BEYOND PERFECT. A surprisingly superior follow-up to what mo
C. Clarke | Leeds, England | 03/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Believe it or not, this album received mixed reviews, creating a bizarre Pro-Graceland(+ Anti-'Saints'...) vs. Pro-Saints 'Which is better?' war that continues to this day. So naturally I am always incensed when I discover yet another listener who fails to 'get' the sheer genius that frankly saturates this album. The South American rhythms are infectious. Having heard (and of course loved) Graceland before buying this one, after about 3 listens it'd clicked - I now consider 'Saints' to be the winner by a nose.
The chorus of She Moves On, for example, although essentially very different in style, is melodically a clear match for the beautiful 'Under African Skies' on Graceland. The layering of xylophones (or some similar percussion instrument!) in Can't Run But, I distinctly remember finding breathtaking on my first listen, and it still never fails to impress. (A song that leaves you sort of mesmerized when it's finished, like you've just woken up from a strange dream.) Spirit Voices - frankly left me speechless, and that's not even mentioning the empowering optimism of tracks like Thelma, The Obvious Child, Born At The Right Time, and Cool, Cool River (see Paul Simon's Concert In The Park for the best versions of these latter 2).
Lyrically, Simon is stronger than ever. There's simply not enough space to quote all the gems here, but one particular favorite of mine: "I watch you sleeping in the hospital bed / The baby curled up in a ball / Winter sunlight hits the family tree / And everything else becomes nothing at all." [Thelma]
Four lines is apparently all Mr. Simon needs to describe the indescribable sense of awe and perspective one feels after the birth of their first child! I'm not the sentimental type, but this one struck a chord with me.
And of course:
"Down by the riverbank / A blues band arrives / The music suffers / The music business thrives" [Can't Run But]
The album is littered with lyrical gems throughout (Cool Cool River also springs to mind just off the top of my head), but as with all great music, these are undoubtedly much better heard in their intended context than simply read.
In terms of the rhythm and instrumentation, it's overflowing with delicate complexities, many of the tracks strike that extremely rare balance of being potentially either drifted off to or scrutinously analysed by music scholars for years to come.
This is not for the generic 'throwaway' listener; it's a record that rewards commitment. 3 or more play-throughs whilst doing something significant (for me it was my summer paper route when I was 15! A vacation drive'll do just fine though ;) to really take in all that is going on here, and ultimately find a fitting backdrop for what is definitely music for the open air.
Rhythm Of The Saints may have missed out on the 'popular' vote, but it's an invaluable triumph for the exploration of music and artistic integrity. Arguably the best $11 I ever spent and has enriched my life [repeatedly] ever since. Think of the perfect summer album, then go beyond that. This is it."
I can't run, but I can run walk faster than this
Tim Brough | Springfield, PA United States | 07/17/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Paul Simon's "Graceland" was a joyous moment of rediscovery, wherein Simon reconnected with his muse and the ecstatic release of music poured out. "The Rhythm of The Saints" is a further venture down that trail, but is missing that integrated feeling that made "Graceland's" songs seem so refreshing. The songs here seem all but academic; a social studies field trip substituting for creative impulse.
There are some pretty good moments on Saints, as "The Obvious, Child" kicks things of with the echoes of its predecessor. So does "Can't Run." But things seems to get dragged down by following songs. Nothing pops out the way several of "Graceland's" songs did, in fact the demo of "Born at The Right Time" sounds better and more engaging than the finalized album track.
Which may be the problem I've had with "The Rhythm of The Saints" over these many years. I was lucky enough to see Simon on this tour, and it was an extravaganza. He had easily 20 plus musicians onstage with him and they created a glorious sound. It was rapturous, beautiful. I was on a buzz for days after. This album sounds sterile, like it didn't get a proper meshing of all the parts. As far as Paul Simon's albums are concerned, it merits a C grade."