Following up the all-time classic Graceland four years later was no easy task, but Simon delivered, creating an album that similarly married world music with his plaintive melodies.
Initially I sided with Rhythm, citing its earthy, exotic flavors and the way it turned world music into gorgeous pop. Eventually I came back around to Graceland‘s unique tour of South Africa via the Upper West Side. But there is no loser in that battle.
1990’s The Rhythm of the Saints doubled down on the exotic rhythms of its predecessor, with Simon looking to South America rather than Africa for the rich percussion over which he spun his melodies. The album sounds as if it were recorded in the crowded streets of a Brazilian town (and in the case of some songs, it was).
Graceland was a hard act to follow, to put it mildly, but four years later, Simon pulled it off by releasing 1990’s The Rhythm of the Saints, an album that built on the world music fusion of his masterpiece but felt like something completely new.
I was in my freshmen year of college when The Rhythm of the Saints came out and it was the first Paul Simon album that I bought on its release day. Before that, all of Simon’s music I had inherited or discovered. I spent my high school years familiarizing myself with the Simon and Garfunkel catalog, old classics I’d missed out on growing up. But the idea of new Paul Simon music that was new to the rest of the world, too, was exciting.