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Blue Tattoos


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I consider Joni Mitchell's Blue (1971) to be one of the greatest albums ever made. Every song a gem, weaving into an astounding whole. Plus, it came out at the most impressionable stage of my life. I had arranged a jazz version of Joni's "Blue" for Woody Mankowski (sax player) and I to play. for our not yet completed "Come In Funky" jazz-funk album. He wasn't familiar with much of her music, so I sang the parts to him, using her lyrics. I found that lyrics from other of her songs fit into the intro and verse breaks, so I decided to rearrange my arrangement for piano/voice, me alone. I was trying to highlight the lyrics of Blue by adding lines from other songs using nostalgic loss, wistful regret, and burdened hope, all part of Joni's original Blue concept. The intro bass line is a swing version of the original bass line Joni uses on her version, by the way.

I didn't learn until decades later that Joni was singing about James Tayler in this song (and many others on Blue). It altered how I look at the album, how I looked at many of her songs. I thought back to James Taylor singing along with the backing chorus on "Circle Game" (Ladies of the Canyon, 1970). Naturally, I started singing some of those lyrics as I was arranging this tune. That's how the idea of dropping in lyrics from other of Joni's early works was born.

You will find quotes from "Circle Game" as well as "River" (Blue), "Both Sides Now" (Clouds, 1969) and "A Case Of You" (Blue), woven into the basic structure of "Blue" (Blue). Some of the lyrics aren't exactly right, but that is how I've been singing them for years and just realized while I looked up the lyrics for this project, after recording. Oh well.

The music is haunting, vaguely jazzy, full of cyclical sadness and rebirth, with an overall sense of overcoming and hope. Just like Joni's lyrics. I use reverb to try and separate moments of recollection and the narrative. My voice is a bit weak on this one, but I figure it works as a regret and melancholy old guy's statement. My daughter liked how I almost yodel hear and there. :-)

Please watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtHJMGS4ZNk

It's illustrated by tattoos, each chosen to accentuate a particular lyric. It was great fun to find them. Astounding tattoos out there! The music on this video starts about 18 seconds in, so don't worry that your sound isn't working. Also, the last image is of the tattoo I got last year when I took my daughter to New Orleans for her 21st birthday. We got matching tattoos, but hers is 3x as big and goes along her side, making it a bit too R rated for public viewing. I'd embed the video here but can't figure out how...

Other draft tracks from "Song of Myself" shared on MacJams include:
Dignity (by Bob Dylan)
Blackbird (by Paul McCartney)
Blue Tattoos (based on songs by Joni Mitchell)
Frozen Man (by James Taylor)
I Have Been Deceived (based on songs by Elton John/Bernie Taupin)
American Tune (by Paul Simon)
Oh Danny Boy (traditional)
No Place Like Home (a duet: piano/soprano sax)
Before There Were Gods (with Michael Hedges)
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Lyrics
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on…
Bows and flow of angel hair
Ice cream castles in the air
Feathered canyons everywhere
Everywhere

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairytale comes real
Comes real

Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
Tears and fears and feeling proud
Say it loud! Right out loud…?

Oh, songs are like tattoos you know
They’ve been to sea before
Been away to war
They crown and anchor me
Oh, let me sail away

Blue, here is a song for you
Ink on a pin
Underneath the skin
There’s always one more space to fill in

Like holy wine

Blue, here is a shell for you
Inside you'll hear a sigh
A foggy lullaby

Oh, blue
Another shell for you
Inside you'll hear a cry
Teach my feet to fly

There is a song for me
Round and round
And the seasons go round and round

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder

He skated over frozen streams
And promises of "someday" make his dreams

Oh, a child’s dream, those old dreams lose some grandeur coming true

Well, everybody's saying that hell's the hippest way to go
But I don't think so
I took a look around it though

Acid, booze, and ass
Needles, guns, and grass
Lots of laugh

I remember that time you said
You said, "Love is touching souls"
Surely you touched mine
'Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time…

Teach my feet to fly
- lyrics by Joni Mitchell, rearranged and edited
Song Stats
Hits: 1879
Comments: 23
Fans: 18
Plays: 208
Downloads: 33

Uploaded: Jun 26, 2013 - 09:46:27 AM
Last Updated: Aug 08, 2013 - 10:51:27 AM Last Played: Sep 21, 2017 - 04:01:40 AM
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Comments
J_Gretch said 1612 days ago (June 26th, 2013)
Blue Tattoos
I like your quote in the description "
The music is haunting, vaguely jazzy, full of cyclical sadness and rebirth, with an overall sense of overcoming and hope."could not have said it better. Although some of those piano chord and a bit more than"vaguely jazzy"...I'd say pretty hard core in places...Much enjoyed sir!...
Check out my latest song called Only what you feel
TobinMueller said 1611 days ago (June 27th, 2013)
more than vaguely jazz
Ha! You got me on that one. Glad you liked it!
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
thetiler said 1611 days ago (June 26th, 2013)
wow
You got to be one of the most talented guys on the site maybe even on the web, Your mom's GOT to be proud! I've heard you say she was an artist, I can almost her in you :) Enjoy the adventure of this song and how it takes you to so many various places. You really are an amazing talent. One I know I can learn from to get better myself. To many artist on these pop tv reality shows think they are so great but so many do just one thing but you have those vocal chords that go all over the place in cool notes and those fingers are a flying ! WaY to Go!!!!
Check out my latest song called They Went Underground
TobinMueller said 1611 days ago (June 27th, 2013)
Enjoyed the adventure
Thanks! Yes, this song takes you on a journey of memory, regret, longing, loss, and flight. The arrangement took me a good 2-3 weeks to work out just right. Can't wait to share the version with sax, etc!
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
Doug Somers said 1611 days ago (June 26th, 2013)
Blue +
Like an ode or hommage this works brilliantly in pulling together various emotional and sonic snippets into a new acoustic quilt. I can feel how her influence has shaped you and how you have reshaped the original to express who you are now. Your voice is sounding great here Tobin and your piano is as wonderfully expressive as ever.

Thanks for the backstory too since that makes the experience all the richer.

Doug
Check out my latest song called Coming Home - Based on a Theme by David Kneupper
TobinMueller said 1611 days ago (June 27th, 2013)
Homage
For sure, this is a homage to Joni. She was a huge influence. And I loved the way she encorporated more and more jazz into her own songs. Her songs fall around me all jumbled up anyway. Kind of glad I used so many of them. Its fun to sit with Joni fans and have them pick out where each phrase comes from...! Thanks for listening.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
LisaHawbaker said 1611 days ago (June 27th, 2013)
Blue
very creative, like all the mixing, nice piece:)
Check out my latest song called Hold on to the Moments
TobinMueller said 1611 days ago (June 27th, 2013)
Blue
Appreciated. I think I sang this one 6 times, dropping lines, backing off the mic on others, until the right narrative style occurred to me. Glad you liked the mix.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
Llarion said 1610 days ago (June 27th, 2013)
I love River...
And I LOVE your reharmonizations of these melodies. You've distilled this down to an utterly simple, yet delicately complex paradigm. Love it. Your voice is compelling and beckoning on this too. I don't think it's weak, I think it has character.
Check out my latest song called Door to Babylon
TobinMueller said 1608 days ago (June 30th, 2013)
simple yet delicately complex paradigm
Nice phrase! Yes, the melodies were hard to sing, in places, over these all new chords, especially finding the starting notes of some of the phrases. Lost of practice before recording! I'm glad you think my voice has character, lol! The weakness comes in holding pitch, above all, especially since the mic is right up against my lips. But, yes, character is what I am going for. ;-0

Thanks for the great comments.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
Philip18 said 1610 days ago (June 28th, 2013)
Blue
Amazing work,. I'm very familiar with the originals and it is fascinating to hear what you've done with them. Of course, the piano playing is very strong, too. Much enjoyed!
Check out my latest song called First Night Alone
TobinMueller said 1608 days ago (June 30th, 2013)
familiar
I think these arrangements are al the more interesting the more you are familiar with the original. Glad you listened in! Appreciate your enjoyment!!
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
CIASM_ZENABI_ said 1610 days ago (June 28th, 2013)
blue tattoos
interesting eclectic sound and erratic approach that works. cool falsetto.
Check out my latest song called GLOWING IN THE DARK (2012 REMIX)
TobinMueller said 1608 days ago (June 30th, 2013)
eclectic sound and erratic but works
...like the broken mirror of memories spread around in shards of sound and image. That is what I was going for. Glad it worked for you. Thanks!
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
woofer3 said 1609 days ago (June 28th, 2013)
Blue Tattoos
Love this unusual and enjoyable piece, so full of drama and tension.

By the way -I also like Blue by Joni Mitchel - recently bought it on cd.
Check out my latest song called Drunken bakers [08-01]
TobinMueller said 1608 days ago (June 30th, 2013)
drama and tension
Thanks. I put so much thought and work into this one, and it goes by so fast. Each little section took me at least a day to work out, by themselves, and some last less than a minute. Whoosh! Glad you enjoyed then piece, and very glad you recently bought her CD. I used to have all her original transcriptions for each song on Blue, which is no longer available, but cant find them! The sheet music you buy now is all dumbed down awful stuff, not a transcription at all. At least I have the memories...
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
Char said 1607 days ago (July 1st, 2013)
I
am not used to this kind of medley but think it is done quite a bit in musicals. Nice performance.
Check out my latest song called Bound, v2. w Music by Dirigent
TobinMueller said 1606 days ago (July 2nd, 2013)
Musicals
Musical theatre is my roots!
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
magnatone said 1606 days ago (July 2nd, 2013)
Blue Tattoos
wonderful work tobin!
Check out my latest song called Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen) and Variations
jiguma said 1605 days ago (July 3rd, 2013)
Joni -
an all time favourite player, writer and vocalist of mine. A pretty amazing medley (but more than a medley) here Tobin. This is quite an achievement - very interesting and enjoyable.
Cheers from Oz,
Neil
Check out my latest song called We End Up Being All The Same (42)
Loob said 1605 days ago (July 3rd, 2013)
Cool lyrics Tobin
Ah yeas I am hearing the based on songs. This is very interesting! Entertaining on many levels! Nicely played and produced.
Check out my latest song called Luminosity ft Maurice7 and Melani
MartinD28 said 1604 days ago (July 3rd, 2013)
Blue Tattoos
Very much like a musical theater piece in free form. You play and sing so confidently and sound comfortable in this type of musical expression. Very unique and I enjoyed listening - thanks for sharing!
Check out my latest song called Don't Lose Me Lord
MarkHolbrook said 1596 days ago (July 12th, 2013)
With you completely
on that one. The album will remain a classic. It is too bad it was about such a rough time for her. But still the album simply rocks! So does this! Nicely done!
Check out my latest song called Corn Whiskey
Artist Info
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Name: Tobin Mueller
Location: Rowayton CT USA
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I am a professional musician, composer, playwright and director. I've led a charmed life. I'm married to fellow MJer Suzanne and MJer Twonicus is my son, who currently sings and writes for rock bands in the NYC, D.C. and Cleveland areas. My second s... [see more]

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