29 November 2004

In the Background This Morning....

      It's a better album than many people tend to appreciate, The Rhythm of the Saints (1990), Simon's Brazilian follow-up to the African-inflected Graceland. The standout track here is the first one, "The Obvious Child," which features some pretty terrific drum work by Grupo Cultural. The album by-and-large is a persistent shuffle with odd accentuations and diminishments, with songs like "Proof," "She Moves On" and "Born At The Right Time" proving more evocative than one might first think. The album, though, is a bit of a sad experience, because nothing Simon's done since has been of this calibre, let alone Graceland's.
      Just try and find this double-CD bootleg. The album is an excellent recording of a Van concert in Dublin 1995, with The Man soaring through a lot of the songs he seldom performs in concert, including "Wonderful Remark," "St. Dominic's Preview," "Listen To The Lion," "Slim Slow Slider," "Madame George," "Ballerina" and "Brown-Eyed Girl," the last revamped with bristling new horn lines and sounding as fresh as ever. It also features the hilarious medley of "Tupelo Honey," probably the most capital-R Romantic song in Van's catalogue, with 'Why Must I Always Explain," perhaps his most cynical and frustrated. There are 29 tracks to these discs, and the last six are from concerts in 1986 and 1983, and features rare, rare, rare performances of "Thanks For The Information" and "Here Comes The Knight." Dynamite stuff, and of surprisingly decent quality for a bootleg.

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