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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.

The official history of rock and roll in the late 1960s is usually written festival-to-festival, Fillmore lineup to Fillmore lineup. Here are the reputation-making gigs, here are the moments when youngsters became rising stars.

In his vast catalog of music, Radiohead's Thom Yorke has trembled like a broken man on his knees. He has screamed in tormented six-part harmony; he has manic-whispered diaries worth of existential fear. Still, he just can't shake the techno-dread. Most recently, that dread has manifested in Yorke's third solo project, ANIMA, released on June 27.

From a casual distance, the music of João Gilberto sounds like it might belong to that ancient realm known as "easy listening."

Heather Woods Broderick needed a change. After more than seven years of living on the road, backing up artists like Sharon Van Etten, Broderick moved from Brooklyn to a spot on the Oregon coast, near where she'd spent summers as a child. Broderick's latest album, Invitation, out now, is a musical portrait of that upheaval.

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More than two years after Prince's death, his fans got their first album-length glimpse into the famed vault. Piano & a Microphone 1983 features nine songs Prince recorded solo on cassette in his home studio, spilling fascinating secrets about his approach to songwriting.

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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PROCESSION")

KADHJA BONET: (Singing) Oh, every morning brings a chance to renew, chance to renew. Oh...

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(SOUNDBITE OF THE BAD PLUS' "LAYIN' A STRIP FOR THE HIGHER-SELF STATE LINE")

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Jazz drummer Brian Blade is best known for this kind of sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF WAYNE SHORTER'S "ORBITS")

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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Radiohead has created "A Moon Shaped Pool."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FUL STOP")

THOM YORKE: (Singing) All the good times, all the good times...

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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.

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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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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.

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When he started the Robert Glasper Experiment, the pianist was trying to blend hip-hop, jazz and R-and-B into a new sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHERISH THE DAY")

For some people, gospel music is all about the message — of faith and forbearance, sin and salvation. For the members of the mostly instrumental supergroup known as The Word, gospel is more about a feeling. The group's long-awaited second album, Soul Food, is a rousing, thoroughly modern take on gospel.

Brittany Howard sure can raise the roof. The singer possesses a furious streak, with startling rawness in her delivery. When I first caught Alabama Shakes live, the focus was all on her. The thing was, the band behind her sounded oddly flat: The musicians had clearly done their homework on Memphis soul, but they didn't take the music anyplace interesting. What a difference a couple years on the road can make.

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Dylan The Crooner

Feb 3, 2015

Bard. Voice of a generation. Bob Dylan has been called many things over the years. With his new album, Shadows in the Night, the 73-year-old aims for another title: crooner.

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Saxophonist Bobby Keys was still a teenager when he started playing with his fellow Texan Buddy Holly and pop star Bobby Vee. Later, he joined up with the Rolling Stones. And for more than 40 years, Bobby Keys' powerful sax was a key part of their sound.

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Joe Beck was a hard-working musician who played guitar in recording sessions with James Brown, Miles Davis and Paul Simon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'RE KIND")

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