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​Music Musts: 8 Albums and Tours to Get Excited About​​​

From Ringo to Elton, we’ve got the top picks for fall releases and upcoming concerts

spinner image Side by side images of Melissa Etheridge, Elton John and Carlos Santana
(Left to right) Melissa Etheridge, Elton John and Carlos Santana
Daniel Knighton/Getty Images; JMEnternational/JMEnternational for BRIT Awards/Getty Images; Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation

Yes, the pandemic pulverized the music industry, but never underestimate the comeback trail. Here are eight acts bringing fresh music to albums and stages this fall.​​

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Ringo Starr: A new album in September and a tour in 2022

The album: Ringo Starr released an EP, Zoom In, in March, and he’s been busy overseeing development of The Beatles’ giant Get Back juggernaut this fall (documentary series, authorized book, multiple Let It Be reissues). Yet music’s peace and love ambassador, 81, still made time for the album Change the World (out Sept. 24). The four-song EP brims with his usual energy and optimism, from the hopeful “Let’s Change the World” to “Coming Undone,” which spotlights New Orleans jazz/funk prodigy Trombone Shorty. For a jaunty “Rock Around the Clock,” the Fab Four drummer drafted brother-in-law Joe Walsh on guitar. Starr says he’s done making albums and will only release EPs going forward.​

The tour: The All Starr Band, which skipped tours the past two summers, plans to hit the road in 2022.

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Melissa Etheridge: A fresh album in October that helped her heal

The album: Rock star Melissa Etheridge was rummaging through her catalog to assemble a 2013 box set when she ran across unfinished songs from the 1980s and 1990s, personal and feminist sentiments written at the height of her popularity but before she came out as a lesbian and gay activist. No longer fearful of repercussions, Etheridge, 60, assembled them for her new album, One Way Out (out Oct. 1). The project helped her cope with the lockdown and last year’s overdose death of her 21-year-old son Beckett (with former partner Julie Cypher). “Music saved me,” she told the Daily Telegraph. “I decided I really wanted to learn more about streaming and the technology, the cameras and sound. After my son’s death, that really healed me, getting out of bed every day to build the studio, and when we started back up again in late June last year, fans subscribed to it and we built up this community of people singing songs together. I was here with my wife and my kids, but so many people were alone, and bringing music to them helped take their minds away for an hour and made them feel part of something.” On the tour, expect new tunes — plus at least three old hits per show.​

The tour: Etheridge plays America through June 16, then Europe through July 15.

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Carlos Santana: A new album in October and gigs on the calendar

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The album: Carlos Santana and his Latin-infused rock band enlisted top-shelf talent for album Blessings and Miracles (out Oct. 15). The guitar legend, 74, reunites with Matchbox Twenty singer Rob Thomas (his duet partner on the 1999 chart-topper “Smooth”) for pop-funk tune “Move.” Among other collaborators, Steve Winwood appears on a transcendent cover of Procol Harum’s 1967 classic, “Whiter Shade of Pale.” Santana says the album title came from his belief that people are born with the power to create blessings and miracles. “The world programs you to be unworthy of those gifts, but we have to utilize light, spirit and soul – they’re indestructible and immutable,” he says. “Those are the three main elements on this album.”​

The tour: The band has dates booked through the end of the year and a 2022 tour starting in June.

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Coldplay: A new album in October and plans for a sustainable tour to come

The album: The British rock band has been enticing fans with a mysterious rollout for their ninth studio album, Music of the Spheres (out Oct. 15) that included teases on Twitter and cryptic content on billboards worldwide. But now the news is out: The album, produced by Swedish pop maestro Max Martin, is set in the Spheres, a fantasy solar system of nine planets, three satellites, a nebula and a star. Each album track represents a celestial body of that solar system. Singer Chris Martin, 44, has said Music of the Spheres was inspired in part by watching the Mos Eisley cantina band in Star Wars films and musing about musicians in other galaxies.​

The tour: Two years ago, Coldplay swore off touring until it could be done sustainably. The band will get back on the road thanks to a partnership with BMW and its all-electric trucks.

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Elton John: A lockdown-inspired album in October and return to the Yellow Brick Road farewell tour in 2022

The album: “The last thing I expected to do during lockdown was make an album,” Elton John posted to Instagram on Sept. 1. On Oct. 22, the 74-year-old singer/songwriter delivers The Lockdown Sessions, a 16-track set with 10 previously unreleased songs including collaborations with diverse artists from Dua Lipa and Lil Nas X to Stevie Nicks, Stevie Wonder, Miley Cyrus, Eddie Vedder and the late Glen Campbell. Some were recorded via Zoom, others in a studio under strict safety protocols with players separated by glass partitions. The Rocket Man says the results “took me out of my comfort zone into completely new territory.”​

The tour: He’s returning in January 2022 to his Farewell Yellow Brick Road: The Final Tour, which was interrupted by COVID-19, and is working on the musical version of The Devil Wears Prada, which starts previews next July in Chicago, two years behind schedule.

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ABBA: A new album in November and a high-tech show in London in 2022

The album: After refusing lucrative reunion offers for 40 years, Swedish pop supergroup ABBA is returning with a new album, Voyage (out Nov. 5), and a revolutionary digital live experience. ABBA’s first studio release since 1981 includes the already out “I Still Have Faith in You,” a power ballad about the group’s enduring bonds, and “Don’t Shut Me Down,” a melodic disco throwback. ​

The show: The foursome – Agnetha (71), Bjorn (76), Benny (74) and Anni-Frid (75) – will appear as “Abbatars” with a live 10-piece band in a high-tech extravaganza opening May 27 and running through October 2022 at a custom-built arena in London. Their digital versions were created over months of performance and motion-capture techniques by the group and an 850-member team from George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic, the company’s first move into music.

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Diana Ross: A new album in November and (just maybe) a 2022 U.S. tour 

The album: The voice that kept us hanging on in the 1960s is once again cooing love songs and belting dance anthems. Thank You (out Nov. 5) is Diana Ross’ 25th solo studio album (she made 29 with The Supremes) and her first since 2006. The diva, 77, cowrote nine of the 13 songs and made the album in her home studio during the lockdown with songwriter and producer Jack Antonoff. The title track is a gentle valentine to her fans, and “If the World Just Danced” sets the disco ball spinning.​

The tour? No word on whether Ross will tour in the United States, but she has 2022 dates booked in the U.K.

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Clint Black: Back on tour in October

The tour: Clint Black and actress/singer Lisa Hartman Black will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary on Oct. 20, and the country star has come up with the perfect way to mark the occasion. Take your partner to work. The couple will embark on their first tour together, dubbed Mostly Hits & the Mrs., starting in Wichita Falls, Texas, on Nov. 18 and wrapping up in New Orleans on, appropriately, Valentine’s Day. The set list is certain to include such No. 1 Clint tunes as “Killin’ Time,” “Nothin’ But Taillights” and “A Good Run of Bad Luck.” Expect to hear the couple’s current duet “Til the End of Time,” as well as "When I Said I Do," their 1999 Grammy-nominated No. 1 country single. Making it a family affair, Clint recently announced that the couple’s 20-year-old singer/songwriter daughter, Lily Pearl, is also joining the tour.

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Edna Gundersen, a regular AARP music critic, was the longtime pop critic for USA Today.

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