The Rhythm of the Saints
After the success of Graceland, The Rhythm of the Saints took musical inspiration from another source. The African guitar styles used in Graceland are merged with the percussion of Brazil, a logical cross-pollination as African slaves were taken to Brazil during European colonisation. The Rhythm of the Saints is a much less immediate record than Graceland, but it’s still a very accomplished record. With the exception of ‘The Obvious Child’, where the drums were recorded live in Brazil, The Rhythm of the Saints merely burbles along. This is exemplified in the difference between the studio version of ‘The Cool, Cool River’ and the live version from Simon’s 1991 New York album. The mood of the live version better captures the tension that Simon attempts to express, while the coda launches stunningly (“Sometimes even music cannot substitute for tears.”).
While The Rhythm of the Saints lacks immediacy, there are plenty of sweet melodies and interesting lyrics to enjoy. Highlights include the lovely ‘Spirit Voices’, with a memorable Portugese section, and the horn inflected ‘The Coast’. Simon also churns out a singalong single in ‘Born at the Right Time’. At its occasional worst The Rhythm of the Saints meanders unmemorably, but it is still a pleasant and complex album and one of Simon’s strongest efforts.