Royal Crescent Mob - Omerta
On October 28, tickets quietly went on sale for the first Royal Crescent Mob shows since 1994. The shows are on December 16 in Columbus and Saturday the 17th in Covington. As I noted in my Spin The World post, I never got to see RC Mob in their heyday, so this was an unexpected chance that I couldn’t pass up for me to finally see them. I snagged tickets for the Columbus show at the Athenaeum.
Royal Crescent Mob
Moving Target - MT 009
Last spring, drummer Carlton Smith was in my wife Elisa’s studio laying down tracks for Gathering Stars. During a break, we had a chance to chat and I told him about a memory I had from the old South Heidelberg days in the ‘90s. My band was playing a gig and Carlton was there with a guy who was giving lessons to our guitarist at the time. In those days, the managers would sometimes let us hang out after closing. They’d lock the doors and we’d jam. Carlton got behind my kit and proceeded to slay. It was a humbling experience getting shown how it’s done by a pro on my own kit. But it was a good eye-opener to the level of talent in the city. And Carlton was the nicest dude. Still is.
If a band is only as good as its drummer, RC Mob was a great band. And if you’re gonna play funk, you better have a smokin’ rhythm section, and with Carlton and Happy Chichester, they did. “If Cream's rhythm section had joined Sly and the Family Stone, the result might have been something like RCM's amalgamation of funk and heavy rock,” noted the Providence Journal.
After lead singer David Ellison financed the recording of Mob’s 1985 Land Of Sugar EP with money saved from his bellboy gig at the Hyatt, the band began taking advantage of free sessions available at Chillicothe's Recording Workshop on Saturday afternoons. Still, things were done quickly. "We weren't going to record (Love And Tunafish), because the song wasn't finished, but the guy said, 'You have five minutes left'," Ellison told Knickerbocker News in 1987. "So we did it and that's why you hear me yelling directions because nobody knew where the song was going. We're too new in the studio to have had a concept. Our concept was to get it done."
A publicist with Celluloid Records was taking an order from a Cincinnati record shop when she heard Land Of Sugar playing in the background. “Who is that!?” Suddenly, RC Mob had a deal with Celluloid subsidiary Moving Target. “We had already recorded a lot of songs,” Ellison noted in the 1993 book Networking In The Music Industry. “Celluloid gave us money to finish up enough songs to put a record out. Celluloid really went to work on it. They had three or four people working it. They were just gaga about the record and the band. (They) did a phenomenal job of getting publicity for us.”
Not only did Mob have a publicity machine behind them, but when Omerta was released in May of 1987, they connected with booking agent Frank Reilly’s Venture Booking (The Replacements, Camper Van Beethoven, Husker Du, Meat Puppets, etc.) and began their first national tour. In July, they played the New Music Seminar in New York, gaining notice from industry execs.
With its allusions to the mafia connotations of “mob” (omerta being the code of honor and the “sleep with the fishes” cover photo), Omerta resonated with fans and is still considered by many to be their best album. Shades of the bridge on Mob’s Revenge would turn up later on Howlin’ Maggie’s Alcohol. It’s the album that Dave Grohl’s girlfriend listened to all the time, turning him into a fan. If the critical response to Omerta was positive - and it was almost universally so - their live shows were creating even more buzz.
As the summer of ‘87 wore on, Mob toured with The Replacements and headlined their own gigs as they hit the road hard. By the fall there was major label interest, but the band was signed to Celluloid for one more record. "The songs on the next album I think will be a lot different,” Ellison told the Knickerbocker News in October. “Our songs on the first record were a good blueprint for what we can do - funk, blues and a little pop. On the next one we're probably going to try for songs you can go away humming. We probably won't ride out a groove for two sides of a record."
Now, thirty-five years after Omerta was released, I’ll get to see RC Mob for the first time. I never thought it would happen. Whether or not this is the last hurrah, it’ll do my heart good to hear these guys conjure the magic one more time. Tickets are still available - get ‘em now. Proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society.
Here’s a sampling of what the critics had to say:
“Unlike other umpteenth generation new-wavers they have identity to burn.” - Robert Christgau
“Mutant funk from Ohio hasn’t been this memorable since early Pere Ubu.” - Chicago Reader
"A Motown/Gamble & Huff/Sly Stone groove with a taunt, very aggressive post punk stance." - CMJ New Music Report
“The greatest white punk-funk album ever, bursting with grooves, aggression, and wit.” - The Big Takeover
“James Brown would have been a whole lot better off if he had worked with the Royal Crescent Mob on Gravity, his most recent album,” - Option
“Our favorite record of 1987 is "Omerta," - Chicago Sun-Times
“A '70s mother lode of James Brown chicken-scratching guitar, Ohio Players funk and Aerosmith energy." - Columbus Dispatch
Written-By – James Brown
A4 Poor Box
B2 Blow One Off
Written-By – Ohio Players
B5 Two Sisters
Distributed By – Celluloid
Distributed By – Pipeline
Marketed By – Celluloid
Marketed By – Pipeline
Mastered At – Masterdisk
Pressed By – Hub-Servall Record Mfg. Corp.
Pressed By – Hub-Servall Record Mfg. Corp.
Published By – Dull White Roar Music, Inc.
Published By – Chu Teh Music
Bass, Vocals – Harold Chichester
Drums, Vocals – Carlton Smith
Guitar, Vocals – b
Lacquer Cut By – Howie
Mastered By – Hw
Band Photo – Penny Reed
Cover Photo – Terry Lintner
Producer, Engineer – Jonathon Wyner, Montie Temple
Producer, Written-By – Royal Crescent Mob
Vocals, Harmonica – David Ellison