Heartfelt thanks to my dear Papa who first suggested this to me. I am not as familiar with Graceland as I ought to be but I understand this is an album which was sufficiently weighty to square up to it. Indeed I have listened and re-listened to this album countless times over the year, by myself, with Charlotte and with Nick and it has improved on every listen. It covers themes like  love, ageing, and the onslaught of modern life. Regrettably I do not have enough time to give this album the depth of review which it deserves. However, the album does not need my endorsement, it sold two million copies and was nominated for two Grammys.

Though he recorded the album’s prominent percussion tracks in Brazil, Paul Simon fashioned The Rhythm of the Saints as a deliberate follow-up to the artistic breakthrough and commercial comeback that was the South Africa-tinged Graceland.


In the opening track, the protagonist seeks solace in a higher power when he considers his own mortality. The cross is in the ballpark,” Simon sings. “Why deny the obvious child?”. This is followed by The Coast in which a family of travelling musicians take refuge in the harbour church of Saint Cecilia, who is the patron Saint of music.

In counterpoint to these portraits of human affirmation, Simon casts haunted images of damage and helplessness. On the hypnotic “Can’t Run But,” he parallels with unrelenting grimness the steady erosion of the environment, romantic love and even the ability of music to transport the soul. Rolling Stone

This album does require a few re-listens in order to be fully appreciated. Simon paints abstract musical and poetic tableaus with the tracks in this album. The Cool Cool River is one such track, and is worth having a few goes at. The rewards are legion.

Powered by a surging, jagged 9/8 time signature, “The Cool, Cool River” runs through the thematic center of the album. After sketching a canvas of violence, oppression and isolation, Simon fixes the moment when a soul takes flight: “Anger and no one can heal it/Slides through the metal detector/Lives like a mole in a motel/A slide in a slide projector/The cool, cool river/Sweeps the wild, white ocean/The rage of love turns inward/To prayers of deep devotion.” In a startling moment, Simon offers this stark epiphany: “And I believe in the future/We shall suffer no more/Maybe not in my lifetime/But in yours I feel sure.” Rolling Stone

Overall, while I wish I had more time to explore this wonderful album, I shall leave it there. Suffice to say, this is one of those rare albums which hit hard and stay with you for many years, as I am sure will be the case here.