Fall Round-Up: A Season Of Collaborations

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Junip, a new project from Swedish singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez (center). Jon Bergmann hide caption

itoggle caption Jon Bergmann
Junip

Junip, a new project from Swedish singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez (center).

Jon Bergmann

Several albums have caught the ear of music critic Tom Moon this fall and, coincidentally, many are collaborations.

Wake Up! features R&B singer John Legend teaming up with hip-hop band The Roots. The idea for the CD, which includes covers of songs by artists such as Bill Withers and Curtis Mayfield, surfaced in the summer of 2008 during Barack Obama's presidential campaign. The record is a call for social change — a new direction for Legend.

"[John Legend is] one of our new crooners," Tom Moon tells NPR's Melissa Block. "He's never had to bring it in this fierce way, and who better to coax it out of him than The Roots, who have been on this social-consciousness tip for a long time?"

Another album that jumped out at Moon this season is Fields from Junip, a new project from Jose Gonzalez, the introspective singer-songwriter and guitarist from Sweden. Since 1999, Gonzalez, along with his keyboardist and drummer, has occasionally been performing expanded versions of his solo songs. As a member of Junip, Gonzalez is collaborating for the first time.

"He and his cohorts have really tried to figure out how to retain the introspective mood of his other music, and yet give it a bump up rhythmically and give it more dimension musically," Moon says.

Finally, Moon highlights an upcoming piano-heavy record with legends Elton John and Leon Russell, an American songwriter and notable session musician. Union was produced by T-Bone Burnett, and Moon says that Russell's influence on John is evident.

"Part of what you hear is pure mutual admiration," he says.

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