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Frozen Man (by James Taylor)


by

TobinMueller

 Genre: Ballad

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Description
I arranged and recorded this song while in the throes and recovery of persistent pneumonia. Seemed like a great song to demonstrate the awful sounds that sometimes emanate from my lungs. I hadn't considered including this song on Song Of Myself until my pneumonia. I was planning on performing a different song by JT. But then I couldn't shake my cough and decided this was the only song I sounded right singing. (I recorded the vocals in a separate pass so that I could edit out most of the coughing between phrases.)

"The Frozen Man" (New Moon Shine, 1991) was inspired by an article that appeared in National Geographic magazine. The body of this unfortunate man was found a hundred years after he was lost on a late 19th century expedition from the Atlantic to the Pacific across the North Canadian coast. Taylor put his own spin on the story, having the victim coming back to life and realizing that his family was gone. (In a concert screened by BBC Television in March 2009, he said he didn't know much about the story, having simply looked at the pictures, but the more he thought about it the more he realised his composition was about his own father, who had spent two years at the South Pole with the Navy.)

This was the most challenging arrangement for me. The James Taylor version is driven by percussion and a very rhythmic guitar part. I had no idea how to represant that relentless feeling of drive and forward motion. I'm kind of glad the pneumonia took so long to abate. I needed all that time to figure it out.

I tried to invoke the sea shanty music of The Frozen Man's own era. And the sense of ice and a world full of sharp, cold things. The spaces between the notes help to illustrate his sense separateness. The rhythms invoke his sense of particality and common sense. But there is no request for pity. Only mercy.

Mercy, something we may all need.

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
Last thing I remember is the freezing cold
Water reaching up just to swallow me whole
Ice in the rigging and howling wind
Shock to my body as we tumbled in, mercy, God
Then my brothers and the others are lost at sea
I alone am returned to tell thee
Hidden in ice for a century
To walk the world again
Lord have mercy on the frozen man

Next words that were spoken to me
Nurse asked me what my name might be
She was all in white at the foot of my bed
I said angel of mercy, I'm alive or am I dead?
My name is William James McPhee
I was born in 1843
Raised in Liverpool by the sea
But that ain't who I am
Lord have mercy on the frozen man

It took a lot of money to start my heart
To peg my leg and buy my eye
Newspapers call me the state of the art
And the children, when they see me, cry

I thought it'd be nice just to visit my grave
See what kind of tombstone I might have
I saw my wife and my daughter and it seemed so strange
Both dead and gone from extreme old age
See here, when I die make sure I'm gone
Don't leave 'em nothing to work on
You can raise your arm, you can wiggle your hand, unlike myself
You can wave goodbye to the frozen man

I know what it means to freeze to death
To lose a little life with every breath
To say goodbye to life on earth
Then come around again
Lord have mercy on the frozen man
Lord have mercy on the frozen man
Lord have mercy on me
All you, have mercy

- lyrics by James Taylor
Song Stats
Hits: 2757
Comments: 44
Fans: 26
Plays: 275
Downloads: 33

Uploaded: Apr 23, 2013 - 07:05:35 PM
Last Updated: Aug 08, 2013 - 10:52:12 AM Last Played: Feb 16, 2017 - 11:10:01 AM
Song License
Creative Commons License:
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Comments
paul f. page said 1407 days ago (April 23rd, 2013)
Always exquisite
Once again, I am so impressed by the complexity of your piano work. It is always so engaging and rhythmically interesting. Makes me pay attention because there seems to be something important going on...and I am never disappointed.

You definitely write with a theatre piece in mind, the lyrics here providing a narrative in sort of a recitative fashion rather than with a tune that I can hum later on. Perhaps it is a prelude to that big tune that happens later in the show. But the sort-of breathlessness in your delivery is packed with energy and is compelling as a story-telling device. (I hear you struggling with your own vocal delivery and applaud you for giving it your best shot considering the circumstances of your various health issues of late. What I think is important is that you get down on tape—so to speak—your own interpretations of your work. It's just great that you are doing this. I just hope it's not hurting you to do so.)
Check out my latest song called Far From The Madding Crowd
TobinMueller said 1407 days ago (April 23rd, 2013)
Brothers in arms
Thank you, Paul. I look for you to listen careful when I post, no matter how many months might be between each track. I appreciate you, it, each.

Yes, I am nearly unable to keep myself from bringing theatricality to my music. Its like a compulsion. Or to repeat a verse, as I get bored so easily at the piano if I have to repeat a figure too much. I am glad you embraced these variations as tone poem audio paintings supporting the lyrics and story. It is my goal.

And you comment abut getting all this down on tape... That is indeed my major motivation. Again, deep thanks.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
WharmtonRise said 1406 days ago (April 23rd, 2013)
Lovely
The pain in your voice adds a lot to the performance of this particular song I feel. Also super piano work. Mix is as clean as I would expect. Great work. Get well!!
Check out my latest song called Hunted
TobinMueller said 1406 days ago (April 24th, 2013)
Pain in your voice
Thanks. That the story is in the first person makes all the difference. I am glad it came to me to channel my breathing difficulties through this song. Thanks for listening.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
Loob said 1406 days ago (April 23rd, 2013)
Amazing work Tobin!
In some places I think the piano kinda steps on the vox. A small nit since we have the vocals. Thanks for sharing!
Check out my latest song called Replaced w Kathy Shortt, and Ted Poulsen
TobinMueller said 1406 days ago (April 24th, 2013)
stepping piano
Yes, I do love pounding those keys! I get filled with emotion and, thus, adrenaline when the spirit moves me, one of the reasons I love to play. Even tho I play, for the most part, more quietly than most, when I pound the contrast is severe. Modern mixes rarely let the true range of dynamics to be heard, what with all the compression used nowadays. That the piano drowns, to me, in this song, is part of the idea. Just as the sea. And the ice. And pneumonia...
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
thetiler said 1406 days ago (April 23rd, 2013)
Thanks for sharing
I am saddened by having to take advantage of your illness to get a song. But that is typical Tobin, so dedicated even a thing like pneumonia, when your given a lemon you make lemonade a true sign of a musical stalwart. Like Paul stated you piano is amazing and to be able to sing and play like you do is truly inspiring! Way to go Tobin!
Check out my latest song called They Went Underground
TobinMueller said 1406 days ago (April 24th, 2013)
thetiler!
My, it has been a long time, Bill. A wave of nostalgia swept thru me I read you comments. Thanks.

I do have a soft spot for those folks who sell lemonade at neighborhood street corners.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
johnwhitehead said 1406 days ago (April 24th, 2013)
Frozen
I didn't know this JT tune so I checked out his version. I really like what you did with it. Somehow the story comes thru with more clarity in your version. Lovely piano arrangement. And not an easy song to sing. Painful to hear you fighting for breath, but love the honesty of your rendition.
Check out my latest song called Wandering Blues
TobinMueller said 1406 days ago (April 24th, 2013)
honesty
I am glad you checked out the original JT version. I love the rhythmic bed he sings over. One of the things all my covers I've arranged, both in Song of Myself (2012) and Hard Place To Find (June, 2013), is to somehow make the lyrics come to life in a new way using theatrical arranging, constant variations. On some of them, even a single word will determine a chord substitution. But, above all, I am trying to make them my own, always striving for an intimate kind of honesty. I really appreciate that you mentioned this. I am having a great time doing them.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
Moviz said 1406 days ago (April 24th, 2013)
Sorry
I missed this when you posted it Tobin..... such a strong and vital performance pianistically and vocally, especially with your health in the state it's been in (so sorry about that). Your indomitable urge to perform shows through this and I'm full of admiration for your strength and persistence even apart from your wonderful artistry....... a really strong performance, much enjoyed, regards M
Check out my latest song called Angels
TobinMueller said 1406 days ago (April 24th, 2013)
indomitable urge
Thank you, Moviz. Funny, that the worst part of my A1AD is how I am affected by stress. It can induce pneumonia all by itself. Having to avoid stress as been one of the things keeping my off stage. But recording in the privacy of my home, or the sanctuary of a relaxed studio, I can handle.

Really glad you enjoyed this.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
Parichayaka said 1406 days ago (April 24th, 2013)
I'll admit...
the caughing scared me a little, and I really hope you're feeling much better these days! I was surprised at how good your voice sounded after the 'intro'. Not at all surprised at the incredible piano performance though, and your powerful interpretation of the song. Mercy we sometimes need, Grace we always need!

Thanks for re-posting to allow for comments.
Check out my latest song called we may be dreaming
TobinMueller said 1406 days ago (April 24th, 2013)
scary cough
Yes, my wife doesn't like listening to this one. Too much about the fragile nature of life, the sound of the end approaching. Somewhere in the middle, the gunk cleared, altho by the end it was pressing down again. I have discovered a way to not breath as deeply as I have been trained and to not relax my diaphragm as much as I should and I can press out the sound with more control.

Thanks for the comments. Grace, back at you...
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
lyzak said 1406 days ago (April 24th, 2013)
Well Done, Sir
Opens a door for me!
Musically, at first, I'm ready to think, '.. not my bag...' but immediately the labored breathing kicks in, and I feel another area of my listening consciousness/feelings activated. Literature as opposed to entertainment. Will bookmark this ( so I can reread the 'linear notes' while listening) and come back and revisit later. Work, staring at me with hands on hips and head tilted to the side... beckons. Thanks for putting this up!

Check out my latest song called Playful Al with A-man
TobinMueller said 1406 days ago (April 24th, 2013)
literature
"Literature as opposed to entertainment." Wow. Really well put. I look forward to hearing from you again.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
I.G.M. said 1406 days ago (April 24th, 2013)
Great song, great interpretation.
Thx for letting me know that you got this two new songs up. You know I`m a big JT fan and it`s very interesting to listen to alternative versions of song that are like tattoes on the brain.
Although it`s kind of strange to break up with what is set in our minds it`s also fresh and new and one of the things that make life not only a waste of time.
Thx again for posting your songs here at MJ! :oD
See ya, be well.
Check out my latest song called Reflexions
TobinMueller said 1404 days ago (April 26th, 2013)
big JT fan
Me too. Songs from his frost two albums were among the first I learned to play the piano by. He has gotten better and better over time, embracing a mellow hipness in his honest JT-ness. As if an old jazz guy is being whittled into his maturing body. Glad you liked this different take. All homage, for sure...
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
Sigmund said 1406 days ago (April 24th, 2013)
Frozen Man
Excellent, Tobin. As composers and musicians living in the 21st century, we are often tunneled into the perception that everything we do has to be perfect - I know that is how I approach my work. This performance really shows that music is also written and performed by HUMAN BEINGS, and as such we are imperfect - flawed - human! The piano is brilliant, and your vocal performance is excellent as well, and is more a tribute to the will and spirit inside each of us, than to how perfect you can make the recording. I envision you saying before a performance in front of your fans "pneumonia be damned!". Thanks for the pm, pointing this great piece out, and hey - again, if you can make it down to SD in May, give me a holler - I would be honored to meet up with you.
Sig
Check out my latest song called No Pain - feat. Strangedream & Rok41
TobinMueller said 1404 days ago (April 26th, 2013)
composers in the 21st century
I loved your comments so much I read them aloud to my wife over dinner. Since these are all covers, I no longer have the "burden" of trying to say something unique, as I nearly always feel as a composer. I am striving only for honesty. For showing how the lyrics have penetrated me, how this is my song through reflection and living, not my song as an intellectual child. It has freed me in a way I am finding very satisfying. I'm am glad you sensed that. Plus...

"pneumonia be damned!"
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
oldlibmike said 1406 days ago (April 24th, 2013)
Thanks Tobin!
Thanks for posting this! I've heard the original and let's be honest, for a frozen man, James Taylor has WAY too mellow a voice :)! Brilliant choice for your circumstance and you pull it off quite well. Haven't heard anything of yours in quite awhile - I remember many helpful comments you gave me in the past.
Check out my latest song called Parabola
TobinMueller said 1404 days ago (April 26th, 2013)
less mello
Thanks. Right, I was going for more of an authentic frozen man, JT was more of a journalist. But his track is superb. I knew I had to drastically depart, to avoid any comparison. Plus, I wanted it to be more like a moment on stage musical, character driven. Thanks for tuning in!
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
michaeljayklein said 1405 days ago (April 25th, 2013)
Really enjoyed the piano
Very good! But to be honest, the rest of this would have made a good commercial for Nyquil (I think the coughs would have been better left out or edited out in any event). Your playing was very enjoyable however!
Check out my latest song called There Ain't Nobody Here but Us Chickens!
TobinMueller said 1404 days ago (April 26th, 2013)
Nyquil
Although I prefer tequila, I think I have to submit this to Vicks and see if we can work out some sort of youtube add campaign...!
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
tokai said 1405 days ago (April 25th, 2013)
cough cough.
Once again exceptional skills displayed on the ivories. I will have to investigate this story further.
Check out my latest song called sleeper
TobinMueller said 1404 days ago (April 26th, 2013)
investigate further...
check this out:

http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=15281
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
PeterB7858 said 1405 days ago (April 25th, 2013)
Frozen Man
One of my favourite live JT songs. The acoustic guitar lines in it are fantastic. I was really interested to see how you would approach it. Not disappointed. You breathe new life :-) into the telling of the story and your state of health adds great authenticity and poignancy to the song. The sophisticated piano lines and world weary vocal mimic the old world/new science dichotomy of the story. Much enjoyed. Kind regards, Peter.
Check out my latest song called Lifeline
TobinMueller said 1404 days ago (April 26th, 2013)
old world/new science dichotomy
How cool that this is one of the themes you mentioned! In so many ways, how dispossessed would a man from the 1880s feel today, with the constant barrage of media, noise, lack of privacy, fast pace... Have mercy! Yep, glad you heard those things in my voice, too, cuz they were there in my head. Much appreciated comments, Peter.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
Char said 1404 days ago (April 26th, 2013)
An unusual
but still successful performance. I'm sorry for your trouble and the need to cough. I do hope you've gained back your health. Impressive piano work. Thanks.
Check out my latest song called When Loving Is One-sided, Music by Bob Rodgers
TobinMueller said 1401 days ago (April 29th, 2013)
Impressive piano
Thanks. And you're welcome. Hope all is well with you, too.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
woofer3 said 1403 days ago (April 27th, 2013)
frozen man
Firstly I'm sorry to hear of your health issues and am glad you are on the road to recovery, I suffered this complaint in 2001 so I can symathise.

The music as always is beautifully executed in every way, I have never heard this song before so will look out for the original. Beautiful work Tobin.

Best wishes. JJ.
Check out my latest song called Drunken bakers [08-01]
TobinMueller said 1401 days ago (April 29th, 2013)
woofer
Thanks. I am such a fan of your stuff, I was hoping you'd stop by. Appreciated.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
crazykeyman said 1401 days ago (April 28th, 2013)
Disappointed
Not in you, but being a JT fan and never hearing this song before I rushed over to YouTube to hear the original. And that's where the disappointment came in. I wanted JT's song to reflect what I heard in your piano. I was expecting an Aaron Copland type orchestration I wanted to sound like yours.
Check out my latest song called In Our Own World
TobinMueller said 1401 days ago (April 29th, 2013)
not disappointed
Well, I am not disappointed in your comments and reaction! Ha! I love JT's version, tho. It has a post-Civil War marching sensibility, with all the fabulousness of modern post-folk rock production, and even sounds like a new audio concept for JT, which is unique for him. Glad my track drove you back to his, tho. And even gladder you liked mine rendition so much! But the Aaron Copland reference was my favorite part. That has me smiling...
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
gadzooks said 1401 days ago (April 29th, 2013)
Frozen Man
This is real with emotion and feel. Piano performance has wonderful dynamics. A creative take on a James Taylor song. Pain, sickness , darkness can create the the best music....
Check out my latest song called Emoji
TobinMueller said 1401 days ago (April 29th, 2013)
Pain, sickness, darkness & best music
"At least I got a song out of it," saving last words of many a musician. :)

Thanks for the sentiment, the listen, the comments. Appreciated.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
Narad said 1401 days ago (April 29th, 2013)
Frozen Man
Excellent listen ! Bravo ! :)
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TobinMueller said 1358 days ago (June 11th, 2013)
Bravo!
Thanks for the enthusiastic listen!
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
Doug Somers said 1399 days ago (April 30th, 2013)
Warmth from the ice
There's an intimacy here with the solo voice and piano that makes this plea for mercy very personal, listener by listener. I can imagine you showing up at the door and getting invited in to tell your story in song at our piano. Emotion to fingers and voice, sound to ear, and back to emotion with nary a whisper of the message lost.

Your piano arrangement carries the rhythm of the original in a delightful variety of ways and is a fresh kind of cover that creates an aural space for itself in memory. Your voice is true and honest, and that supports the message you sing more than faithfully.

Thank you for the post and in particular the backstory. May you be well Tobin,
Doug


Check out my latest song called Coming Home - Based on a Theme by David Kneupper
TobinMueller said 1358 days ago (June 11th, 2013)
an aural space for memory
...what a cool phrase. Thanks for pointing to the honesty of my vocals, its what drew me to doing this song in the first place, on many levels. I appreciate the intimate feel you get, its what I was working for. Thanks!
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
J_Gretch said 1399 days ago (May 1st, 2013)
Frozen Man
I'm always in awe of people who can sing and play piano with such skill and emotion,and from the sound of that cough...it probably wasn't one of your best days either,which makes it even more awesome.Thanks for sharing your talent with us sir.Much enjoyed.
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TobinMueller said 1358 days ago (June 11th, 2013)
skill and emotion
Thank you. I always hope my skill supports my emotion, even tho it is the other way around, internally. Thanks you for your generous comments.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
tonestones said 1387 days ago (May 13th, 2013)
Outstanding performance
I really like this. The piano work is excellent. I don't remember the original JT version. The vocal performance ifs fitting and quite soulful. It really enhances these thought provoking lyrics.
Check out my latest song called Hallelujah [Leonard Cohen Cover]
TobinMueller said 1358 days ago (June 11th, 2013)
enhances these thought provoking lyrics
Thanks, that is exactly what I was trying to do. I appreciate your listing and wish we could work together more again! Ah, life goes on. Your comments are much appreciated.
Check out my latest song called Momentary Undertow
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
A ballad is a story in a song, usually a narrative song or poem. It is a rhythmic saga of a past affair, which may be heroic, romantic or satirical, political (affected by the previous three types mentioned, refers to either glorifying the exploits o

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