The Rhythm of the Saints

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The Rhythm of the Saints
File:Rhythm Of The Saints.jpg
Studio album by Paul Simon
Released October 16, 1990
Recorded December 1989 – June 1990
Genre Pop rock, worldbeat
Length 44:34
Label Warner Bros.
Producer Paul Simon
Paul Simon chronology
Negotiations and Love Songs
(1988)Negotiations and Love Songs1988
Rhythm of the Saints
Paul Simon's Concert in the Park, August 15, 1991
(1991)Paul Simon's Concert in the Park, August 15, 19911991
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[1]
Deseret News favorable[2]
Entertainment Weekly A+[3]
Los Angeles Times mixed[4]
Robert Christgau (1-star Honorable Mention)[5]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[6]

The Rhythm of the Saints is the eighth solo studio album by American singer-songwriter Paul Simon, released on October 16, 1990 on Warner Bros. Like its predecessor, Graceland (1986), the album gained commercial success and received mostly favorable reviews from critics.

In 1992, The Rhythm of the Saints earned two nominations for the 34th Grammy AwardsAlbum of the Year and Producer of the Year.[7][8]

Production history

Following the success of 1986's Graceland, on which he worked principally with South African musicians, Simon broadened his interests in diverse forms of music from around the world. He turned to Latin America for the musicians and rhythms which characterize much of this album, partnering with Afro-Brazilian superstars Grupo Cultural Olodum, masters of the heavily percussive sub-style of samba called Batuque or Batucada. The group's drumming is featured on the opening song and first single, "The Obvious Child". Brazilian singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento co-wrote "Spirit Voices" and contributed some vocals. Guest appearances were also made by mandolin- and "guitarra baiana" master Armandinho, another Bahia musician, and by Afro-Cuban drummer Francisco Aguabella, and Puerto Rican-born drummer Giovanni Hidalgo. Another collaborator was jazz percussionist and master of the berimbau, Naná Vasconcelos; jazz guitarist Rafael Rabelo also played on the album, along with many other Brazilian musicians.

The musical styles on The Rhythm of the Saints are, however, not uniformly Brazilian. US saxophonist Michael Brecker and other horn players contribute as session musicians (for example, on "Proof"), as well as American roots rock guitarist JJ Cale, Fabulous Thunderbirds vocalist Kim Wilson (contributing harmonica on "The Obvious Child"), R&B keyboards player Greg Phillinganes and jazz drummer Steve Gadd. Art rock guitarist and synth player Adrian Belew, who played on Graceland, is credited on "Spirit Voices". There are also many backing vocals on The Rhythm of the Saints, such as "She Moves On", a duet with Charlotte Mbango. Simon was also influenced by bikutsi for this album.[9]

The album is characterized by impressionistic lyrics (referring to the Chernobyl incident in "Can't Run But," an Amazonian ayahuasca experience in "Spirit Voices," and the state of the world in "The Cool, Cool River"), with slower tempos than Graceland and an atmospheric flow. Along with Latin rhythms, the prime influence on the album was West African and Central African music. Cameroonian jazz composer Andre Manga plays bass,and South African guitarist Ray Phiri, who also collaborated on Graceland, plays one song of the album, while famed trumpeter and worldbeat bandleader Hugh Masekela is credited with playing flugelhorn on one song.

Although drums for "The Obvious Child" were recorded live at Pelourinho Square in Salvador, Bahia, Simon recorded most of the rhythms for the tracks in Rio de Janeiro studios before returning to The Hit Factory in New York City to record guitar accompaniment and, later, the final arrangements. The Rhythm of the Saints marks Simon's first collaboration with Cameroonian guitarist Vincent Nguini, a member of his band since. Nguini is credited with creating the music and guitar arrangements for "The Coast", although Simon still wrote the lyrics. Nguini also arranged guitar for other songs, such as "She Moves On" and "The Cool, Cool River," and he arranged the horns for "Proof." Together, Simon and Nguini created the melodies, lyrics, and arrangements that changed the bare rhythm and guitar recordings into (due to Simon's studio experience:) the expertly-edited final product.

Track listing

All tracks composed by Paul Simon, except where indicated.

  1. "The Obvious Child" – 4:10
  2. "Can't Run But" – 3:36
  3. "The Coast" (Simon, Vincent Nguini) – 5:04
  4. "Proof" – 4:39
  5. "Further to Fly" – 5:36
  6. "She Moves On" – 5:03
  7. "Born at the Right Time" – 3:48
  8. "The Cool, Cool River" – 4:33
  9. "Spirit Voices" (Simon, Milton Nascimento) – 3:56
  10. "The Rhythm of the Saints" – 4:12

Alternate listing

According to an article published in Stereophile magazine, Simon's original track sequence was changed when "the boys in Warners' front office insisted the album's lead single, 'The Obvious Child' be given pride of place." To hear Simon's preferred track order, the current release would have to be re-sequenced as 3-6-4-7-8-1-2-9-5-10 (see below).[citation needed]

  1. "The Coast"
  2. "She Moves On"
  3. "Proof"
  4. "Born at the Right Time"
  5. "The Cool, Cool River"
  6. "The Obvious Child"
  7. "Can't Run But"
  8. "Spirit Voices"
  9. "Further To Fly"
  10. "The Rhythm of the Saints"

2004 reissue

In 2004, the album was remastered by Dan Hersch and Bill Inglot. It was reissued with the same track order as the original release, along with four previously unreleased bonus tracks:

  1. "Born at the Right Time" (Acoustic demo) – 3:50
  2. "Thelma" (Outtake) – 4:14
  3. "The Coast" (Work-in-progress version) – 5:13
  4. "Spirit Voices" (Work-in-progress version) – 3:49

Central Park concert

Simon and his fellow musicians performed live versions of many of the songs from the album at a free concert in Central Park, New York City on August 15, 1991, in front of an audience of around 100,000 people. The performance was recorded and later released as the album Paul Simon's Concert in the Park, August 15, 1991.

Chart performance

The Rhythm of the Saints peaked at #4 on the US album chart, while Graceland had peaked at #3, both among Simon's most commercially successful albums. The album was also commercially successful across the Atlantic, reaching #1 on the UK album chart. However, with the exception of "The Obvious Child", none of its singles charted or received substantial radio play ("Proof" and "Born at the Right Time" were released as well). "The Obvious Child" also failed to reach the US top 40, although it came in at #15 in the UK – his last major hit in the UK. In the end, the album was certified multi-platinum.


  • Paul Simon – vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar
  • Clifton Chenier – accordion
  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo – background vocals
  • Milton Nascimento – vocals
  • Naná Vasconcelos – percussion, conga, triangle, berimbau, gourd
  • Adrian Belew – synthesizer
  • J.J. Caleguitar
  • Rigo Starguitar (Liner notes erroneously credit him as "Ringo Star")
  • Michael Breckersaxophone, EWI synthesizer
  • Hugh Masekelaflugelhorn
  • Giovanni Hidalgo – congas
  • Kim Wilson – harmonica
  • Clifton Anderson – trombone
  • Francisco Aguabellacongas
  • Artur Andres – percussion
  • Mingo Araujo – percussion, castanets, congas, cymbals, drums, triangle, shaker, African bells, agogo bells, casinette
  • Isaac Asante – percussion
  • Martin Atangana – electric guitar
  • Dave Bargeron – euphonium
  • Karen Bernod – background vocals
  • Jude Bethel – tenor saxophone
  • Jacques Bolognesi – trombone
  • Randy Brecker – piccolo trumpet
  • Briz – background vocals
  • Anthony Carrillo – bongos
  • Elolongue Mbango Catherine – background vocals
  • Don Chacal – bongos, congas, bata, gourd
  • C.J. Chenier – accordion
  • Wilson DasNeves – percussion, cowbell
  • Djana'd – background vocals
  • Charles Doherty – tenor & alto saxophone
  • Steve Gadd – drums
  • Florence Gnimagnon – background vocals
  • Myrna Lynn Gomila – background vocals
  • Gordinho – surdo
  • Grupo Cultural Olodum – drums
  • Alain Hatot – saxophone
  • Errol Ince – trumpet
  • Kia Jeffries – background vocals
  • Remi Kabaka – percussion
  • Bakithi Khumalo – bass
  • Armand Sabal-Lecco – bass
  • Charlotte M'bango – background vocals
  • Andre Manga – bass
  • Mazzola – percussion, chicote
  • Jimmy McDonald – accordion
  • Clyde Mitchell – trumpet
  • Madeleine Yayodele Nelson – chekere
  • Vincent Nguini – guitars, bass, claves
  • Greg Phillinganes – synthesizer
  • Ray Phiri – guitar
  • Raphael Rabello – guitar
  • Decio Ramos – drums
  • Felix Sabal-Lecco – drums
  • Paul Santos – percussion
  • Paulo Sérgio Santos – chicote
  • George Seba – electric guitar
  • Phillipe Slominski – trumpet
  • Pedro Sorongo – percussion, scraper
  • Justin Tchounou – synthesizer
  • Antonio Luis Alves de Souza – director
  • Remi Kabaka – drums
  • Beloba – percussion
  • Marçalzinho – percussion
  • Armandinho – guitar
  • Canegal – percussion
  • Sidinho Moreira – bongos, conga, drums, bottle, water bowl
  • Madeleine Yayodele Nelson – shekere
  • Jorge Ferreira da Silva – percussion
  • Kofi Electrik – guitar
  • Uakti - percussion


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Preceded by
Some Friendly by The Charlatans
UK number one album
October 27, 1990 – November 16, 1990
Succeeded by
The Very Best of Elton John by Elton John