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.

On "One More Year," the opening track of his fourth record as Tame Impala, multi-instrumentalist mastermind Kevin Parker cues up a memory from a year ago, Facebook-style. He sounds wistful as he recalls a distinct moment in a love affair: "If there was trouble in the world, we didn't know. If we had a care, it didn't show."

Sooner or later, every child prodigy hits a fork in the road: Keep doing the crowd-pleasing, trained-seal tricks that brought fame? Or set out to develop a more individual sound?

From the moment 11-year-old Indonesian pianist Joey Alexander gained international attention in 2015, it was clear that he wasn't your average young phenom. He had seemingly limitless technique and a deep understanding of tunes written decades before he was born. Already a fixture in the jazz world with five albums under his belt at only the age of 16, Alexander is clearly charting his own path.

And now, a moment of appreciation for the under-assistant recording engineers and studio gofers who toiled in anonymity in the dimly lit studios of the past. They didn't just get coffee — they were on site, taking notes about who played what instrument on which track, writing down the dates of sessions, and making sure that those dates were clearly marked on the tape boxes. They did this for albums that became classics. And singles that never left the garage.

The only thing we know for sure about new posthumous studio albums from Leonard Cohen, Harry Nilsson, Prince, Arthur Russell and others: Final approval did not come from the artists themselves. At some point, a producer – or manager, or official from the estate or other individual a step removed from the name on the marquee – acted as the artist's proxy and gave an OK to release the work to the public.

An anthology devoted to early Nat King Cole recordings was recently released, and it offers a new window into his artistic development. The collection is called Hittin' the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943), and this massive 7-CD, 10-LP package is clearly aimed at obsessives. It's a deep dive that traces Nat King Cole's evolution — from smooth, unflappable piano player into a singing star with an endearingly smooth style all his own.

It almost sounds like a twisted science experiment: Invite a dozen rock and roll warriors to spend a week at a ranch in the California desert, encourage them to write songs and play together, then capture the results.

The "profession" of rock criticism was still in its tender adolescence in 1969. Daily newspapers were beginning to hire writers to cover pop, rock and what was sometimes described as "youth culture." Alternative weeklies like the Village Voice became trusted early warning systems for new bands. And Rolling Stone magazine, which began in San Francisco in 1967, had by 1969 become the rock and roll "paper of record."

Updated at 10:42 a.m. ET

There are lots of firsts and superlatives in the career of Ginger Baker, the drummer and bandleader who died Sunday morning at age 80. His death was announced by his family on social media; they had said on Sept. 25 that he was "critically ill," without giving details.

The wild-eyed son of a South London bricklayer, Baker was the engine room of rock's first and still most revered power trio, Cream. He played a similarly key role in shaping the more finessed work of one of rock's first supergroups, Blind Faith.

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The frontwoman of Alabama Shakes, Brittany Howard, has just released her first solo album.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRITTANY HOWARD SONG, "HISTORY REPEATS")

There's been no shortage of great music by soft-spoken women playing acoustic guitar in 2019. But if you pay attention to one song in that vein this year, let it be "The Fading" from Joan Shelley's breathtaking latest album, Like The River Loves the Sea. It's an elegy tuned to the present moment hitting ominous notes of environmental dread, glaciers disappearing, things breaking down. You can tell that Shelley is rattled, but gracefully sidesteps despair on the refrain.

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