Tom Moon

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.

The first hint of otherness comes from the voices.

They are five in all, each ragged and weary in his own way, each contributing to "Tears of Rage" on his own timetable, when stirred by some spirit. Sounding less like a polished choir than a wandering militia, they appear displaced, out of time. The voices have no discernable connection to the moment the record arrived in 1968. They might as well be selling elixirs from the back of a horse-drawn rig, moving at the slow, deliberate pace of backroads rural America in the days before [farm-to-table] artisan shallots.

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.

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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PROCESSION")

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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.


The first recorded collaboration between singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur and guitarist Peter Buck of R.E.M. fame isn't a concept album in the strictest sense. But many of its songs do revolve around a central theme: The messy metaphysical process of getting "woke."

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.


Kadhja Bonet's Childqueen opens with words that could have come from a lotus-positioned guru at a wellness retreat: "Every morning brings a chance to renew, a chance to renew." This she sings calmly, in carefully braided, elaborately evolving vocal harmony.

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 the beginning of his career as a recording artist, Ry Cooder has treated the music of the past as a resource, turning to old (and very, very old) songs for guidance, mentorship, life lessons, spiritual advice.

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