Reviews of Paradise Square

... This CD has tons of passion and depth. The music flows and the listener is drawn farther into the sonic wonder known as Simon Says ... All in all this is one of the best releases I've heard thus far in 2002. -- Stephen Ellis (Captain MDA)
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Even though Paradise Square is the second album from Simon Says, they must be called the new discovery from Sweden. The album will hit like a bomb - a full hit in symphonic rock. -- The Ragazzi web site
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I'm really very impressed by the CD from Simon Says! -- Andre Steijns, Paperlate .
This is what's prog music is all about......nice album right in the heart. -- Frank Boonzaaijer, Desperadio .
At the moment Simon Says are one of the most promising band of classic progressive rock so if you love this genre of music, you cannot ignore them! -- AOR Web Site
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Among several dozens of the followers, imitators, and wretched wannabes of Genesis ... this Swedish band looks as one of the most open-minded and successful interpreters of the legacy of the band that pioneered a theatrically dramatic school of Symphonic Progressive. -- Vitaly Menshikov, ProgressoR
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A true masterpiece. Wholly delicate and melodic musical passages, fantastic solos and singing. -- (I.D.) Acid Attack Music, England
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Simon Says provides the listener 60 minutes of symphonic rock suitable for all ages and Paradise Square is an insurance if you want to listen to a great album with 70's flavor. -- Alfonso Algora, Progvisions
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Review
The music lives it's own life and wanders between jazz, rock and some classical input, in other words - Progressive Rock! And it's good! -- Torbjörn Häggmark, The Swedish Yes Society
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This album is a hot candidate for "Album of the Year", since the band manages to revive the old freshness of the Retro sound with new ideas. -- Progressive Pages, Germany
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Paradise Square is a classic mix of heavily orchestrated moments interspersed with quiet counterpoint, which is then pushed to the edge with odd or quirky musical segments. ... Save a spot for Paradise Square on your CD shelf. -- Jerry Lucky, Author of The Progressive Rock Files
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So far, I feel this is the best new release of 2002. Echolyn's Mei used to hold that spot, but this one just blew me away. GO GET IT ! -- UnderAGlassMoon at Progressive Ears
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Every now and then an unknown artist or band steps out of the obscurity and delivers a truly magnificent album. It happened with Mangala Vallis, it happened with Grand Stand, it happened with the Watch and this time it's time for Simon Says. -- John "Bo Bo" Bollenberg at Progressive World
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... let it be said at once: this is high quality neoprog. Melodic, thematic, progressive, yep, Simon Says this is good. -- Bjoern Noersterud, Scream Magazine, Norway
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Loads of synth tones ... check. Dynamic changeups ... check. Tempo and key modulations ... check. Keyboard/guitar harmonies ... check. Yes, this is stylistic progressive rock at its best. -- Bill Knispel, Progression Magazine Issue 41
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The songs veer from vocal segments to instrumental workouts with an easy fluidity and the arrangements deliver hook-driven melodicism or intricate syncopation with an equal command and skill. -- Paul Hightower, Exposé, Issue 27
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Let me start by saying this is an excellent CD. It is a CD that while "familiar" and comfortable will also take the listener on an interesting musical journey to places they may have heard about but never experienced. While I liked this CD from the first listen, each subsequent listen has brought me deeper and deeper into the complexities and subtle movements that exist in every song.

From the opening notes (sorry, Patrick sent me a CDR so I do not have a track listing nor song titles) the heritage of this music is clear. Influenced by classic prog bands such as Genesis, Yes, and Camel, it is clear just from where this band draws it's inspiration. At the same time the listener is treated to more modern "prog band" influences such as Spock's Beard, some guitar work reminiscent of Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings, and even some of the feel of bands like Echolyn.

This CD has tons of passion and depth. The music flows and the listener is drawn farther into the sonic wonder known as Simon Says. And just as you settle into a wonderful soft musical passage, they throw in a complex series of off tempo and counter point keyboards or guitar, or even tablas and sitar sounds. There are times when a more "jazzy" feel pops up but only enough to let the listener know these guys are much more complex than it might appear from an initial listen.

At times the guitar intro to a song just overflows with a "Steve Hackett sound, yet migrates to a new and fulfilling place best described as "just too cool". Heavy keyboards in the classic prog arena while again not a simple clone of what had come before. Even knowing that Patrick had sent me a CDR, I would still reach for the jewel case to try and find out what exact keyboards were in use and who might be the excellent players in this band. I must order a proper release of this CD today!

The vocalist has a distinct tonal quality and timbre to his voice. It is obvious that he is not attempting to sound like anyone else. He has a complex range and a vocal clarity this listener truly prefers. Coupled with the wondrous sonic quality of the musicians around him this is a great listen from beginning to end.

This CD is not heavy on the rock and roll side of prog rock music. That said, it is almost impossible to not find a groove that allows the listener to, if not at least mentally, sway back and forth in time to the music much like a palm tree in a warm ocean breeze.

All in all this is one of the best releases I've heard thus far in 2002. Up front understand that this is not in anyway "avant styled prog". This CD has a well defined structure, has logical melodies and songs that flow effortlessly from one to the next. There is not a bad song on this CD and if you are a fan of classic prog bands, neo-prog bands, or just great music that has both musical and lyrical legs on which to stand, buy this CD. I know I will be getting myself a copy ASAP.

-- Stephen Ellis (Captain MDA)

These guys have a sense of humour. Somewhere in the second song (the title track, "Paradise Square"), they sing: "Stand up and fight" to a funny swinging rhythm that sounds more like "Love me, Baby", you're not quite sure what to make of it at first.

That feeling continues in the following song, "Striking Out A Single Note For Love". After seven minutes the song changes (yet once more), this time to seek it's way into a drunken rhythm, that makes a ridiculous mouth harmonica sound fantastic, in spite of a cheap melody. The rhythm might as well be lifted from a sleazy song of the '70's, were it not for the small unique moments. Simon Says deceives the listeners and brings them on a journey that is unusual, but nevertheless the more convincing in it's scheme. I'll say nothing about the end of the song, this appropriate musical wit must be experienced by everyone for themselves.

The most beautiful part of the album is the transition from song 6 ("White Glove") to song 7 ("Aftermath"), the fading mood is broken by a dramatic instant, characterized by an extraordinary tension.

The Swedes' second album offers surprises by the score. For example singer Daniel Fäldt, who has got a really remarkable voice. In an entertainer's contest he would have good chances to win in the jazz/chanson category. A strong tenor with unique individual nuances, a sympathetic voice of convincing power. Unusual for progressive rock. It's not necessary to mention that the instruments are played perfectly. The biggest surprise of all are the compositions. All seven songs, from the 2-minute electronic song "Darkfall" to the 15 minute long "White Glove" (four ten minute songs!) are really amazingly constructed, with several magnificent moments, quick turns, mystifying melodies, clever changes, slight disharmonies - everything just to create the Big Harmony with greater power. Every cake needs a pinch of salt for the right taste - thus the little breaks of style are inserted.

The concept album tells the story of a character named - Simon, the very interesting and in no way stupid story is printed in it's entirety in the booklet. I have always wondered why the predecessor of 1995 [Ceinwen] disappeared unnoticed, because even that really had what it takes. Paradise Square is an absolute enhancement. The biggest surprise, though, is: the astounding similarity to Genesis regarding the arrangements. Simon Says has listened thoroughly to Genesis. In some parts they have created their arrangements almost so that they could be mistaken for Genesis'.

In some passages it seems like a short moment has been lifted to play the nuance appropriately. Yet there remains distance enough, above all in the many melodies that only stand for Simon Says; the humourous twists, original moods and unusual nuances. Even though Paradise Square is the second album from Simon Says, they must be called the new discovery from Sweden. The album will hit like a bomb - a full hit in symphonic rock.

-- The Ragazzi web site
Translated from the original German

Simon Says hail from Sweden and arrive with their second CD Paradise Square after signing with Swiss label Galileo Records and, just like their debut Ceinwen, it is a concept album developed along seven tracks for more than an hour of music influenced by Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant, Echolyn, PFM and Camel, but don't think of Matthias Jarlhed (dr), Jonas Hallberg (gt), Daniel Fäldt (vc, sitar) and Stefan Renström (bs, keyb) as a combo of carbon copies of mentioned artist, because influences are filtered through a strong personality and executive ability.

Production is very good and you can hear each single note and each passage written by the four piece that gives great space to expressivity (and singer Fäldt is really good for this), althought changes of times, moods and atmospheres dominate the album with four out of the seven songs lasting more than ten minutes. Also Renström did a great job on keyboards not only as performer, but also in the choice of the sounds used to underline the different movements of the songs.

As often happens, it's hard to make an analysis of the songs one by one which alternate aggressive and symphonic/pompous moments, quite and meditative phrases with jazzy tunes and powerful breaks somehow recalling Anglagard, intriguing movements like Flower Kings and enthusiastic passages close to Echolyn. For example, "White Glove" is a suggestive song that in its fifteen minutes includes all I have just written supported by a mighty technical skill.

At the moment Simon Says are one of the most promising band of classic progressive rock so if you love this genre of music, you cannot ignore them!

-- AOR Web Site

Paradise Square is the second album by the Swedish band Simon Says. Their debut album, Ceinwen, was released in 1998. Stylistically, the music that is presented on the Paradise Square album is much in the vein of the classic Symphonic Art-Rock of the 1970s, though Genesis's influences are especially evident here. But while Daniel Fäldt's vocals clearly reminds me of those of Peter Gabriel, most of the instrumental arrangements on the album are rather original. None of the names of the most influential musicians-virtuosos, such as Tony Banks and Rick Wakeman, Steve Hackett and Steve Howe, Mike Rutherford and Chris Squire, etc, come into my mind when I hear the keyboard and bass guitar solos by Stefan Renström and guitar solos by Jonas Hallberg. All the parts by these musicians, as well as Mattias Jarlhed's drumming, are tasteful and truly masterful throughout the album. Among several dozens of the followers, imitators, and wretched wannabes of Genesis, with the creation of which I am familiar, this Swedish band looks as one of the most open-minded and successful interpreters of the legacy of the band that pioneered a theatrically dramatic school of Symphonic Progressive.

However, not all of the tracks, that this album consists of, are about that legendary style. The instrumental textures of "Fly In a Bottle" (track 4) consist for the most part of quiet, yet, diverse and very effective interplay between passages of acoustic guitar and the oboe-like solo of synthesizer. It has a slight medieval feel to it both instrumentally and vocally. Here, Daniel doesn't imitate the voice and the way of singing of Gabriel, but goes his own vocal way, despite the fact that Gabriel and Daniel still remain rather rhyming words. The only instrumental piece on Paradise Square, "Darkfall" (5), represents a blend of Eastern and European music. Filled with wonderful solos of Sitar and symphonic passages of synthesizer, it just breathes with uniqueness. The arrangements of the 16-minute epic song "White Glove" contain a few episodes that sound truly unique. The magic solos of Sitar, wonderful interplay between passages of classical guitar and piano, and other outstanding features make "White Glove" an absolute winner, though on the whole, its contents conform to the album's predominant stylistics, which, certainly, is typical for all four of the remaining tracks. Two of them, "Striking Out a Single Note For Love" (3) and especially the album¦s title track, "Paradise Square" (2), are almost as diverse, intriguing, and amazing as "White Glove". All three of these tracks are the bright representatives of a hard-edged, truly classic Symphonic Progressive, and contain a complete set of progressive ingredients that are typical for this genre. While not masterpieces as "White Glove", "Paradise Square", and "Striking Out a Single Note For Love", both of the remaining songs, "And By the Water" and "Aftermath" (1 & 7), are, however, excellent by all means.

The Paradise Square album by Simon Says is a good example of how contemporary musicians can bring something new to the style, which is well known already for many years. So this album should be liked not only by the die-hard fans of the classic Genesis sound, but also by most of the lovers of Classic Symphonic Art-Rock in general.

-- Vitaly Menshikov, ProgressoR

Paradise Square is the second album by Swedish proggers Simon Says and although it is my first encounter with them, it is believed to be a vast leap forward for the band. This is not the usual Swedish bombast and distorted fayre of say Anglagard. Simon Says uses a melodically crafted writing style of Genesis, complemented by the technical playing and arrangements of The Flower Kings, and snippets of other influences such as It Bites, Spock's Beard and Anekdoten (particularly with the bass lines). The band never seem to ponder on one idea for too long, so many different ideas floating around and at first it's hard to relate them all to each other in your head. Repeated plays reveal their complex, meandering style and yet passionate musical accessibility to be one of their great strengths.

Bass and keyboard player Stefan Renström is the main songwriter in the band. He has an almost storytelling approach to the lyric, all the songs surrounding the central character "Simon". Almost tongue in cheek, there is a description of a situation the character is in, then the vocal lines kick in. Quite unique, but it really works! Musically, the sound and playing is exemplary. An amazing clear, uncluttered sound - no instruments get lost in the mix. Seven songs in all, full of gentle melodies, varying in tempo and complexity, they really throw the kitchen sink at this in terms of ideas and sounds, and freedom of expression - but never at the detriment of the song.

The first two tracks "And by the water" and title track "Paradise Square" are very much in the early Genesis mould. Expressive vocals, a sort of accented Gabriel / Dunnery hybrid, with varied guitar and keyboard styles, plus many unexpected musical touches. Flower Kings style guitar / keyboard interplay. Loads of Hammond, Moog, Mellotron, one massive Anekdoten style bass run, and some lovely flamenco guitar playing. These tracks set the tone for the rest of the album. Third track "Striking out a single note for love" begins with an almost Level 42 pop-lite beat, leading to more FK multi-combo patterns and textures and an It Bites section with a circus feel and harmonica section. "Fly in a bottle" is an emotive light and shade style track, contrasting fragile acoustic guitar and vocal, countered by the crescendo of gongs and lush symphonics. The sitar dominated "Darkfall" leads to the fifteen minute epic "White Glove". A true masterpiece. Wholly delicate and melodic musical passages, fantastic solos and singing. The final track "Aftermath" has a distinct cinematic feel. Futuristic keys and voices, varying tempos and small nuances. A long improvised instrumental to end. This is a seriously great record with great packaging and another astute signing by the emerging Galileo label. It'll be interesting if the prog heavyweights can better this with their albums later this year. The best pure prog album so far and an unreserved recommendation.

-- (I.D.) Acid Attack Music, England

From Sweden, a progressive land, comes Simon Says second CD. The first album was considered as the "The lamb lies ..." of the nineties (I can't understate these reviewers' frivolities) and now, with the better distribution of Galileo Records, they introduce us this Paradise Square, a conceptual album about the search of God and other existential problems.

Simon Says is a young and promising band formed by Stefan Renström (bass, keyboards, backing vocals and compositions), Daniel Fäldt (lead vocals, sitar), Jonas Hallberg (guitars, backing vocals), and Mattias Jarlhed (percussion).

Of course I won't be the one who state that this album is a masterpiece (a word very overused nowadays) but I'll state this is a good CD that can be enjoyed not only by new progheads generations, but also classic prog fans. And that's because Simon Says is, just like The Flower Kings, Magenta, Under the big tree, etc...., one of those bands that wisely blends different influences from classic progressive bands but also adding personality and a high musical skill.

Do you want an example?... the first track "And by the water" (4:45) starts very Tullish (the keyboard suspiciously sounds very similar to Thick as a Brick) but quickly develops into Genesis structures, both the music and Fäldt's voice, very influenced by Gabriel. We can also find other known influences along the whole album but the shadow of Genesis shadow dominates everything, shamelessly in Paradise Square (13:42). Anyway I'm not talking about a copycat like, i.e. The Tulipe Noire with Marillion. This band knows how to adapt that influence within its own musical personality. We can even find some gleams of experimentation in "Darkfall" (2:35), a very spacey track with sitar. Anyway all the tracks are wonderfully played and they are plenty of nice melodies and keyboards solos. That's the reason why the satisfaction is guaranteed in the longest tracks (the aforementioned ones plus "White glove" (15:28) and "Aftermath" (10:02).

Perhaps the purist progheads and those who bet on the continuous renovation of the genre (and I'm included) dislike these kind of bands but I have to be accurate and I must admit that although you won't find anything new inside this album, Simon Says provides the listener 60 minutes of symphonic rock suitable for all ages and Paradise Square is an insurance if you want to listen to a great album with 70's flavor.

-- Alfonso Algora, Progvisions

Paradise Square is the second album from Simon Says but the personell is slightly different. The album has seven tracks but the story that is told, lyrically as well as musically, runs like a thread throughout the entire album, which makes it very hard to pick out a favourite track. Not necessarily a bad thing, though!

I won't get into a detailed analyze of the story but basically it is (perhaps!) a journey through the human soul, a trip into the thoughts we all have inside us about life, death, love, hate, joy, sorrow, a lot to think about and to analyze. If you want to.

The music itself give as much pleasure as the lyrics. The music lives it's own life and wanders between jazz, rock and some classical input, in other words - Progressive Rock! And it's good! For little more than an hour you're glued to the stereo, waiting for the next bar, the next verse, the next drumbeat. In spite of this, this is a record that allows itself to take time. Not only due to the fact that it grows on you for each time you hear it, but also because Simon Says give themselves and the music all the necessary time needed for all the colours and shades to be seen and heard and yet it leaves a "I want more of this"-feeling behind! Because you want more! It is beautiful, it rocks, it is frightenly good!

So, is there nothing negative to say about this album? Well, of course I could pin down some details, some minor glitches in the music indication editing, if I listen close enough I can hear some things that probably isn't meant to be there, the musical inspiration is sometimes quite clear, but it feels wrong to do that. The entirety is so beautiful and so complete that the character of the single strokes that I find only enhances the full picture, even though they might not have the exact colour and a perfect line.

If I have to choose a favourite track, it probably will be "White Glove". Or perhaps "Fly in a Bottle". Or perhaps "Aftermath". Or.... I do not, in any way, wish to be the one who puts a pressure on Simon Says and by that causing a drain of the creative flow and giving them writer's cramp, but I can't help it, I am already yearning for the next album.

-- Torbjörn Häggmark, The Swedish Yes Society

Album of the month (July 2002)

Retro - that's the first word that came into my mind regarding Paradise Square. Furthermore the band info tells about a new generation of Swedish bands, heirs to Änglagård and Landberk. Yes, there are plenty of Mellotron and many parallells in sound but principally I find the parallells to Genesis much stronger.

Why Simon Says in spite of that are no mere clones? You will see. Simon Says are lighter, more airy and let their joy of playing flash through in every composition. It's grand how, after only a few listenings, you are captured even by the most complex arrangements. All the songs sound convincing and are wonderfully accessible. But there are also numerous edges and corners for the benevolent listener to collide with.

The approach to old 70's sounds is surely intentional but in no way for the sake of copying, it should rather more be understood as a homage to that time. And as long as the music is so grand the reoccuring moments of loans from Genesis are no problem at all. The band lightens up the style much more by moving about in other grounds (just listen to the jazzy parts in the middle of "Striking Out A Single Note" ...).

In spite of that the Hammond and Mellotron dominates the band's sound. Add to that a grand groove, triggered by a fantastic Rickenbacker sound and a production that is crystal clear and dry as a fart (sic!).

The CD is a concept album with a continuous story. For better understanding the instrumental parts of it are printed on the cover. In spite of all context each song works alone.

What is needed at this stage is a really good singer - and Simon Says have got that too. The voice variation is impressive, from powerful to soft as butter, the man copes with standing up to the wall of sound from his colleagues.

Simon Says are a real hot iron and, after the debut Ceinwen, sunk in the release swamp, the band now gets the attention it deserves with Paradise Square. This album is a hot candidate for "Album of the Year", since the band manages to revive the old freshness of the Retro sound with new ideas.

-- Progressive Pages, Germany
Translated from the original German

I'm not sure what it is about Sweden that the country should grace us with so many wonderful symphonic progressive rock groups. Perhaps it's something in the water. With that establishing thought let's take a closer look at the brand new offering from the Swedish band Simon Says and their new CD entitled Paradise Square.

Simon Says are a four-piece that formed in the early nineties. Their first CD was a concept album entitled Ceinwen released in 1995. Now seven years later they're back on a new label with yet another concept recording that revolves around a variety of spiritual issues but perhaps focusing on the search for God and all the trials and tribulations involved with that quest. The lyric sheet even provides a narrative which helps to clarify the stories progress.

Musically Simon Says plant themselves firmly in the mid-period Genesis territory of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. But while the roots and influences reach back to that point, the band has clearly updated the sound technically to create a somewhat more modern sonic approach to the compositions. With only seven tracks spanning the length of the CD most of the composition are on the longish side. In fact four of the seven are over ten minutes in length providing lots of room to move in and out of themes. And that's really the strength of their compositional style.

While the music of Simon Says is not overly complicated it is adventurous and solidly symphonic in its panoramic approach. Everything is in the right place. Prominent acoustic guitars will set up the more orchestrated segments while bass pedal effects reinforce the grand scope of each of the compositions, as do the analog keyboards. Even the trusty Mellotron makes a number of appearances, adding to the lush fullness of the songs.

The symphonic style of Paradise Square is one that creates melodic or majestic musical motifs that are repeated at different points in the composition. The band's approach is very much a return-to-theme with all the song-sections working to reinforce the melody. Any soloing or musical departures go to serve the feel of the story at that moment of the musical composition. But these musical excursions are never overdone and with each listen the melodies become more familiar leaving the listener time to more fully explore the musical complexities that lay in the background.

Paradise Square is a classic mix of heavily orchestrated moments interspersed with quiet counterpoint, which is then pushed to the edge with odd or quirky musical segments. The seven songs move smoothly one to the next. Nothing here jars the senses. The structure of these songs is one that easily brings a satisfied smile of familiarity and excitement. The material is at once familiar and yet somehow new and fresh. Simon Says have done a great job in adding their efforts to the symphonic prog genre. Save a spot for Paradise Square on your CD shelf.

-- Jerry Lucky, Author of The Progressive Rock Files

Paradise Square is the much-anticipated second release from the Swedish quartet Simon Says. There are a lot of familiar and comfortable progressive sounds here and on first listen, the thing that came to my mind was Genesis. With the multilayered keys and textured guitars one cannot help but think of Genesis. However, they are not a Genesis clone, and with each and every subsequent listen the uniqueness and talent of this band really shines through.

Paradise Square is a concept album that got its start from a picture of a dilapidated housing area with the sign Paradise Square identifying it. The band used this irony as a starting point for a journey that at times is hard to follow, but for those who don't like everything to be laid out right out in front of them, the story is quite intriguing. Stefan Renstrom, the bands lyricist, says the story takes place in one mans dream and touches on everything from sex to religion and in the end is really all about inner spirituality. There are some comical passages, reminiscent of Zappa, and some more serious ideas presented, but all in all, the concept is somewhat open-ended, leaving the listener to draw his/her own conclusions about what they are actually trying to say.

The music presented on Paradise Square is exceptional and diverse. Besides the classic progressive sounds that one would expect, there are many other tidbits that please the ear and make the listener wonder, "where did they come up with that?" In a good sense, of course. There is some sitar and tabla sounds mixed in and the band does a very good job using the time changes to their advantage, emphasizing certain passages of the story more than others. They seem to touch many different genres here, with some jazzy progressions, melodic choruses and off tempo passages. The album just never seems to stagnate, always moving the listener in another direction. This album held my interest all the way through and had me constantly reaching for the CD booklet trying to follow along with the story. I am still drawing my own to conclusions to exactly what it is about.

Overall, Paradise Square will not disappoint most progressive rock fans. There's no heavy stuff here mind you but the quality of composition and production is exceptional. So far, I feel this is the best new release of 2002. Echolyn's Mei used to hold that spot, but this one just blew me away. GO GET IT !

-- UnderAGlassMoon at Progressive Ears

Every now and then an unknown artist or band steps out of the obscurity and delivers a truly magnificent album. It happened with Mangala Vallis, it happened with Grand Stand, it happened with the Watch and this time it's time for Simon Says. Having released their debut album Ceinwen several years ago (it was released in 1995 on the Bishop Garde Records label), our Swedish friends surely have delivered their masterpiece by means of the follow-up Paradise Square. Opener "And By The Water" certainly holds strong Genesis references which continue throughout the title track as well. The Mellotron parts, in conjunction with nice piano, really deliver an incredibly powerful result. Here and there some elements from the household of Cross or Galleon pop up, yet the result of Simon Says is much more symphonic, more "vintage" prog. The final part of the title track even contains some experimental passages I would associate with bands such as White Willow or Valinor's Tree. Breathtaking!

Dark, slow guitar sounds form the perfect counterpoint for the melodic synths during the intro for "Striking Out A Single Note For Love." Here for the first time it becomes obvious that Paradise Square is a concept album as various atmospheres and sounds enter this song. To me "Fly In A Bottle" is Simon Says' very own "Private Investigations" which hopefully says enough about the inclusion of classical guitar here. Simon Says takes a trip to India when sitar introduces "Darkfall." A good balance between acoustic [guitar] and keyboards occupies the first part of the lengthy "White Glove" leading towards Wind And Wuthering-era Genesis. "Aftermath" not only wraps up the story but kind of delivers a musical end result as well, once again delving deep into the rich colours of the keyboards in order to deliver yet another unique statement containing a slight hint of Happy the Man. Surely Simon Says has taken a BIG step forward with this Paradise Square leaving the humble beginnings of Ceinwen far behind. It not only puts the band in the picture it also establishes the Galileo label as a label of quality where each release deserves a thorough examination.

-- John "Bo Bo" Bollenberg at Progressive World

We don't receive that much progressive rock nowadays, but sometimes it sparkles through. Swedish Simon Says is a relatively new band that has released one album before, but they haven't reached Scream Magazine until now. And let it be said at once: this is high quality neoprog. Melodic, thematic, progressive, yep, Simon Says this is good.

You can't escape parallels to Genesis á la The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway or IQ á la Subterranea since all these records are concept albums. Furthermore they all deal with lonely souls looking for one thing or another. It also has to be said that there's a lot of Genesis here, especially in the rhythms and the use of keyboards. But we accept that more than gladly. Genesis and IQ also never used the sitar, and that's it! The Swedes has added their own style, with most enjoyable keyboard solos, Moog and Mellotron, synth and Hammond, from time to time it's pure pleasure. The odd song or two might have been a little more memorable and the vocals a bit more exciting, but that's trifle matters. Paradise Square is the record for you who misses high quality progrssive rock, with 70's inspirations and all.

-- Bjoern Noersterud, Scream Magazine, Norway

SIMON SAYS: Paradise Square
2002 (CD,63:28); Galileo Records GR007
Style: Progressive Rock
Sound: *** Composition: ** Musicianship: ***
Performance: **** Total rating: 12 1/2

Loads of synth tones ... check. Dynamic changeups ... check. Tempo and key modulations ... check. Keyboard/guitar harmonies ... check. Yes, this is stylistic progressive rock at its best.

Stefan Reinstrom [sic] mans a dizzying array of keyboard tones, from organ through Moog and arp synths, all while holding down bass duties as well. Daniel Faldt shows vocal range as well as providing sitar work throughout.

Several long tracks dominate this offering, ranging from 10 to 15 minutes, with the title track presenting much of what this band is about, including the dynamic shifts from full band-rock to piano and vocal interludes, and pedal tone guitar work by Jonas Halberg [sic].

If you are searching for an unabashed look back at the time when progressive bands ruled the airwaves and the stadium circuits, this album may be of interest. While a bit short on originality, Simon Says has much to offer.

-- Bill Knispel, Progression Magazine Issue 41

Simon Says: "Paradise Square"
(Galileo Records GR007, 2002, CD)

For all of you wishing someone would come up with The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway Part 2, here it is. This concept album follows the strange and surreal experiences of Simon, as told through the words and music of this Swedish quartet. The similarities extend beyond the text. The songwriting style and the choice of instrumentation, especially in the keys, makes the connection almost impossible to miss. The saving grace is that, as long as you can get past the blatant homage and lifts, this is a very strong piece of work. Instrumentally, the band is excellent, particularly singer Daniel Fäldt and keyboard player Stefan Rentström [sic] (who also provides the bass and most of the songwriting.) Fäldt thankfully avoids the lame theatrics that plague most Gabriel wannabes and instead takes the Kevin Gilbert approach of wedding expressiveness to an ear-friendly and professional delivery. Musically, the material owes as much to Flower Kings as Genesis, revealing a certain "house style" when it comes to Swedish symphonic prog. The songs veer from vocal segments to instrumental workouts with an easy fluidity and the arrangements deliver hook-driven melodicism or intricate syncopation with an equal command and skill. To top it all off is a seasoned production that is especially good in the handling of Mattias Jarlhed's drumming. It's a shame the band chose such an obvious source of inspiration, though perhaps with this behind them they can get on with a more original piece of work. It should be worth the wait.

-- Paul Hightower, Exposé, Issue 27


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Last Updated 8/25/03