Formed out of two local bands, Spectrum and Rawx, Quebec-based Simon Says released this album back in 1991 when it had just 7 songs. It is now being re-released by Escape Music who have given it a new front cover (a roulette wheel as opposed to a spinning top) plus an additional six bonus songs. Originally produced by ex-April Wine guitarist Gary Moffet, I am somewhat at a loss to understand why this wasn’t a major album at the time, so can only put it down to timing as the year this was released was of course the same year as ‘Nevermind’, and labels (as they always do) only want to have the latest sounds and happily ignore anything else. If this album had come out towards the end of the Seventies then I am sure we would all be well aware of Simon Says, as this is a superb polished pop rock album.
The line-up was Johnny Zatylny (lead vocals), Wayne Higgins (bass), Tim Higgins (rhythm guitar), Darryl Stevens (lead guitar), Al Knight (drums) and Matt Coull (keyboards). If anyone thinks the name of the singer is familiar that may be because he is widely regarded as one of the finest Freddie Mercury impersonators around, but obviously this album is from the early days of his career. Great hooks, lush vocals, strong guitars, this is quite an album. The original single from the album, “The Promise”, gained a lot of airplay on the local radio stations, and with someone from April Wine at the helm, even with the grunge scene it is somewhat surprising this wasn’t more widely recognised. Here acoustic guitars allow Zatylny to shine, and one can imagine this going down a storm at arena gigs with lighters in the air. But there were no arena gigs, and at some point, the band folded, although they had gained quite a following in their home area. It is a really easy album to listen to, and although there are times when it could have done with a little more power and edge, there is no doubt these guys could well have become major players. Long out of print, it is great that Escape Music have stepped up and made this available again with extra tracks. Given the label’s pedigree there will be many who will listen to this just because of who has released it, but this is an album which should be played for the enjoyment factor alone, not the rarity. Listen to the final cut of the original album, “Simon Says”, and you’ll soon find yourself singing along as the band crank it up. This is definitely an album which makes the listener smile.
8/10 Kev Rowland