Corpus Christi (The CD) 1988, Released 1993 (Recorded, 151 Studios, NYC; Mixed, Recordamatt, Babylon, Long Island, NY) (for references to the characters below please see the nails web site: www.the-nails.com/ and Nails Personnel).
First, there's really a lot to read (if you are interested). But before your start reading, start playing one or more of the tunes below. Just click here to jump down to the tune links then pop back up here.
Synopsis: We made the record. We sat on the record for 4 or 5 years. Then, realizing we had nothing to lose we looked up our former record company partner who had micro-indie record company. We gave him the master on a handshake. But we did not realize that he harbored much animosity towards us. He felt (and perhaps rightfully so) that he had not "benefited" at all from the fact the he was instrumental in launching our career. So as payback, he appropriated the rights and commenced to distribute the record and keep all the money. The record is in the catalogs of major national chains. Why don't we stop him. I'd like to but haven't been able to muster the necessary resource to do so. It would be less work to re-record them.
I could write a book on this one. Mostly about what not to do, but there's a lot of wonderful stuff here also.. Here are some examples of what I and my cohorts were doing in the late 80s. In a nutshell, Marc came to me about a year and 1/2 after the band stopped working together. He had been unsuccessful in a few collaborations with other musicians and wanted to do a Nails album. As a project, it was a logistical nightmare, no money and lack of interest from other band members. Dave (keys), my brother, flat out refused (being "fed up" with Marc, I guess). Dave is a founder and integral part of the creative team. I wasn't sure if I was up to it without him. Same went for Steve (guitar) who was not sure he wanted to be dragged into an open-ended schedule with no guaranty of completion. These tunes represent some of Marc's finest technical singing. (Of course that's my opinion as the producer).
Presented here with commentary, all are newly re-mastered by me using the best schmaz I could put on them, plus my additional 8 years of sound engineering and mastering experience. At the time I mastered the original CD, I knew nothing of CD mastering and what I did to prepare for pressing was ludicrous. To do this re-mastering I went back to the original 2-track DAT masters, which were transferred digitally to the computer. I used modern software mastering tools which did not exist back them. When these newly re-mastered tracks are compared to the original CD, the original CD does not sound like it was mastered.! Some tunes on the original CD are only at 65% scale. Even these 128K MP3s of the remastered tracks are superior to the released CD tracks in every way.
Things I apologize for: the rinky keyboard tonalities - hey a DX7 (the hottest keyboard of the day), CZ-101 cutting edge phase modulation and an FB-01 (DX7 little brother) -it was hi-tech; the Roland Syndrum - those sounds were "in" back then - don't blame me :-) and those 12 bit drum samples - once again, it was state of the art at the time. It was the first time we had cymbals that didn't decay into white noise.
Marc and Steve have always been critical and have disavowed this record. I worked with what we had at the time under the budget we had at the time with the resources we had at the time. I don't analyze my work while working. It's what it is. I just make sure I guide everything in the right direction and watch the budget. I agree with Marc and Steve that the "heavier" tunes suffered from "small" mixes. But I think the re-mastering has added a whole new dimension to even those tunes. We discourage our fans from purchasing the album and Corpus Christi has been purged from our official site, except for the discography. But you can listen to it here and listen to better "versions" than on the original CD. True, because our "friend" misappropriated the record it is ours, but not all ours and because the commercial copy is a botched mastering job, botched enough to be considered defective, I present these newly re-mastered tunes for your enjoyment.
Playing, writing and arranging behind Marc was a piece of cake. He's got that smooth baritone and great control when he wants to. Combined with his relentless lyrics you get a strong central focus and it makes the music even more important. At the time I didn't think much about it because I've heard "Marc Campbell - style lyrics" for so many years, I never expected less. But, indeed, this become Marc's "concept album." Marc needed to purge himself of his Catholic upbringing.
Album Credits - Due to my failure to supervise my own affairs and because I was lulled into a false sense of security, a lot of people did not receive their due. I expected all of this copy to be crammed in and about the CD jacket. A much abbreviated version was included on the CD. So, here is the belated thanks to all the people who helped this record get made.
Jesus Calling Jesus (Streams)
Jesus Calling Jesus (Download)
(This file is 5.6 MB) Meant to be controversial. We hoped we could get it to the right radio stations and it would create a buzz. At one time we thought about sending a copy to influential church leaders in an attempt to generate some kind of controversy. I guess by today's standards: tame. But it still has its charm. And as a fan of Marc's lyrics, I see the humor in Marc's attempt to humanize the Big One. Tech notes: Basso profundo is DX7 on, I think, electric bass, but tuned down an octave, layered with my favorite the FB-01 marimba, also down an octave. Steve and I just played everything and anything we wanted all the way through. Steve brings the chunking guitar and driving DX7 bass. I was playing Fender Bass but through a heavy phaser and only on the high strings and guitar through a really long echo, just wailing away. I'm almost sure Dave laid down some keys here and there. Mike's percussion work is key here. He's all over. My guess is that this is a religious song not a blasphemous song. You be the judge. Top
Jesus Calling Jesus Remix (Streams)
Jesus Calling Jesus Remix (Download)
(This file is 1.4 MB). I love remixes. But it's always strange to hear it done to one's own work. These guys did it their way. I think I hated it when I first heard it. Sounds kind of cool now. I don't remember anything about these guys. I had an appointment to deliver our multitrack master to this studio in Long Island City, Queens, NY (where else?) at 2:00 a.m.. They were supposed to dub the multitrack on then I could take our master back and they could do their thing. So I arrive at the appointed time and the studio is all a-bustle in the current session. A hip-hop record and when I got to enter the control room to talk to the engineer it was obvious that these guys had decided to "run over" and showed no sign of finishing their mix. So I'm escorted back to the lounge. Now I don't know how many rapper/DJs were in the group, but there were about a dozen in the posse, playing their roles to the hilt. (They'd all be extra's in 8 Mile). Only back then the murder rate in NYC was of epidemic proportions, so I was nervous about all strangers - especially those with belligerent looks. As nifty as this studio looks, it was located in a deserted industrial area (where the delivery trucks would find your body the next morning) and the lounge was kind of small for the "posse" and me. So for the next 4 hours I sat there drinking sodas and weak coffee eyeballing and being eyeballed. When I finally got to do the dub, no one was particularly apologetic. Top
Let's Commit A Sin (Streams)
Let's Commit A Sin (Download)
(This file is 4.8 MB) "At the alter of my excess, I screamed and wept for mercy, and masturbated in my bed, and slept and dreamt of heresy." (© 1988 Big Tongue Music Co.) This is the writer at his best. And the arranger (me) at his best also. My trademark long intro. This time the longest intro I could concoct. The tune doesn't actually kick in until the chorus. This tune was the most fun tune I have ever recorded. Ethnically and spiritually, I'm about as far away from country music as one could get. But I've always loved the playing and musicianship. Steve and I played double acoustic guitars (one of the only time two musicians played together). It also features my pedal steel-like lap steel playing. Also, I got to work with Drew Perkins on fiddle and mandolin. Drew was one those musicians who plays something fantastic every time he touches his instrument. Drew played solos, while I was cueing up tape and getting levels that were keepers. I'd listen while I was working and I'd keep going "Damn! If only I had everything ready earlier, I'd be getting this." But when we settled down to work for the better part of a 4 hour session. I had 3 tracks for him. One would be mandolin, one would be fiddle and one could have alternate stuff on it. So Drew settles down to do the mandolin. His first take is a keeper. I say, "Drew, I'm perfectly happy with that." He says, "Are you kidding, I can do much better than that. Give me another track." So we do another track and he plays something completely different that's also fantastic. So right away he goes, give me another track I can do better. So we record another take and again he plays something completely different and equally fantastic. Now he points out that the first take is the weakest and that I should let him record over that one. I tell him, "Drew, really your playing is so good, I could use any of it in any way. I don't need to comp it - it's all great. He's insistent. So I let him record one more and it new and fantastic. He asks to record over the second track and I tell him he's going to, but it will be on fiddle. Then I picked a track to sacrifice and erased it. And we went to fiddle. Once again on the two open tracks we went back and forth playing and erasing. Every solo he played that night was wonderful and anyone of them could have been the keeper. He interacted with my lap steel playing just right. I could have recorded him tuning up and it would have been good. At some point I told him that I had my keeper and as producer I had to put my foot down. Let's go get a beer. Which we did. And he's asking me if he can come back tomorrow and just "punch in" few things. I just loved this guy's work ethic. I didn't let him come back either. Top
Nice to Me (Streams)
Nice to Me (Download)
(This file is 4.0 MB) Me on bass, guitar and keys. Mike on drums. This tune was written backwards from the "nice to me" hook. I guess we thought that it was on the cloyingly cute side but that it could be turned to its advantage by making it humorous. Mark came up with his best "trivial" lyrics, "I re-named my dog after you and, I hope you're not insulted, and I finally let him run without a leash..." (© 1988 Big Tongue Music Co.) What gives Marc's writing it's edge is his brutal honesty. Marc is a man in search of the truth even if the truth turns out to be quite ugly. This song is about triviality combined with his (almost) sarcastic sense of honesty. Features the DX7 piano. This tune and "Simple Things" below, were the two "shakedown cruise tunes" that Marc and I did. To prove that we could get professional sound quality out of this arrangement. And for me to further convince me that my computer could chase the time code coming from tape and stay locked just like on commercial equipment. Top
Simple Things (Streams)
Simple Things (Download)
(This file is 4.1 MB) Once again like "Nice to Me" this is the other "shakedown" tune that Marc and I did by ourselves. The tune and chords represent the continuing influence of the 60's group The Animals (Eric Burden and company, that is) and their first hit, House of the Rising Sun on my songwriting. Not only the chords and the arrangement with "big organ" (played on the CZ-101), but also Marc's voice plays perfectly into the style.
Love Moves My World (Streams)
Love Moves My World (Download)
(This file is 3.7 MB) In a word, slide guitar. Mine is lap steel and sounds more like pedal steel, Steve's is bottle neck and sounds like, well, bottleneck. I do some really nice bass work (there was no one to censor me), in my "pick on the Fender Jazz" stylee. That's the bass direct into the mixer. Ever hear anything so sweet? There's never been an engineer that didn't love that bass. The gist of this tune is it's the title tune. Has an nice gospel feel with that plaintiff slide guitar, once again played by me. I would have had gospel-style oohs in the background. But - not enough tracks. Could have added them after we transferred to 24 tk, I guess, thinking about now 15 years later. Top
Spirit and the Flesh (Streams)
Spirit and the Flesh (Download)
(This file is 4.2 MB) I swear Marc is the New Rock Barry White when he says, "Luuuuv's in session tonight." Another tune that was written backwards starting with the hook, "If the spirit won't, the flesh is willing." An interesting note: there's reference to a lascivious priest. At the time there was a major priest sex scandal going on in New York City (our home base) and it was common in Marc's writing to draw from current topical material. Kind of portended things to come. For the trick, Marc wanted the "George Harrison from the song, 'Blue jay Way'." You know heavily muddled through the Leslie. And we gave the to him big time in the mix. Thanks to Paul Bagin, a broadcast sound engineer by trade, whom we worked night after night until he was bleary-eyed.. When writing and tracking the tune, the very last thing I figured out was the flute. I kept listening to the track and it sounded so empty, especially the intro. So started doodling, trying to figure out what to play. I heard Marc's line, "...played on a flute made of hollow bone." And it hit me. The tremolo guitar is through a 1962 Ampeg Gemini I, miked with an SM57. I might mention that all guitars, slide or otherwise, were played through a 100W Marshall into 4x12 Marshall cab or the '62 Ampeg. Top
Love Street (Streams)
Love Street (Download)
(This file is 5.6 MB). Meant to refer to The Doors' "Love Street." This tune is an unabashed tribute to "your friend -- Jim..." ((c) 1988 Big Tongue Music Co.) and band. Steve does his best Robbie Krieger and we top it off with a double guitar lead a la "When the Music's Over." I'd call it more of a poem set to music than a song.
The Flood (Streams)
The Flood (Download)
(This file is 4.9 MB) A weaker job on Marc's part (I'll allow him one), but it's a darn good piece of music. This track is all Steve on six and 12 string. This tune filled two important production requirements: 12 string electric and backwards stuff.
Holy Sea (Streams)
Holy Sea (Download)
(This file is 3.4 MB) Features Steve's guitar work and Marc as Tennessee Ernie Ford.
Walk Me on the Water (Streams)
Walk Me on the Water (Download)
(This file is 4.0 MB) A last ditch attempt to retain our punk roots. This song grew out of a writing session that started with a song penned by Steve. Somehow Steve's verse become the bridge to this song.
14 Dreams (Streams)
14 Dreams (Download)
(This file is 4.4 MB). This tune really benefited from re-mastering. Steve's guitar is much better represented. In this case, I think the parts are greater the sum. But I still it think it's "something." This version also benefits from being faded out because it did go on a bit too long.
Special thanks to Mike Ratti on Drums: Across the board, Mike was incredible, especially working they way he had to. We had a whole lot of problems with the kick drum trigger and midi choke. So often he was limited to much simpler fills then he would have played on real tubs. However he was able to do so many imaginative things. One trick we did was to take the Roland Octapad and send each of a pair of pads to one of our three drum machines. But I'd mix them up and let Mike discover what was where while we were recording. It allowed him to play some very interesting combinations and rhythms. Top
Other technical things: My project studio evolved from a Teac 3340 4-track in the early 70s to a Fostex A8-LR 8-track (on 1/4" tape) in the mid-80s. To do this album I gambled that I could sync my 80286 (286, 12MHz) PC "clone" to my 8 track. At the time, SMPTE generator/readers were multi-thousand dollar professional devices. Until a fledgling company called JL Cooper introduced the PPS-1 ("poor person's SMPTE"). It wasn't SMPTE but it laid down a SMPTE-like FSK signal onto tape. And it could read that signal and generate MIDI song position pointer (SPP). I bought the gizmo which was a about $200USD. Because everything, all the work we'd be doing to record an album, depended on being to lock the computer to the tape machine I had to convince myself that the PPS-1 would work and be rock solid. So I set out (with the help of my brother - read about him in the Nails section), to torture test the system with a series of recording sessions designed to understand what could or could not be done. I had worked with SMPTE many times on pro projects and was fully familiar with it's workings. We treated our PPS-1 FSK like SMPTE, that is, you record on the outermost (or innermost) track and leave a blank track between the code and the first track of audio program. This turned the 8 track into a 6 track. Six tracks, three synths (DX7, Casio CZ-101 and Yamaha FB-01) and three drum machines (707, 727, Brain from a Roland drum synth). If it wasn't enough pressure to get the equipment to perform, I intended to do all the final drums in post after everything else was done. To do this I had to understand quite a bit about MIDI real-time capability and the limits of quantizing. So I also embarked on a research project with our drummer to understand the limits of the "electronic drum set," a Roland Octapad and a handmade drum pedal trigger for the kick. Things in the drum triggering department did not go very smoothly. Triggering was so "iffy" we ended up programming the backbeat, then playing the fills live. But there were too many dropouts when Mike played really fancy, so he was limited to pretty simple stuff as a result. All guitars, fiddle and mandolin, and vocals were miked - with SM57s. That's all I had. No special mic pre's either. Just what was in the mixer. The finished tracks (6 tracks no tape (plus time code track) and up to 16 midi tracks. All was transferred to 24 track 2" tape (15 IPS) in a marathon 3 day session. Once on 24 track it was midtown as usual. For mixdown we used a automated mixing device call MegaMix. It was a set of VCAs controlled by an Amiga computer. You patch the channel inserts through it, set the faders at unity and the MegaMix box control the levels. It had the now familiar mixer with faders on the screen. We set all the levels with a mouse, one channel at a time. It was tedious, but you get a better mix with automation and no frazzled nerves. We mixed from wonderful 2" x 15 IPS tape to DAT. How stupid is that. Answer? I didn't know any better. At the time, the new format (DAT), was the first writable digital format. It's specs beat the Studer 1/2" by a mile - only on paper. (If I did it today I'd stay analog until the glass master). Top