Of the many R&B acts who looked as if they might take off, few had as much help and pent up promise as Finis Henderson. Born into show and the music business, Henderson was in at least one band before heading Weapons of Peace in the 1970s, all before turning 20. An indirect connection to Earth Wind and Fire would lead to a Motown contract and the solo album Finis.
Produced by Al Mckay, Finis was pretty much light R&B/pop album similar to Christopher Cross at its most Muzak and Al Jarreau at its most polished. Where Jarreau’s music hinted at the sophistication that usually comes with a jazz background, Henderson’s music was clearly mainstream pop, yet had a refinement that’s atypical of many debut recordings. That’s not to say that Finis was more polish than substance. The album had a split personality, as seen in its two covers. One of a beach suggesting the calm of Al Jerreau and the other the tight leather pants splendor of Rick James or one of the Romantics. As if to reinforce his potential, “Finis” was repeated three times on the cover!
As a collection of adult contemporary songs like the pleasant “You Owe It All To Love” and “Lovers”, Finis never really stood out. Even big league help did little to change Henderson’s fortunes. Despite contributions from Stevie Wonder on the track “Crush on You”, the album just cracked the R&B Top 50 albums chart.
When things got sweaty, Finis was more successful. The album’s highlight was the funky “Step to the Lu” which became a minor hit on the R&B singles charts and was a popular radio staple. The snappy beat and light funk was reminiscent of Dayton or Howard Johnson and likely enticed many to buy the album expecting to hear more of the same. That was actually how I acquired a copy. My brother bought the cassette after hearing “Step to the Lue” and was disappointed with the rest of the recording. Perhaps that’s why R&B was so singles oriented in the ‘80s.
Other up-tempo tracks like pop rock leaning “Call Me” and “Blame It On the Night” with its pre-clique guitar solo were nearly as memorable, mostly because they were so vastly outnumbered by less dynamic tracks. My bias against commercially pre-recorded cassettes in those days meant that Finis got little love beyond the infectious “Step to the Lue”. That track was clearly early ‘80s R&B at its best. I don’t know what happened to Finis Henderson after 1983, but it became clear he was no longer a mainstream recording artist.