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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Music Reviews
2:47 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Worth The Wait: The Transcendent Groove Of D'Angelo's 'Black Messiah'

Talk about a long-awaited holiday gift: D'Angelo's Black Messiah was released Monday, nearly 15 years after its predecessor.
Greg Harris Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 4:12 pm

There's usually reason to be apprehensive when an artist spends years in the workshop on a single set of songs. The results can seem joyless; think Chinese Democracy, which took Guns N' Roses 14 tortured years to finish. D'Angelo spent nearly as much time crafting his new record. He took his time and loaded up some of the tracks with everything from the audio candy store. Incredibly, the music rarely sounds cluttered or overwrought.

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Remembrances
3:18 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Rolling Stones Saxophonist Bobby Keys Dies

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 5:24 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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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Music Reviews
1:16 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

Bryan Ferry Slinks Home

Bryan Ferry's new album, Avonmore, revisits his Roxy Music heyday.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue November 18, 2014 5:32 pm

The opening groove in "Loop De Li," the first song on Bryan Ferry's new album, Avonmore, might as well be a "Welcome Home" sign.

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Music Reviews
3:31 pm
Tue November 11, 2014

Inside The Wall: Pink Floyd's 'Final' Album Is Process On Display

Pink Floyd's new album is titled The Endless River.
Albert Watson Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed November 12, 2014 11:38 am

In typically grandiose fashion, Pink Floyd has created its own requiem.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun October 26, 2014

First Listen: Bob Dylan, 'The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11'

The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11, a compilation of unearthed recordings by Bob Dylan, comes out Nov. 4.
Elliott Landy Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed November 5, 2014 8:43 am

The dog's name was Hamlet.

He lived at the house known as Big Pink, in the woods near Woodstock, and during the summer of 1967, responsibility for his care was shared by Bob Dylan and members of The Band. Hamlet was on the scene during the fruitful recording of The Basement Tapes, part of the storied atmosphere that led to one of the most vivid chapters in American music.

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First Listen
10:02 pm
Sun October 19, 2014

First Listen: Yusuf/Cat Stevens, 'Tell 'Em I'm Gone'

Yusuf's (formerly known as Cat Stevens) new album, Tell 'Em I'm Gone, comes out Oct. 27.
Danny Clinch Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 11:47 am

The Sunday-school singalong "You Are My Sunshine" is the rare evergreen that seems to withstand all manner of musical abuse.

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Music Reviews
4:06 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Two Princes: The Purple One Returns In Stereo

Prince has two new albums out, Art Official Age under his own name and Plectrumelectrum with 3RDEYEGIRL (pictured).
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue September 30, 2014 5:46 pm

In the last 20 years, Prince has gotten more attention for his acrimonious spat with Warner Brothers — and the shenanigans surrounding his name — than for the music he's continued to make. And yet, as a performer, Prince is still undeniable, one of the living best.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun September 28, 2014

First Listen: Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, 'Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn'

Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn's new self-titled album comes out Oct. 7.
Jim McGuire Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 8:28 am

This is not Dueling Banjos: The Married Couple Edition. You won't find the careening energy of the mano-a-mano from the Deliverance soundtrack, or of the Flatt and Scruggs classic "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." Outbreaks of dazzling, speed-demon technique are few.

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Music Reviews
3:24 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

A Call From The Weird Fringes: Aphex Twin's 'Syro'

Richard D. James, known as Aphex Twin since his distinctive three-armed logo began showing up in record bins two decades ago, released Syro this week after a prolonged break from recording.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue September 23, 2014 4:20 pm

In music these days, the fastest-moving genre is electronic dance music, or EDM. It's the sound most people associate with rave culture and artists like Skrillex. But 20 years ago, Richard D. James — better known as Aphex Twin — was making a very different kind of electronic music, as heard on landmark releases like 1994's Selected Ambient Works Vol. II.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun September 21, 2014

First Listen: Lucinda Williams, 'Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone'

Lucinda Williams' new album, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, comes out Sept. 30.
Michael Wilson Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed October 1, 2014 9:30 am

There's something wonderfully contrarian about Lucinda Williams ending one of her multi-year silences with a double album. In 2014, no one is supposed to have time to appreciate three straight songs from one artist, much less an entire album.

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Music Reviews
3:19 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Music Review: 'All Rise: A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller'

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 4:33 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

When filmmakers want to evoke the romance of American nightlife in the roaring 1920s, they often turn to the hot ripping music of Fats Waller.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE JOINT IS JUMPING")

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun September 14, 2014

First Listen: Tweedy, 'Sukierae'

Tweedy's new album, Sukierae, comes out Sept. 23.
Piper Ferguson Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed September 24, 2014 9:39 am

A clue about the scruffy aesthetic of Sukierae arrives at the 2:27 mark of "World Away," one of 20 (!) songs on the first family-band album from Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Until this point, the tune — a variation on the Bo Diddley beat strummed on acoustic guitar, with Tweedy's sleepy voice distantly implying a blues cadence — has been fairly straightforward.

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Music Reviews
3:20 pm
Mon September 1, 2014

On Final Recording, Joe Beck Exposes Possibilities Of The Guitar

Originally published on Mon September 1, 2014 3:36 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun August 24, 2014

First Listen: Sinkane, 'Mean Love'

Sinkane's new album, Mean Love, comes out Sept. 2.
Martine Carlson Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 9:10 am

"You know I love you, but you're mean."

Here's one of those eternal refrains. Nobody owns it; it's been in the air since forever. Maybe it was initially uttered by a songwriter toiling deep in the Brill Building, or first sung by a girl group.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun August 10, 2014

First Listen: Kimbra, 'The Golden Echo'

Kimbra's new album, The Golden Echo, comes out Aug. 19.
Thom Kerr Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 11:14 am

As it comes back around, an echo distorts the qualities of a sound just enough to encourage you to hear it differently. Maybe it's just distance changing the plain into the transcendent, but there's a trace of magic in an echo. It's like Narcissus' reflection, only better — inexact, an impression with new fuzz and new dimension to it. No choice but to appreciate it differently.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun July 20, 2014

First Listen: Bear In Heaven, 'Time Is Over One Day Old'

Bear In Heaven's new album, Time Is Over One Day Old, comes out Aug. 5.
Dusdin Condren Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed August 6, 2014 1:19 pm

Two minutes and 11 seconds into "They Dream," from Bear in Heaven's fourth album Time Is Over One Day Old, the music takes a strange turn. The band has been shuttling along at a riveting adventure-movie clip, with Jon Philpot's reverb-swaddled voice functioning as the primary distinct element in a sleek blur. Then, abruptly, the tempo stops. A wash of Space Mountain synths dissolves slowly — the set has been struck. When Philpot begins to sing again, he's the sole occupant of the spotlight.

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Music Reviews
3:58 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

A Sax Trio Taps Tradition While Thriving In The Present

Melissa Aldana and Crash Trio released its self-titled debut album in June.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue July 15, 2014 6:23 pm

Melissa Aldana, who became the first female instrumentalist and first South American musician to win the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition last fall, is not the average talent-contest winner.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun June 29, 2014

First Listen: Cloud Boat, 'Model Of You'

Cloud Boat's new album, Model of You, comes out July 8.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed July 9, 2014 10:31 am

"The madness runs in cycles," Tom Clarke sings forebodingly in "The Glow," one of the highlights of the U.K. duo Cloud Boat's second album. The music rushes along, propelled by the high-efficiency tick of a drum loop, but there's no trace of madness or even anxiety in his voice. Instead, Clarke radiates priestly calm as he gives listeners a set of vague, odd instructions: "Take some of these candles," he intones darkly, as if calling from some Middle Ages theater. "The glow will guide you."

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Music Reviews
3:32 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Album Review: 'Ultraviolence'

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 6:08 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Hollywood sadcore is a term singer and songwriter Lana Del Rey came up with to describe her dark, moody pop songs. They're also full of old movie references. The 27-year-old returns this week with a follow-up to her 2012 breakthrough, "Born To Die." That album sold more than a million copies in the U.S. The new release is called "Ultraviolence." Reviewer Tom Moon says that the album is too long, but it shows Del Rey developing a new take on the torch song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CRUEL WORLD")

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Music Reviews
3:06 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Album Review: 'While You Were Sleeping'

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 10:28 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: A jazz singer for the hip-hop generation - that's how Jose James was described after he released his first album last year for the famed Blue Note record label. James has now released a follow-up. It's called, While You Were Sleeping. And reviewer Tom Moon says the 35-year-old shows phenomenal growth.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING")

JOSE JAMES: (Singing) Shadows long upon my face. Shadows long upon my face.

TOM MOON, BYLINE: Catch up with Jose James now because he's a rarity - an artist evolving at warp speed.

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A Blog Supreme
7:36 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Take 75: Great Solos In Blue Note Records History

Clifford Brown turned in a number of fine solos playing with bandleader Art Blakey in 1954.
Francis Wolff Courtesy of Blue Note Records

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 2:55 pm

Blue Note Records has been many things over the course of its 75 years: a label responsible for blinding jazz innovations, a home for the titans of hard bop and soul jazz, a place for smart, sly, jazz-inflected pop creations.

One constant running throughout its history is improvisation. Its records have showcased jazz soloing in every possible mood and temperament. Its artists, both the jazz legends and those journeymen who are little regarded today, have helped shape the ever-evolving notion of what a solo is and what it can be.

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Music Reviews
2:10 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Is The 'Xscape' Deluxe Version Worth It? 3 Words: Michael Jackson Demos

The deluxe version of Xscape features Michael Jackson's original demos, before the songs were "contemporized" for the album.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 6:26 pm

When he died in June 2009, Michael Jackson left behind a trove of unfinished recordings — some were released on the 2010 album Michael, while many more were left behind because they were in rough demo form. Jackson's label went through the material, then asked Timbaland and other top producers to finish the King of Pop's ideas with an album called Xscape.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun May 11, 2014

First Listen: Conor Oberst, 'Upside Down Mountain'

Conor Oberst's new album, Upside Down Mountain, comes out May 20.
Butch Hogan Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 11:53 am

You probably haven't been waiting around for some singer-songwriter to update Harry Chapin's inescapable 1974 hit "Cat's In the Cradle," the slightly cloying tune about the changing dynamic between parents and children over time. And if you did happen to be waiting for such a song, you probably wouldn't put Conor Oberst, noted sensitive indie-rock soul, in charge of writing it.

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Music Reviews
4:34 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Album Review: 'Nikki Nack'

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 2:20 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Merrill Garbus topped critics' polls when her second album came out in 2011. She's the singer and multi-instrumentalist who records as tUnE-yArDs. After that release, she took time for a creative recharge. She studied Haitian drumming and incorporated its rhythms into the third tUnE-yArDs album. It's called "Nikki Nack." It's out today and reviewer Tom Moon thinks it's a knockout.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MERRILL GARBUS: (Singing) No water in the water fountain.

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Music Reviews
3:24 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Album Review: 'Everyday Robots'

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 1:28 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Damon Albarn's first solo album is out today. Albarn was the frontman of the acclaimed British rock band Blur in the '90s, and since 2000, he has spearheaded the multi-platinum group Gorillaz.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE WINDMILL")

GORILLAZ: (Singing) Take it all it on your stride. And it's sticking, falling down. Love forever...

SIEGEL: Reviewer Tom Moon says Albarn's new work seeks out the flipside to the Gorillaz' manic intensity. The new album "Everyday Robots."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERYDAY ROBOTS")

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First Listen
7:04 am
Fri April 25, 2014

First Listen: tUnE-yArDs, 'Nikki Nack'

tUnE-yArDs' new album, Nikki Nack, comes out May 6.
Holly Andres Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 6, 2014 11:13 am

The creators of pop music are usually able to break down the fundamentals of their craft — that search for the clever rhyme, the killer beat, the singable chorus. They are less articulate, understandably, about the other quest, the one that powers those everyday searches: the pursuit of ecstasy in sound. There's something almost paranormal about that part of the creative process, yet we know those moments, instantly, when we hear them.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun March 23, 2014

First Listen: Thievery Corporation, 'Saudade'

Thievery Corporation's new album, Saudade, comes out April 1.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue April 1, 2014 1:16 pm

Every language has words and phrases that elude easy translation. In Portuguese, "saudade" (pronounced by Brazilians as "sow-DAH-djee") is one of those. Some musicians equate it with the blues; it's generally associated with melancholy and longing. In its most recent bio, the Washington, D.C., electronic duo Thievery Corporation defines it as "a longing for something or someone that is lost."

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun March 9, 2014

First Listen: Kevin Drew, 'Darlings'

Kevin Drew's new album, Darlings, comes out March 18.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 9:54 am

Back in 2007, Kevin Drew (of Toronto's baroque-pop collective Broken Social Scene) gazed longingly at a woman and pronounced her too beautiful for the carnal escapades swirling inside his brain. That song, "Tbtf," was among the wondrous creations on his solo debut Spirit If — a worship-dream set in a sleek, gliding tempo, and sung in a mood of melancholy wistfulness.

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The Record
3:18 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

In Rio, A Universe Of Samba

Sitting around what looks like a conference table with a small group of musicians, guitarist Moacyr Luz (center) leads his samba group.
Courtesy of QK

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 5:31 pm

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