Tom Moon

Tom Moon has been writing about pop, rock, jazz, blues, hip-hop and the music of the world since 1983.

He is the author of the New York Times bestseller 1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die (Workman Publishing), and a contributor to other books including The Final Four of Everything.

A saxophonist whose professional credits include stints on cruise ships and several tours with the Maynard Ferguson orchestra, Moon served as music critic at the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1988 until 2004. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, GQ, Blender, Spin, Vibe, Harp and other publications, and has won several awards, including two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Music Journalism awards. He has contributed to NPR's All Things Considered since 1996.

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After a six-year hiatus, Canadian singer Feist is back. She's out with her fifth album. It's called "Pleasure," but that's a bit of a misdirection. Reviewer Tom Moon says the album explores the quest for inner-strength in the painful aftermath of romance.

How long has it been since you heard something that was unmistakably the blues, and at the same time undeniably new?

The blues is eternal. Though it undergoes modernization every now and then – see the work of Gary Clark Jr., or The Rolling Stones as recently as last year on the torrid Blue and Lonesome – the genre's basic structural outlines and conventions are well set. As music styles go, it's an established "brand," with a distinct sound. We know it instantly.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


Bob Dylan is evidently not finished with his (grand, now exhaustive) inquiry into the Great American Songbook.

Stephen Bruner is a bass player, singer and songwriter who's as well known for his own music as for his collaborations. But when he released his latest solo single as Thundercat few weeks ago, those who know his work with Kendrick Lamar were scratching their heads. Here was a fiery visionary collaborating with two icons of easygoing '70s pop: Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


Chuck Prophet's whip-smart new collection, Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins, begins with a celebration of the enigmatic one-hit rock curiosity who sang "I Fought The Law" in 1964 and then, shortly after the song took off, was found dead in his car at age 23.

Over the years, music fans have slowly filled in details about a hard-working, mostly anonymous collective of Detroit studio musicians known as The Funk Brothers, who were the backing band for many of Motown's hit songs. Less documented is what these musicians did when they were not in the studio.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.


Before he began the tour that's documented on the 36-disc set The 1966 Live Recordings, Bob Dylan was on record as being ambivalent about the road.

In 1963, Duke Ellington and his orchestra participated in a State Department "jazz diplomacy" tour of the Middle East. Inspired by the experience, Ellington and composer Billy Strayhorn wrote a collection of songs called The Far East Suite.

The first sound Leonard Cohen makes on his new album is a nanosecond's rush of labored air. It's not a wheeze, exactly, or a hiccup. But it's not a singer's note, either. The singing (such as it is) soon follows, and the 82-year-old's somber tone signals that matters of grave import are about to be discussed. He's making an inquiry into the peculiar strain of creeping soul distress, both personal and universal, that he's been diagnosing since at least 1992's The Future.

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There's a panel of volunteer doctors whose decisions affect nearly everyone who has health insurance. They review scientific literature and pass judgment on preventive medical services. The panel is called the Preventive Services Task Force.

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The rock band Drive-By Truckers has been making music for 20 years now, and for most of that time, the group, which is from Athens, Ga., has explored the meaning of Southern identity. That happened on albums like "The Dirty South" and "Southern Rock Opera."

Every so often, you run across a collection that opens up an entirely new way to think about an artist. Jack White's new, 26-track retrospective, which focuses on his unplugged, less raucous songs, does just that. The unreleased songs, album tracks and B-sides that make up Jack White Acoustic Recordings, 1998-2016 offer a fresh window onto the work of the creative, prolific rock musician.

You're rushing to send a text, but the words don't quite fit the message. So you flip over to the emoji menu, and within seconds you find a tiny character that encapsulates your thought. Hitting "send" brings a momentary sense of accomplishment, and perhaps along with it, a twinge of vague disquiet: That shorthand cartoon face was somehow more precise, more communicative, than your words.

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Jacob Collier first attracted attention with endearing homemade music videos that feature his versions of classic songs by Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and others. Now 21, the multi-instrumentalist is seen in his family's well-stocked music room, playing every instrument.

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Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

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Gregory Porter is a jazz singer who is pushing the boundaries of jazz singing. In the last few years, he's recorded with bluesman Buddy Guy, classic singer Renee Fleming and, most recently, with the U.K. electronic duo Disclosure.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.

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Sometimes there's beauty in simplicity. That's how music reviewer Tom Moon feels about a new record by a pair of Brazilian music legends. It's titled, in English, "Two Friends, One Century Of Music."

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.


Two albums into the most unlikely soul career of the millennium, Charles Bradley has neatly pivoted away from the hard-luck life story told in the documentary Soul of America, and toward a comparatively ordinary task: Creating a book of believable songs that showcase his unique vocal style.

How long has it been since a snarling singer and a supercharged electric guitar grabbed you by the throat and wouldn't let go?

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.


How does a film conjure the unfathomable vastness of nature? How can it make moviegoers feel the harshness of a desolate place?

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Jazz fans received an early present this year - an expanded version of a classic work...

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN COLTRANE SONG, "PSALM")

SIEGEL: John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme."

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Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

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Now a peek into the creative process of one of modern music's most innovative thinkers.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRAD MEHLDAU SONG, "GOD ONLY KNOWS")

Note: NPR's audio for First Listens comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

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