Though well received upon release by fans and critiics, Paul Simon's 'Rhythm of the Saints' was however, not subject to the same adoration with which the media had greeted his previous effort 'Graceland', which mixed Simon's impressionistic, wordy lyricism with the beats and rhythms of South African music. 'Rhythm of the Saints' picks up where it's predecessor left off, and is, in my personal opinion, equally fantastic. Though more low-key and downbeat than the Jubilant rhythms of Graceland, 'Rhythm of the Saints' beautiful blend of Simon's earnest songcraft, the percussionised-samba melodies of the Brazil where the album was recorded, and a continuation of the traditional African sounds he had used for 'Graceland', the album is one of quiet beauty, and a real 'grower' on the listener, with quite a few tracks unveiling their subtle superbness over a few listens.
From the catchy, samba-heavy opening track (and lead single) 'The Obvious Child', it's clear that Simon is in his element. The album continues its impressive fusion of styles with the claustrophobic, but hypnotic 'Can't Run But', and the mournful and beautiful, but somewhat ironic 'The Coast'. Though one would be hard pressed to find a bad track on the rest of the album, there are a few real standouts - the politicised, idealistic 'The Cool, Cool River' and the gorgeous melody and bittersweet messages of 'Born at the Right Time', Simon has created two of his most impressive and idiosynchratic tracks. Occasionally, the album lacks quite the bounce of 'Graceland', or the surge of energy which much of Simon's music has, but for the most part, 'Rhythm of the Saints' is a truly superb and inspiring record. Sadly forgotten somewhat, in the shadow of its commercially successful precedent, this is a delightful, thought provoking and multi-stylistic album which showcases some of Simon's most expansive lyricy and music. Genuinely superb.