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.

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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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.

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

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

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.


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?

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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.

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?

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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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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.

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.


Record-making is typically not a spectator sport.

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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Son Little's music can be a little tricky to classify. One writer called him Sam Cook in outer space.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOUR LOVE WILL BLOW ME AWAY")

SON LITTLE: (Singing) Runaway, this afghan kush we're bubbling won't burn away.

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This is what made Ludovic Navarre famous 15 years ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROSE ROUGE")

MARLENA SHAW: (Singing) I want you to get together. I want you to get together.

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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Craig Finn is part of a quickly growing demographic group - aging indie rockers. He led the band Lifter Puller in the '90s and is still the front man of The Hold Steady. His breathless songs look at the indie rock scene with a romantic eye.

Lots of magazines do big lists, but few rely on them as heavily as Rolling Stone does. The magazine cranks out a list for just about every aspect of popular music. All promise authoritative, canonical overviews of various elements of the art; at their best, these offer context and critical insight, helping readers fill gaps in their knowledge.

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