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Album Review: The Best of Tobin Mueller, Vol. 4 - Vocals
Tobin Mueller
Cover image of the album The Best of Tobin Mueller, Vol. 4 - Vocals by Tobin Mueller
The Best of Tobin Mueller, Vol. 4 - Vocals
Tobin Mueller
2023 / Tobin Mueller
111 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
As the album title makes clear, Best of Tobin Mueller, Vol. 4 - Vocals is the fourth in a series of five double albums featuring newly re-mastered and/or newly recorded music from Tobin's many albums dating back to his 2005 solo debut, Morning Whispers. Tobin is probably best-known for his piano and instrumental albums that often defy categorization into specific genres, but Volume 4 is a collection of twenty-five vocals that also defy being labeled by type or style. The albums most of the songs come from are A Bit of Light (2007), September 11 Project - Ten Years Later (2011), Song Of Myself (2012), If I Could Live Long Enough (2016), and Wonder (2019). There also three songs that haven't been on previous albums in any form, some of which date back much farther than 2007. Currently, sixteen of the twenty-five tracks have music videos that are available on YouTube along with the lyrics and visual images that deepen the meaning of each of the songs. In addition to a wide variety of instrumental and vocal recordings, Tobin has written and composed the music for several musicals, films and more, and some of those songs are also included on Volume 4.

It is worth noting that Spotify is calling this series of albums "compilations," but by remastering and/or re-recording the music, adding or subtracting instruments and voices, Tobin has created new versions of his favorites while giving a smooth, consistent sound to the albums using today's recording technology. So, even if you have all of Tobin's albums (as I do!), these are new versions that are well-worth adding to your collection.

Although I generally prefer instrumental music, Tobin's lyrics are poetic and many of these songs feel personal and autobiographical as well as philosophical - a glimpse into the heart and mind of the artist. Additional musicians include the late Michael Hedges, Woody Mankowski, Kenny Cash, Ron Carter, Anton Mueller, and many others.

Ten of the songs come from A Bit of Light, a collection of original songs dating back as far as 1972 and inspired by a wide variety of life experiences that include heartbreak, love, death, birth, reflection and much more. One of Tobin's especially powerful albums, September 11 Project, Ten Years Later, is a series of seven songs written in the aftermath of that dark day in American history. In writing these songs, Tobin reflected on and began the healing process from being on the front lines of the volunteers supporting the efforts of the search and rescue operations in New York City after the attack. The six songs from that album are incredibly powerful and emotional, including "When I Sing," one of my favorites of Tobin's songs.

"What Is This Touch" is one of the songs not previously released. Co-written with Tobin's nephew, Chris Mueller, in 2002, it's a love song, pure and simple, newly arranged, performed and recorded for this album. "Lucky Boy," also previously unreleased, was written in 2003 and is more than a bit funky with electric guitar, organ, drums and Tobin's vocals. "When You Awake To Me (Dreams)" was originally composed in 1992 for a not-completed musical, and was later used is Tobin's 1996 musical, Creature. This beautiful version is a previously unreleased composer demo.

Best of Tobin Mueller, Vol. 4 - Vocals is a great retrospective of Tobin Mueller's singing and songwriting! It is available from Tobin's website, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and many streaming sites including Spotify. More information about this music and the other volumes in the series, as well as Tobin's many other recordings, is available on his website. Volume 5 - Chill will be released June 28, 2023. Check 'em all out!
June 19, 2023
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