7 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

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.

EDITORS’ NOTES

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.

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3:47

About The S.O.S. Band

The S.O.S. Band hit with a two-million-selling single, "Take Your Time (Do It Right)," their first time out, before having several hit singles written and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The Atlanta, GA-borne band was started in 1977, when keyboardist/vocalist Jason Bryant, saxophonists Billy Ellis and Willie "Sonny" Killebrew, guitarist Bruno Speight, bassist John Alexander Simpson, drummer James Earl Jones III, and lead vocalist Mary Davis formed a group called Santa Monica that played at Atlanta nightclub the Regal Room.

Their manager, Bunny Jackson-Ransom (who later managed Cameo), sent a demo to Clarence Avant, head of Tabu Records. After signing the band to Tabu, Avant suggested that the band work with songwriter/producer Sigidi Abdullah. Abdullah was curious as to why an Atlanta-based band named itself Santa Monica. Keyboardist Jason Bryant replied that the band had an enjoyable concert in Santa Monica, CA. Abdullah then came up with a new band name, the S.O.S. Band, with S.O.S. standing for "Sounds of Success."

Abdullah produced and co-wrote "Take Your Time (Do It Right)" with Harold Clayton, which went platinum, parking at number one R&B for five weeks and peaking at number three pop on Billboard's charts in spring 1980. The debut LP, S.O.S., went gold, selling over 800,000 copies and holding the number two R&B spot for three weeks. While the band was on its world tour, trumpeter/vocalist/percussionist Abdul Ra'oof joined them. Their second album, Too, went to number 30 R&B in summer 1981. On the band's third LP, S.O.S. Band III, they worked with producer Leon Sylvers III and the Time's Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The breaking single, "High Hopes," hit number 25 R&B in the fall of 1982 while the album went to number 27 R&B in late 1982.

On their fourth LP, On the Rise, Jam and Lewis took over the production chores. Scoring with the slammin' number two hit "Just Be Good to Me" and the number five beatbox ballad "Tell Me if You Still Care," On the Rise became their second gold album hitting number seven R&B in summer 1983. The formula continued working: Just the Way You Like It (including the number six R&B single "Just the Way You Like It") went to number six R&B in fall 1984 and Sands of Time (including the number two R&B hit "The Finest") went gold and hit number four R&B in spring 1986. Many of these releases as well as the sound of early releases of Chicago-borne house music helped to popularize the now-classic sound of Roland drum machine the TR-808.

In 1987, vocalist Mary Davis left the S.O.S. Band to pursue a solo career. The band recorded two more albums: Diamonds in the Raw (number 43 R&B in fall 1989), produced by Eban Kelly and Jimi Randolph, and One of Many Nights, produced by Curtis Williams. In August 1994, former lead vocalist Mary Davis reunited with Abdul Ra'oof and Jason Bryant, and together they reconstructed a new band with the same funky S.O.S. sound, appearing on comedian Sinbad's HBO concert specials and Rhino's various-artists set United We Funk issued October 5, 1999. ~ Ed Hogan

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