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Album Review: Best of Tobin Mueller, Vol. 3 - Prog Fusion
Tobin Mueller
Cover image of the album Best of Tobin Mueller, Vol. 3 - Prog Fusion by Tobin Mueller
Best of Tobin Mueller, Vol. 3 - Prog Fusion
Tobin Mueller
2023 / Tobin Mueller
118 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Best of Tobin Mueller, Vol. 3 - Prog Fusion is the third in a series of five Best Of albums by composer/ musician/ poet/ playwright/ photographer/ artist (and more!), Tobin Mueller, an artist I've thoroughly enjoyed reviewing and interviewing since his first solo album, Morning Whispers, in 2005. This double-album is a retrospective of Tobin's best progressive rock and rock-fusion jazz and contains tracks from Wonder (2019 - five tracks), Audiocracy (2008 - 5 tracks), A Bit of Light (2007 - three tracks), Prestidigitation (2022 - two tracks ), and one each from If I Could Live Long Enough (2016), What Survives (2020), Creature (Frankenstein Revisited) from the musical, Puzzle People (2021), Radio Edits (2020), and Midwinter Born (2013), plus one previously unreleased instrumental track called "Whale Talk." The fourteen high-energy songs on Disc 1 have dense vocal harmonies and powerful instrumental accompaniment that includes acoustic and electric pianos, synths, organ, guitars, horns, sax, flute, percussion, etc. Tobin's passionate, poetic lyrics are the icing on the musical cake whether they are sung by him or one of the other featured vocalists. Disc 2 contains eight instrumentals, most of which are also bold, energetic and powerful. In other words, don't expect this album to put you to sleep or try to keep it in the background while having a deep, personal conversation with someone! This is music to be enjoyed with full attention, danced to, and even sung along with!

Volume 1, Jazz Originals contains twenty-one original pieces from the previously-released albums mentioned above, and Volume 2, Jazz Arrangements contains twenty-one of Tobin's arrangements of classic standards, also chosen primarily from previously-released albums. Even though almost all of these pieces are from other recordings, it is very important to note that all of them, including the music in the next two volumes, has been re-mastered and/or reworked specifically for this series, sometimes adding or subtracting parts and instruments to better serve the music and to bring all of the recording techniques up-to-date. Compilation albums are often very uneven in recording quality with different pianos and musicians, as well as different recording equipment and engineers, but this series has a very consistent (and top notch!) sound quality throughout. Spotify lists Tobin's Best Of series as "compilation albums," but that really isn't accurate when the tracks are not in their originally-released form. Quoting Tobin:

"This series presents my favorite recordings, polished and vitally present, as a testimony to the great players I’ve worked with, the legacy of creativity I’ve been able to ride, and the joy of music that has buoyed me my entire life."

Tobin Mueller either composed or co-composed all of the music on this double-album and plays acoustic and electric pianos, organ, basses, and vintage synths; he also sings. Other artists include Tobin's son, Anton Mueller, on vocals, electric bass, and acoustic guitar; Woody Mankowski on saxes and vocals; and an impressive list of other musicians, singers and artists. Tobin's Best Of series is truly a labor of love from the first note to the last, and I'm looking forward to Volume 4, Vocals (releasing May 15, 2023) and Volume 5, Chill (releasing June 28, 2023). There is also a two-volume Best of Solo Piano collection in the works, and I'm really looking forward to that one!

Best of Tobin Mueller, Vol. 3 - Prog Fusion is available from Tobin's website, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, and streaming sites including Spotify. Check it out!

May 2, 2023