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.
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 Rabello 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.
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 up until his death in December 2017. 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.
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