Tom Moon

When they set out to make new music, rock icons who have visited – or resided – at the pinnacle of success face unexpected challenges of scale.

Sure it's possible to re-create the larger-than-life arena-rattling sounds that propelled them in the (often distant) past, but such attempts can register as contrivance or desperation. We've all endured this particular ritual, in which legacy artists attempt to get back by serving up imitations of what worked 30 years previous. Painful.

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.


Pop culture sells the idea that the human aptitude for art is instant, a birthright. Those who toil in this realm know better: It's a journey. Making art involves understanding the nature of inspiration, managing influences, building skills, locating kernels of truth within oceans of static. It takes time.

Don't look for Walter Becker on those endless (ridiculous) listicles ranking the "Guitar Gods of the 1970s." He's rarely mentioned in the same breath as major dudes like Eric Clapton, or Jimmy Page, or Duane Allman, or Carlos Santana, or Billy Gibbons, or Frank Zappa.

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.

From a casual distance, Gregg Allman's "My Only True Friend" might register as just another road song, the latest in a long line of slightly wistful, decidedly restless odes to the nomadic life.

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.


Think of this three-disc set as The Rise of Elvis Presley: The Granular Detail Version.

Since its premiere in 1918, Gustav Holst's symphonic cycle The Planets has effectively defined the informal genre of "music about space." But more recently, four prominent artists from different musical realms collaborated on a cosmic exploration of their own. It culminated in Planetarium, which was released earlier this month.

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 Berry's legacy didn't need another record, or any kind of postscript for that matter.

When he died this March, the obits hailed him as the chief architect and driving force behind rock and roll. He was described as the catalyst of a cultural revolution, a titan whose crisp songs and ringing guitar blazed a superhighway-sized trail for future generations.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

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.

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