but easy to find than the band’s first album, and altogether a solid symphonic work. It doesn’t quite reach the level of essential since there isn’t anything specific to make it stand out from dozens of similar bands from the eighties and early nineties, and the timing of this release makes it stand out as seemingly a late bloom from a band that debuted, peaked, and disappeared several years prior. All told this is a typically three-star work, so that’s what we’ll give it. Worth picking up if you run across it, but I wouldn’t go out of my way looking.


Report this review (#112055)
Posted Tuesday, February 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars Half done in serious "Simon Says" style (keyboards sound, very distinct singing voice which maybe even solely makes the atmosphere on their three studio albums) and half in India (you know, raga, citar ...) + funny, circus like sounds. This results in weird hybrid and I'm not sure I like it at all. Mostly yes, even as far as I hear, there is not catchy tune (like with "Suddenly the Rain"). It's not as good as Tardigrade I have to say, full of slower tracks, it doesn't work together with faster ones from some reason. Is also can be quite weary, as it again depends on longer compositions. No, I'm not saying here that this album is bad and should be avoided. Acoustic guitars are here, but not so prominent (I hear them from time to time, but keyboards are here far more). Piano-like (it can be again keyboards, but let's differ normal synths and piano play on keys (keys set on some kind of board). Drums are pleasant addition, even sometimes sounds so artificial. Keyboards are probably the biggest attraction here. And vocal department, of course.

4(-), maybe a little bit worse. This album doesn't work as it should, that's for sure.

Report this review (#268824)
Posted Saturday, February 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
4 stars After writing reviews for some years one will learn that is better not to write down a review about a CD you don´t like at first. Because after some time you´ll pick it up again and when you listen to it on some other time there is a chance you might change your mind. And that´s what just happened with Paradise Square. I remember I bought it almost at the same time as its follow up, the then newly released Tardigrade. And I didn´t like it, while I enjoyed Tardigrade a lot. I´m glad I didn´t write about PS at the time, because it wouldnt be a fair one.

Ever sine I pick it up again I found I´m enjoying this album more and more. Ok, it is not as powerful as what folloed it, but still ti is a very charming and strong symphonic rock work. This swedish group really knows how to balance the new soundswith their strong 70´s roots. Genesis around the time of Wind & Wuthering is a very obvious influence: many keyboards and guitars timbres are so close to those of Banks & co that it´s almost scaring. But they don´t use only this source all the time like most Genesis clones. In fact, their mellotrons waves and languid guitar solos are put together with other elements like surprising experiments, sudden noises, jazzy pieces, flamenco guitar and even sitar sounds here and there. Besides, singer Daniel Fäldt has a voice and vocal deliverance that resembles nothing like Gabriel nor Collins. In fact his style is quite unique and interesting.

The band also has a great flair for writing the great tune and develop the surprising, tasteful arrangement to boot. No small feat! This is a concept album and, as such, I must say that, musically, it does not work perfectly all the time. Nevertheless, it´s one of those rare albums where you´ll hear familiar sounds on it most of the time and still find it original, intriguing and very appealing. The musicians are all masters of their instruments and quite creative. Production and mixing are excellent!

If you like good old styled synphonic prog translated into some modern band with lots of personality and eager to experiment without distorcing their roots, you shoud not miss Paradise Square. But listen carefully! Rating: something between 4 and 4,5 stars. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#269432)
Posted Wednesday, March 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars In this second studio albun, "Paradise Square", the Swedish band SIMON SAYS, presents a work, that approaches the sonority found in his third albun "Tardigrade." Maybe that fact is due the change of drummer , the one that seems left the band sound more "freest" , and for guitarist's change, that turned the guitar melodies (electric and acoustics) more pleasant (due to characteristic form of developing the themes) with larger space in the arrangements. In fact, the new guitarist Jonas Hallberg, presents (in my opinion) a larger "amount" of technical resources (lots of volume pedals for instance) and a melodic line more closer of Steve Howe's style ( hears the final passage of the track 1 "...and by the Water", where the guitar presents an effect very similar to that used in the end of "Close to the Edge") & Steve Hackett ( is enough to just hear the introduction of the track 2 "Paradise Square" Continue evident in this disk the same influences that I observed "Ceiwen", however due the alterations in the line-up of the band the main influence of GENESIS appears more lessened and the instrumental "scenery" presents larger proximity with YES, EMERSON LAKE & PALMER and even GENTLE GIANT. A brilliant disk, full of beautiful moments. My rate is 5 stars!!!
Report this review (#307684)
Posted Sunday, October 31, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars For many within the Progressive Rock Fan community, Paradise Square by the Swedish group 'Simon Says' is an example of Progressive Rock that fails to progress. Such an approach to the genre, of course, misunderstands the original meaning of the word 'Progressive' within a context where it referred to an initiative to create a style of 'art-for-art's- sake' music in which commercial success was not ofuppermost concern. The label, 'Progressive' Rock, therefore, indicates a style of music which demands the listener's attention and valuation according to its own structural dynamics and compositional sophistication while retaining many of the same sonic qualities and power of Rock (or even 'Pop') music in general. That this initiative led to a radically new art form does not suggest 'newness' was its primary objective ? indeed, the early masterworks of Progressive Rock were always indebted to much of the music that came before and did not offer anything purely original. (The obsession with 'newness' incidentally, addresses a greater concern with 'fashion' with all its commercial connotations). That Paradise Square shares much with the music of Gabriel era 'Genesis' should not, then, lead to its dismissal as un- progressive. The album clearly strives to adopt a similar soundscape, conceptual approach and compositional structure that is highly reminiscent, for example, of Genesis' Suppers Ready ? its frequent employment, for example, of the Mellotron to create an ethereal sonic quality, or its development of a dreamlike and almost incomprehensible narrative - and despite its failure to achieve the same vocal resonance, lyrical brilliance and instrumental beauty of the latter, still offers a highly estimable piece of Progressive Rock. Paradise Square is an album within the same musical mode as Gabriel era Genesis and, assessed according this mode and not by criteria it obviously does not intend to meet, it successfully fulfils its intention. As a listener to a symphonic poem by Delius should not condemn it simply because it adopts a musical form first developed by Liszt, we should appreciate Progressive Rock not according to its 'originality' but by how well it achieves cohesiveness within the mode to which it adheres. And just as a symphonic poem by Delius shares much in common with those composed by Liszt yet will always 'sound' distinctive from it in ways that many will regard as less powerful (while others, of course, will regard it as of greater artistic merit), I feel justified in regarding Paradise Square as a very good Progressive Rock album, a la mid-period Genesis, and of high artistic value even if it fails to achieve ( and here, of course, I only indicate my own personal taste) the same greatness as the mode's founding creations.
Report this review (#597411)
Posted Wednesday, December 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Simon Says is a swedish symphonic prog act with 20 years career and only 3 albums released so far. I know this band since they release their second album from 2002 named paradise square. Between this album and their first one is 8 years, and almost no one guessed that they will come with a follow up mainly because some of the members from Simon Says were involved in another band named Valinor's Tree similar in musical style with this album. Now, if the music, the instrumental sections are pretty much ok most of the time, seams to me that the voice is little forced in places but not bad. This type of symphonic prog very muck in The Flowers King, Spock's Beard vein is ok , pleasent but is the kind of prog music that doesn't progress, something is missing in the over all sound. The passages are complex, intricate with nice moods and shift, the keyboards and guitars have an important role here, pieces like Paradise Square or White glove are perfect examples. I like the album but I can't give more then 3 stars. Good band , good album but nothing really is impressive here.
Report this review (#777089)
Posted Monday, June 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Things did not turn out very well for Simon Says after ''Ceinwen'' with Ola Johansson being sacked due to his arguments with Stefan Renstroem and Nils Stenstroem moving to Goethenburg.A new line-up was set up for a brief time by Daniel Faeldt, but in 1996 the band was put on ice, as Renstroem was not quite satisfied with the direction of the new core.He focused on his work with his other band, The Moor.Years later he decided to revive Simon Says and sent an mail to Faeldt, who had moved to India.Without any second thoughts Faeldt returned to Sweden and the new line-up included also The Moor's Jonas Hallberg and Ulf Nylen on guitar and drums respectively.As Nylen had a hard time to absorb Simon Says' material , he was replaced by Valinor's Tree's Mattias Jarlhed and the recordings of the new album were finished in 2001.Demo tapes were sent to Galileo Records and ''Paradise square'' saw the light the following year.

Simon Says did not abandon the long forms of Progressive Rock music and still produced stretched and interesting compositions, they did update though their sound a bit, moving somewhat from their old-fashioned GENESIS stylings for a more contemporary style, which still involved huge analog echoes on Mellotron and organ, delivered with a cleaner and more modern production.They were caught though in the trap of sounding extremely close to SPOCK'S BEARD and THE FLOWER KINGS, offering arrangements with alternating synth and Mellotron/organ textures, strong symphonic tendencies and some lighter poppy tunes.The material is still well-written with captivating melodies and professional executions, ranging from pretty dramatic themes with atmospheric instrumental passages to more optimistic and accesible tunes.Lots of bombastic keyboard parts, sudden shifts in tempos and a few jazzy vibes result a work, that has been written with intelligence and passion till' the last detail.Good and sometimes adventurous guitar parts with melodic and post-psychedelic leanings and an efficient rhythm section complete the picture of the group, that now seems influenced by a wider spectrum, including GENESIS, YES, KAIPA and FOCUS.However the resemblances with SPOCK'S BEARD''s or THE FLOWER KINGS' music get a bit disturbing in the process.

Rich and interesting Progressive Rock by a work, that could be seen as emblimatic regarding the style.Far from original, but very interesting with a few nice highlights like the great title-track.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#1108627)
Posted Monday, January 6, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars I like a lot about Simon Says (I gave 5 stars to Tardigrade), except maybe the name. There is an adolescent-oriented American alternative band of same name that comes up more often in internet searches. The Swedish Simon Says are not exactly prolific, an on-again, off-again project releasing 3 albums over the course of 20 years. On Paradise Square they sound as a kind of stripped- down mid-period Genesis. Production sounds retro and sparse (but you can distinguish everything), a direct contrast with ultra- bombastic Yes-like Tardigrade. Songs are mostly very long, loosely structured and frankly some transitions feel like filler. Maybe this impression could be explained that the album is structured like a play, judging by linear notes. Fortunately, there are many moments I enjoy, such as the wah-wah and backward guitar intro to Paradise Square, jazzy playfulness of beginning to Striking Out a Single Note for Love, and, my favorite, the bit in White Glove where members trade off solos, including on sitar and tabla.
Report this review (#1178506)
Posted Friday, May 23, 2014 | Review Permalink

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