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Don Quixote

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Early this summer, my latest album Hard Place To Find was released. First reviews ares great! This is the second track off the album. Yet another chapter in my homage to all things Quixotic.

Gordon Lightfoot's version of this song is a classic folk ballad, with a completely different feel than this arrangment. Epic and tightly balanced and full of motif repetition. He music was on our phonograph frequently when I was growing up, something both my older sister and my mother could enjoy together, a rarity in 1971.

I had always thought the drama in this song never truly came through, however. Now, with 40 years of theatrical experience under my belt, I felt I could try and bring into it more drama.

Every stanza morphs into a slightly different musical style, each one trying to accompany a unique emotion, unlocking underlayers of lyrical meaning. It begins with the pounding of hooves, a blues-jazz version of a train coming down the tracks, speaking to a journey and journeyer already well matured. I mix minor/minor chord substitions, for this journey could be heroic or tragic, or both at once, depending. A more manic feel seeps into the arrangement until the almost circus-like descending scale of the second chorus. What I play as a blues break is a fragmented verse (the original has MANY verses!), juxtaposing the poor children and the wealthy gentry. Then this gives way to a more haunting style. Social commentary in shortened phrases. I added the "I'm so tired, so tired," because I needed to finish that stanza somehow, and the words just came out while I was rehearsing it one day.

The second to last stanza has some of my favorite piano playing on the album. At around 4:50, the jazzy right hand flourishes work just right. Hope you last that long into the song!

The last stanza reverts to the kind of playing I learned from listening to folk guitarists. It returns closer to the roots of Lightfoot's version. And, I think, gives the ending tableau a kind of dignity. I took great liberty editing those last lines, picking only those that gave the minimal vision of man in the story, a mixture of Don Quixote and the "I" singing the tale...

Please read more about my album on my website: Hard Place To Find project page.

Other draft tracks from Hard Place To Find on MacJams:
Paradise (in memory of Richie Havens)
Don Quixote (by Gordon Lightfoot)
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DON QUIXOTE by Gordon Lightfoot
(with alterations by me)

Through the woodland, through the valley
Comes a horseman wild and free
Tilting at the windmills passing
Who can the brave young horseman be
He is wild but he is mellow
He is strong but he is weak
He is cruel but he is gentle
He is wise but he is meek

Reaching for his saddlebag
He takes a battered book into his hand
Standing like a prophet bold
He shouts across the ocean to the shore
Till he can shout no more

I have come o'er moor and mountain
Like the hawk upon the wing
I was once a shining knight
The guardian of a king
I have searched the whole world over
Looking for a place to sleep
I have seen the strong survive
And I have seen the lean grown weak

Reaching for his saddlebag
He takes a battered book into his hand
Standing like a prophet bold
He shouts across the ocean to the shore
Till he can shout no more

See the children of the earth wake to find the table bare
See the gentry riding off to take the air
I reach into my saddle bag in hopes I'll find something there

See the jailor with his key
He locks away all trace of sin
See the judge upon the bench
As he tries the case as best he can
See the wise and wicked ones
Who feed upon life's sacred fire
See the soldier with his gun
Who must be dead to be admired
I'm so tired. So tired

See the one who wears the collar
On the ones who dare not tell
See the ones around the gallows
And the ones who buy and sell
See the drunkard, see the youth
Looking for the truth

Reaching for his saddlebag
He takes a tarnished cross into his hand
And standing like a teacher now
He shouts across the ocean...
Then in a blaze of tangled hooves
He gallops off across the land
Where no one will hear
Where no one will hear
To search again
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Uploaded: Aug 19, 2013 - 02:21:41 PM
Last Updated: Aug 19, 2013 - 02:49:18 PM Last Played: Aug 25, 2019 - 08:18:23 PM
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Philip18 said 2250 days ago (August 19th, 2013)
Don Quixote
A favourite song of mine (I'm a great fan of Gordon lightfoot) and it's interesting to hear your approach to it. You bring urgency and emotion to the lyrics - more expressive than the original, which was typically Lightfoot in its sweet melodic approach. The piano playing also has more variety than the original arrangement. You have made the song your own, Toby, thus taking it beyond just a standard cover version. I enjoyed this very much.
Check out my latest song called Refuge
PeterB7858 said 2250 days ago (August 19th, 2013)
Don Quixote
Some quality vamp blues piano gives this rendition of Gord's song a very unique character. Uniquely Tobin, in fact. You have managed to bring the essence of the lyrics to life. Creative change of style for the last verse. The balance of the vocal and the piano is interesting. It sounds like you are singing a bit away from the mic? Enjoyed. Thanks, Peter.
Check out my latest song called The Parting Of The Ways
Llarion said 2250 days ago (August 19th, 2013)
Superb expression...
I love how you speak with your piano... Agree with Philip18; you really made this your own, added mystery and dimension and a bit of voodoo... :)
Check out my latest song called Door to Babylon
paul f. page said 2249 days ago (August 20th, 2013)
Trouble with your voice...???
Man, you've recovered completely. This is probably the strongest vocal from you in several years. You not only "pitch" this with authority and complete control, but you whip out a high note now and again and it's right on the money. ... I am not familiar with the original, but must say that your cover is intricate and complex in the way you deliver it vocally and especially in the piano accompaniment. I imagine that you played and sang this simultaneously. Don't know how it could be so tight otherwise. A great example of your ability to improvise far beyond the given tune and to pull it all together so seamlessly. It doesn't get any better than this.
Check out my latest song called Caprice
Moviz said 2249 days ago (August 20th, 2013)
I leave
the dissecting of the piano playing of this piece to those more qualified than myself, except to say I'm in awe of the styles and moods you have shown on the instrument here, as well as the expressive vocals (good to hear you sounding so good again)....much enjoyed, regards M
Check out my latest song called We'll Meet Again
davisamerica said 2249 days ago (August 20th, 2013)
randy newman piano
... never a bad thing IMHO.
Check out my latest song called ok char2(Vic and Flatrock mix)
MartinD28 said 2248 days ago (August 20th, 2013)
Don Quixote
Having not heard Lightfoot's interpretation I only have yours to go on. You express the persona of Don Quixote with good command of voice and piano. Your theatrical experience enhances the piece and I felt as if I was watching it staged in a theatre. Thanks for sharing!
Check out my latest song called Don't Lose Me Lord
Doug Somers said 2141 days ago (December 6th, 2013)
Lightfoot Revisited
Your command of the piano is stellar here Tobin. I know the original well (as a Canadian we are born with Gord's music tattooed on our frontal cortex) and so this is a fascinating take on that work. Your 'so tired' segment works perfectly - the kind of thing that inspiration from improvising can only bring. Playing though out is vibrant and alive. The following part in 3 is tender, almost showing the frailty of the protagonist. Amidst all of the emotion and musicianship I think I like how you bring this to a close the best. You speak to drama and in my books you close this off with a touch and a meaning that is well beyond the words or just the notes. Congratulations.
Check out my latest song called Western Stranger
thetiler said 2139 days ago (December 8th, 2013)
Love that
stride piano feel to this and always it seems you install amazing pics. Love how you get such a complex sound and maintain a cool steady beat.

I was wondering about who wrote the words then I see one of my musical hero's Gordon Lightfoot. Wow! And you put an incredible spin on this. And the alterations by you in the words. Enjoy the dancing feel towards the end as well. WaY t0 Go !
Check out my latest song called They Went Underground
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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Genre Info
The blues is a vocal and instrumental form of music based on a pentatonic scale and a characteristic twelve-bar chord progression. The form evolved in the United States in the communities of former African slaves from spirituals, praise songs, field

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