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Album Review: If I Could Live Long Enough
Tobin Mueller
Cover image of the album If I Could Live Long Enough by Tobin Mueller
If I Could Live Long Enough
Tobin Mueller
2016 / Tobin Mueller
64 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
If I Could Live Long Enough is a compilation of twelve of Tobin Mueller’s favorite songs that didn’t make it onto any of his twenty-five previous albums. Most of the songs are sung by Mueller, but the last four tracks are sung by artists who performed them in Mueller’s musicals. The songs date back as far as 1981, but most were written between 2001 and 2004. Of all of the artists that I’ve reviewed over the years, Tobin Mueller has to be the most versatile. He has released numerous solo piano albums that range from new age to jazz to classical, etc. His vocal albums include covers and a wide variety of originals. There are also collaborations with several different musicians, including Woody Mankowski, who appears on this one singing and playing sax (not at the same time!). Mueller has also written several musicals, so there isn’t much in the music realm that he hasn’t done and that vast experience is evident in this music, too. The lyrics of all of the songs are poetic and meaningful, so I really appreciate that Mueller has them posted on his website. There are also several bonus tracks available at http://www.tobinmueller.com/long-enough/ .

If I Could Live Long Enough begins with the title tune, a folk song that began as a “whimsical, ironic, comic love song” and includes John Selvia on bass. Apparently the “comic” part evolved, as the song very effectively presents a varied bucket list of things that would be great to experience in this life. “Before There Were Gods” was originally developed as an homage to late guitarist Michael Hedges (1953-1997) and his performance of his song “Lenona” was used with the permission of Hedges’ estate. The lyrics were inspired by Tobin’s wife, Suzanne, and beautifully express the timelessness of love - my favorite track on the album. “Pilgrim of the Great Return” is a folk-jazz song Mueller collaborated on with his son, Anton, and sax player Woody Mankowski. When the acoustic guitar is in the lead, the folk influence is obvious, and when the sax leads, it becomes a jazz song. When they merge, it’s musical magic - another favorite. “Was There Once a Time” was written after 9/11 and asks the question of whether there was ever a time when idealism was real and life made more sense - as appropriate a question now as it was then. Keyboard accompaniment is a simple backdrop for the profound lyrics. “Falling” is the oldest song in the collection, originally written in 1981. The lyrics have changed somewhat over the years as have the arrangements, but the original solo ballad accompanied by a nylon string patch on a Korg keyboard, is ultimately a beautiful and soulful love song - I really like this one, too! “Turn It Around” is pure fun! It was written in 2004 for a contest to write “new” 80’s music and Mueller wrote it to express the exhilaration that comes from dancing for an extended period of time and how if everyone felt like that the world would be a much better place. The next three songs come from Mueller’s musical, Creature. Woody Mankowski, who played two roles in the show, sings “A Promise,” “The Shape Of My Life,” and “When You Awake.” Emily Rohm sings a reprise of “When You Awake” that was in the show Runners In a Dream. It’s an achingly poignant song that is sung by a ghost mother to her daughter who is hiding from the Nazis - a wonderful close to the album.

If I Could Live Long Enough is a very special treat from this very prolific artist and is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!
November 5, 2016