The Rhythm of the Saints (Bonus Tracks Edition)

The Rhythm of the Saints (Bonus Tracks Edition)

After a decade and a half of folk-rock stardom alongside Art Garfunkel, Paul Simon started the '80s working out the direction of his solo identity. And after some soul-searching, he turned the pop world on its ear—and revitalized his career in the process—with 1986’s Graceland, a synthesis of South African styles and U.S. singer/songwriter sensibilities. For the follow-up, Rhythm of the Saints, he doubled down on his then-radical investigation of world music, this time meshing his ideas with the sounds and players of Brazil. From the very first cut, "The Obvious Child," it's clear that Simon is venturing into more percussive and polyrhythmic territory than even Graceland, as Brazilian drum ensemble Olodum crashes and rumbles while Simon delivers a darting mix of impressionism and symbolism. The supple, sinuous flow of "The Cool, Cool River" empowers startlingly revelatory lyrical moments like "sometimes even music cannot substitute for tears." On the gently flowing "Spirit Voices," Simon bounces his own voice off the angelic tones of legendary Brazilian troubadour Milton Nascimento, but South African influences slip in even amid Simon’s guitar patterns. In fact, with the presence of Graceland collaborators like guitarist Ray Phiri, bassist Bakithi Khumalo, and singers Ladysmith Black Mambazo, much of the music takes on a broader Afro-Brazilian vibe. But while some lyrics echo the heady expansiveness of Graceland, others find Simon's observations more pointed than ever, as he comments on environmentalism on "Can't Run But" or middle age on the aforementioned "The Obvious Child." If Graceland served notice of Simon's eclecticism, Saints showed his continuing capacity for reinvention.

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