Making Curse of Mercury

Icon Studio West

At the simplest level Curse of Mercury is about boy girl stuff. The songs are collaged together from myriad stories of my near-50 years—some real, some professed, some pure fantasy.

I began the making of Curse of Mercury in earnest in the summer of 2008. My entire studio had been mothballed for nearly three years since my move from St. Louis to Seattle. There was even a period when I wasn’t sure there was any merit to unpacking my boxes of equipment; my studio in Seattle would never match the glory of Icon Studio that I’d left behind in St. Louis. But I succumbed to the charms of my new Seattle home, and eventually matched cables to ports, and settled in again with ProTools HD and the rest of my toys.

One afternoon, I sat surrounded by re-plugged-in equipment and several 3-ring binders of “unfinished” material; I was struck with the novel notion that it might be about time to get something presentable together. So, I began sifting through hundreds of pages of song ideas dating back as far as 1975.

As an album took shape in my mind, two principles emerged which shaped and guided this project:
1. To the best of my ability I would do everything myself: write, record, sing, and play all the instruments.
2. I would make a “concept” album.

As to Principle One, I achieved this—with the exception of enlisting the help of two of my long-time collaborators to be my rhythm section for the last two songs, Milk and Colors of the Sky. I needed the specific dimension that I knew Rob Medcalf’s drumming would bring to those songs. And being in the studio in St. Louis to do this meant that I could engage Michael “Doc” Murphy to contribute his sublime bass playing.

Doc & Jeff in the studio

Doc & Jeff in the studio

Fortuitously, Doc was teaching Electronic Music at Webster University, giving us an “in” to book their studio during spring break, and luckily for me this studio is equipped with Pro Tools HD—the only recording medium I use these days. Their SSL Duality console was icing on the cake.

Rob tracking Milk

Rob tracking Milk

I arrived with scratch tracks on my hard drive for Rob and Doc to play to, and within six hours of me darting back and forth between the control room and studio, I had coaxed the takes from Doc and Rob that I’d come mining for. Chief engineer Jeff Allen did an aces job of cutting the tracks.

The other notable and interesting contributions to the record are some bits that came with me to Seattle from my days in Icon Studio back in St Louis. One bit is Doc’s whackity-whack guitar part on track seven, Transformation. Even more important are Doc’s guitar and bass parts on track nine, Aggravations. These we recorded in 2004. I had an a cappella demo of the lyrics and melody but couldn’t quite get the changes right. Doc and his keen ear fleshed them out. I kept his parts and built the rest of the song around those.

Other than these bits, Principle One holds—a long winter of me left to my own devices in the studio, crafting Curse of Mercury.

me being producer dude

me being producer dude

As to Principle Two “a concept album”—I have always been drawn to the lifestyle and culture of making records. My serious involvement with music began of course in my teens, in the 1970s—the heyday of the concept album. These inspired me, and expanded my vision of music and its possibilities. In the making of Curse of Mercury my intent was to harken back to these days of naïve discovery, and to use the storyline or thematic nature of a concept album to give depth and structure to my work at hand.

The underlying theme of this record is a string of stories about affairs of the heart, running the gamut from naive to divine. The title “Curse of Mercury” was originally the working title for what later became the song Aggravations. One might propose that Cupid or Psyche are more accurate harbingers for the theme of this record—relationships and transformation—but in keeping with the greater arc of the story I find “The Trickster” Mercury more apropos.

On another level Curse of Mercury is about aspects of the old Greek god himself. In this respect I particularly mean the bit about Mercury being charged the duty of escorting souls through the Underworld—a realm of transformation—and coming out relatively unscathed himself.

For me, a good concept album extends beyond being a collection of good three-minute songs. I strove for that with “Curse of Mercury”.

Pagan Soul

Track one from the CD Curse Of Mercury – [Play Pagan Soul]

My intention behind this one was to write an over-the-top proclamation of desire for the beloved (Imagined or Real?) in the spirit of a tune like Johnny Cash’s ‘Cause I Love You. It’s about being in that unreality when you think you would say or do anything–at any cost–to get what you imagine you want.

Meditator_Perry Emge ©2004

Pagan Soul  3:56

Every time I think about you
I wanna jump in my car
I know what I’m going to do
When I come home to you

There’s something about the way you look
That just makes me feel right
You know I’d give up all I have
For just one more night

One more night give me one more night
Hold on tight we’ll never look back
One more night give me one more night
Hold on tight we’ll never look back

Every time I see your face
I can’t forget that look you make
When I hold you close to me
I can forget everything

Every time I feel your touch
I know just why I need you so much
The way you kiss the way you smell
I’m captive under your spell

I’ve got a Pagan soul
You know that I’ll never let go
I don’t care about the price I’ll pay
To be with you one more day
I’ve got a Pagan heart
It won’t stop once it starts
When I hold you close to me
I can forget everything

Lyrics/Music © 2009 Perry Emge
Lyrics Page for Curse of Mercury
photo-collage image Meditator by Perry Emge ©2002

She Came

Track 4 from Curse of Mercury [Play She Came]

This tune is an oldie for me, but again one that I never was happy about the execution of until now. The previous best version was one I recorded with Greg Lawrence in the mid 90′s, perhaps I’ll post a remix of that version in the future. The version on Curse of Mercury is a good distillation of the previous versions. I always liked playing guitar on this tune. The song lyric is a “fantasy” story I came up with in a dialog with Bill “Billy Hope” Tonn after a night out club-hopping and watching young women ogle boys on stage in cover bands.

04she-came

She Came  3:14

This young girl sweet and sexy
She takes herself to the dance
Sees her favorite boyfriend
Playin’ in the band

She watched him play
She watched him move
Listens to him sing
She knows what she wants to do

He knew he wanted her
He knew it all the time
And when they got together
They didn’t waste a dime

All in one night, all in one night

She came to love him it was clear
She’d show him everything
Before she’d disappear
She came to love him it was clear
She’d show him everything
Before she’d disappear

Oh the girl was hot
Mmm, she could rock

It broke the young girl’s heart
To let the young man go
It broke the young girl’s heart
But she’s in control

She came to love him it was clear
She’d show him everything
And then she’d disappear

All in one night, all in one night

She came to love him it was clear
She’d show him everything
And then she’d disappear

Lyrics/Music © 2009 Perry Emge
Lyrics Page for Curse of Mercury
photo-collage Starry Night Perry Emge ©2002

I’m With You

Track 6 from Curse of Mercury [Play I'm With You]

Yet another remake of an oldie. This is impressionism plain and simple. I almost left this one out of the final cut but was glad I didn’t when someone I respect later told me how much they liked it; you never know.

06im-w-you

I’m With You 3:15

I bite my lip I pull my hair
I look for you but you’re not there
I send you flowers in the night
‘Cause you should know the pure delight
When I’m with you, I’m with you

I bite my lip I pull my hair
I look for you but you’re not there
Come into view I need you

Sailing on the deep blue sea
A desert sky the Sun sets green
When I’m with you
Come into view I need you
Open up my heart and see
Just how real this life can be
I’ll open up my heart and see
Just how real this life can be
When I’m with you, I’m with you

The photographs I took of you
Are not enough they’re nothing new
Like when I’m with you

The magic of the afternoon
Is followed by a rising moon
When I’m with you

Awake again and rising now
The Sun returns and we will too
When I’m with you. I’m with you

Lyrics/Music © 2009 Perry Emge
Lyrics Page for Curse of Mercury
pen drawing One In The Hand Perry Emge ©2001

Aggravations

Track 9 from Curse of Mercury [Play Aggravations]

One of my all-time favorite songs is Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy”. I spent some time in voice class working on it and one of the side effects was my desire to create a tune in a similar spirit. This is a big departure from my usual mode of writing, but it’s good to reach. I had to enlist “Doc” on this one for the chord changes. I sang the melody to him and he worked it up on guitar, now if I can just get Tony Bennet to cover it.

09aggravations

Aggravations 3:12

All the conversation, all the hesitation
All the aggravations of love

Always close but not quite
Often good but not right
Oh the permutations of love

You keep yourself together
Enough to hold each other
Clinging tight then letting go
All at once
Agreed upon conclusions
Only lead to more confusion
What we resolve is still a mystery
What was clear is getting misty
But when the tears and laughter blend
It all starts up again

All the conversations, all the hesitation
All the aggravations of love

When boys and girls get busy
It’ll make your head go dizzy
From all the variations of love

You keep yourself together
Enough to hold each other
Clinging tight then letting go
All at once
Agreed upon conclusions
Only lead to more confusion
What we resolve is still a mystery
What was clear is getting misty
But when the tears and laughter blend
It all starts up again

All the conversation, all the hesitation
All the aggravations of love
All the invitations, all the complications
All the variation, all the aggravations
Of Love

Lyrics/Music © 2009 Perry Emge
Lyrics Page for Curse of Mercury
pen drawing In The Stars Perry Emge ©2002