All of Paul Simon's solo albums ranked

Every Paul Simon solo record reviewed.

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No. 3 - THE RHYTHM OF THE SAINTS (1990)

The Rhythm of the Saints was the follow-up to Simon’s most successful album, and to some ears, it was a bit of a letdown. That hurt Simon because this may be the greatest music he ever created. The individual songs may not have been quite as ear-catching, but this is serious, joyful, and mysterious music.

He had turned to South Africa and New Orleans for major inspiration on his previous album. This time, it was Brazil. And it was drums. He credits more than dozen a different percussionists on the album, including four that are listed as providing “additional percussion effects.” The fact he highlighted rhythm in the album's title was no offhand reference. This album is dominated by its rhythms.

Which should not suggest that the individual songs are anything short of first-rate. The lead track – “The Obvious Child” establishes the pattern immediately. It is an ideal blending of lyrics and beat. So is its successor “Cant’s Run But.” It balances JJ Cale’s guitar with those driving drums to great effect, something that Simon would employ in Cale’s other contribution, “Born at the Right Time,” a gorgeous number that highlights Simon’s ability to blend his pop sensibilities with world music traditions.

Hidden gems abound. “Born at the Right Time,” which comes toward the end, gives us some Adrian Belew guitar synth effects. And when he refers to “spirit voices” ruling the night, he gets Brazilian pop giant Milton Nascimento to sing those “voices.” The concluding title track provides an excellent summation of an excellent album.