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S.O.S. III

The S.O.S. Band

A host of new collaborators renovated the sound of The S.O.S. Band for 1983’s III. Produced mainly by Ricky Sylvers and Gene Dozier—two soul veterans who counted among their credits hit productions for The Whispers, Shalamar, and The Sylvers—the album embraced the throbbing, bass-heavy grooves that would soon become synonymous with West Coast hip-hop. In this vein, “Can’t Get Enough,” “Good & Plenty,” “Looking for You,” and “You Shake Me Up” are all outstanding, each an example of the hard-hitting street funk that defined the era. The group also excelled at slow-burning ballads, as shown by “Have It Your Way,” which set a new standard for the kind of protracted and deliciously lascivious R&B ballad that would become trendy in the second half of the '80s. For all the talent of Sylvers and Dozier, the album’s undeniable centerpiece is “High Hopes,” the only song here produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, a pair of upstart session musicians from Minneapolis. Incredibly simple yet deeply hypnotic, the song was a huge leap forward not only for S.O.S. but for the sound of R&B in general. ℗ 2002 Tabu Records

The S.O.S. Band had scarcely left the clubs of Atlanta when their first single, “Take Your Time (Do It Right),” became a huge hit and shot the group to stardom at the outset of the '80s. While the band was composed of pickup musicians whose paths had crossed in Atlanta, S.O.S. were a collaboration among several industry talents. There was also executive producer Clarence Avant (who helped guide Bill Withers' career), freelance arranger and former Motown employee Sigidi Abdullah, and James Brown veteran Fred Wesley, who provided horn charts. In addition to “Take Your Time,” songs like “S.O.S. (Dit Dit Dit Dat Dat Dat Dit Dit Dit)” and “Love Won’t Wait for Love” helped bridge the sunny disco-funk of Earth, Wind & Fire to the harder, bass-oriented R&B of the early '80s. For all the band’s industry grooming, it’s easy to see that they cut their teeth on the club circuit. The performances contain an inclusive chemistry that's often missing from the overly manicured R&B of the post-disco years. ℗ 2002 Tabu Records

S.O.S.

The S.O.S. Band

The S.O.S. Band’s breakout collaboration with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis—1983’s On the Rise—sometimes overshadows its sequel, 1984’s Just the Way You Like It. Yet this later album is actually a fuller and more intricate iteration of this team’s pioneering sound design. Simply put, no one at this time was better than Jam & Lewis when it came to integrating keyboard technology into the fabric of pop music. Where some artists were just learning their way around drum machines, The S.O.S. Band were using synths and drum programming to add detailed atmosphere and sonic depth to simmering R&B tunes like “Weekend Girl,” “Just the Way You Like It,” and “I Don’t Want Nobody Else.” While most of the songs surpass the six-minute mark, that still seems at times too short for such a luxurious sonic experience. If one had to choose a single masterwork symbolic of the album’s innovations, it would have to be “No One’s Gonna Love You.” It's hard to think of a song that's as menacing and sultry at the same time. If it ran for 60 minutes, you’d still be left wanting more. ℗ 2002 Tabu Records

Just the Way You Like It

The S.O.S. Band

On the Rise is the album that The S.O.S. Band had been driving toward for their entire career. One of the most innovative R&B albums of the '80s, it was the result of the chance collaboration with a young and untested production team called Jam & Lewis. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis had only recently defected from The Time, and this album goes to show the extent of the knowledge they absorbed while interning with Morris Day and Prince. The songs are as solid and gleaming as modernist skyscrapers, but they still somehow incorporate some of the earthiest and most physical basslines ever made. Jam & Lewis had figured out how to take the everlasting essence of hard funk music and at the same time make the setting feel utterly futuristic. “Tell Me If You Still Care,” “For You Love,” and the magnificent “Just Be Good to Me” weren't only the highlights of The S.O.S. Band’s career up to that point. Using these groundbreaking singles as a blueprint, Janet Jackson would go on to reinvent the sound of pop music in the second half of the decade.. ℗ 2002 Tabu Records

On the Rise

The S.O.S. Band

Though 1986’s Sands of Time marked the end of the road for The S.O.S. Band, the group quit at their absolute peak. Working in collaboration with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, they'd perfected an idealized blend of sophisticated long-form R&B. The songs on Sands of Time have it all: incredibly dark and patient grooves, stratums of texture, and of course, ingratiating hooks, most of which are delivered by Mary Davis, the group’s magnetic frontwoman. Beyond the masterful production and arrangements of “Even When You Sleep,” “Borrowed Love,” and “Nothing but the Best,” these songs are remarkable for their refusal to compromise to the sunny conventions of '80s pop. The music is catchy and danceable, true; it's also moody and aggressive and even a little elusive. (Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis devised a much more pop-friendly iteration of this formula for Janet Jackson.) Anyone who doubts this is some of the richest and most advanced pop music of the '80s has only to listen to “The Finest,” a contender for the most magnificent of the group’s many singles. ℗ 1986 Tabu Records

Sands of Time

The S.O.S. Band

Best of The S.O.S. Band

The S.O.S. Band

Because they never had a star to compete with Prince or Rick James or Michael Jackson, The S.O.S. Band ended up being less famous than the songs they produced. Hopefully in time the group will be as beloved and appreciated as their immortal singles, all of which are included on Best of The S.O.S. Band. They rose out of the Atlanta club circuit and quickly rode the popularity of “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” to fame and fortune, but their true creative breakthrough didn’t come until they met Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in 1983. Jam and Lewis used S.O.S. to test and perfect the production methods that would shape the next 20 years of R&B. At a time when the teenage market was exploding, S.O.S. (under the guidance of Jam and Lewis) made songs that were resolutely grown-up: not just thematically but in terms of tone. Listen to “No One’s Gonna Love You,” “The Finest,” and “Just Be Good to Me”: these songs value luxury over trendiness, patience over peppiness, and the challenge of being old over the excitement of being young. Rarely has pop music carried itself with such seriousness and self-respect.℗ 2011 Tabu Records

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