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Album Review: Wonder
Tobin Mueller
Cover image of the album Wonder by Tobin Mueller
Tobin Mueller
2019 / Tobin Mueller
119 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
If there is any doubt in anyone’s mind that Tobin Mueller is one of the most versatile and eclectic artists out there, his new double-album, Wonder, will quickly remedy that situation! With just under two hours of music, the collection is made up of twenty-eight vocal and instrumental pieces, many of which are in a prog rock style, that date back as far as 1976. All are new recordings and/or new arrangements of music from previous albums, some of Mueller’s nine musicals, collaborative projects and more. Dedicated to his three grandchildren, the album is described on Mueller’s website: “Following on the heels of his successful jazz double album Standard Deviations, Mueller has turned his virtuosic chops to Progressive Rock and Pop Fusion. The songs are full of complex tapestries of layered vocals, electric guitars, keyboards and percussion….What began as an homage to youthful emergence grew into much more. There is a political aspect to this music, tempered by innocence, thoughtfulness and love….The album cycles between vocal pieces and instrumentals. This gives listeners a chance to contemplate, to daydream, to create a storyline, to view the journey from many perspectives.”

Volume 1 contains twelve tracks, six of which are new versions of songs that appeared on Mueller’s 2008 Revolution’s Son collaborative album under the artist name “Audiocracy.” The band includes Mueller’s son, Anton Mueller on guitar and vocals, Bob Piper on electric guitar, Rob Thurman on drums and, Tobin Mueller on piano, organ, synths and vocals. Some of these songs have been shortened and have new piano additions. Titles include “When The Future Comes,” “Rebellion is a Lullaby (to the boy inside),” “Escaping the Fray Zone,” “Speak Truth To Power” and “Dare to Sing,” and there is a lot of raw power in the music as well as the lyrics. The sixth piece from Revolution’s Son, “Gethsemane Revisited,” was edited, remastered and renamed and is an interpretation of “the moment God decides to remain silent and leaves his Son to decide for himself.” Other tracks on this disc include “Let the Rumpus Begin,” a celebration of playing; “Rock the Baby,” a collaboration with The African Wereld Choir; and my favorite, “The Long Sleep,” a “New Orleans funeral second line procession.” There are also two versions of the very beautiful “I Won’t Leave You,” one instrumental and one vocal, from two of Mueller’s musicals, Creature and Runners In a Dream.

If it’s possible, Volume 2 is even more diverse with sixteen tracks. “Before There Were Gods” is essentially a trio with the late Michael Hedges (acoustic guitar) and George Winston (fretless bass). Adapted from Hedges’ instrumental, “Lenona” (1981) (with permission, of course!), Mueller’s lyrics transform the piece into a hauntingly beautiful love song. “Pandora’s Box” is a prog rock collaboration with the Canadian duo, Shadow of Nine. “Was There Once A Time” is one of my favorites of Mueller’s songs. Written shortly after 9/11, the lyrics reflect on the loss and confusion of those days. “Chaos Is a Ladder” combines two instrumentals that were composed for Merlyn, a musical Mueller never finished. Organ, piano and orchestrations were all performed by Mueller for this track. Several other tracks originated with Merlyn, too, including the symphonic “Lady of the Lake” with haunting vocalese by Mystified - another favorite! Full of love, tenderness and hope, “Loolay Lullaby” was composed in 1985 for Mueller’s second son, William. The closing track is a gem! It is an a cappella performance of Mueller’s daughter, Dale, singing “God Bless America” - when she was 3! What a sweet ending for this fascinating compilation of Tobin Mueller’s work!

Extensive liner notes and other information about Mueller and his music are available at www.tobinmueller.com. The album is available from Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby as well as many streaming sites.
November 17, 2019
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