S.O.S. – The S.O.S. Band (1980)

S.O.S. (Sounds of Success) album cover art

RECOMMEND1980 was a great year for music. I’m remember an explosive variety of all types, much of it now considered old school classics. In just the summer alone, songs like Gary Numan’s Cars, “Coming Up” from Paul McCartney and  “Rise” by Herb Alpert introduced me to new worlds of music. Another and perhaps the most explosive song of that year was from a new band from Atlanta GA called Sounds of Success or just S.O.S Band.

On a lawn mowing and occasional odd job salary, I had to be selective about what albums I bought. Most often, I bought LP’s only after hearing at least three songs I liked. For most R&B music, I never even bothered to buy albums as they seemed taylored for a disposable singles mindset. With that in mind I made due with a taped-from-the-radio copy of “Take Your Time Do It Right” until finding the used LP S.O.S. in the early ’90s and rediscovering what made the pre Jam/Lewis S.O.S. Band so special.

“Take Your Time..” had become the jam of my middle school years, by my junior year of highs chool, it was considered old fashioned as the S.O.S. Band re-made itself as a slick electro-funk outfit. Gone was the horn section and thumping rhythm guitar that gave S.O.S much of it’s raw joyous edge.

Once The S.O.S. Band hooked up with the production team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis full-time in 1983, there was no looking back. Many people never realized that the band actually had a style (and hits) before meeting up with the Minneapolis duo.

In fact did they ever have style as their debut featured an enthusiastic raw fusion of post disco and R&B like no other S.O.S. Band album since.  The sound in contrast to the slick funk of everything after On The Rise, was punchy and a bit scruffy on the edges. That scruffy edge was not so much the arrangements, but the powerful and emotive voice of Mary Davis who could belt out notes with the best of them.

Davis’ infectious high energy delivery was a perfect blend of disco diva and funk mistress, especially on the #1 single “Take Your Time…”.  In addition to topping the pop chart, “Take Your Time” became a dance hit. Another track, although not a single, “Love Won’t Wait For Love” featured another snappy disco-styled rhythm. Despite those two tracks, S.O.S. was by no means a disco album.

S.O.S. was of course much more nuanced than the explosive dance hits might have suggested. Another R&B hit, “What’s Wrong With Our Love Affair” became a popular quiet storm favorite and remains one of the best examples of Mary Davis and fellow vocalists Jason Bryant’s harmonization. Interestingly enough, Davis’ lyrics seemed more empowering during this time than they would be later, suggesting a confidence right out of the box (none of that “Just Be Good to Me” submission to my man stuff).

The S.O.S. Band had a great run with the Jam-Lewis albums that came later, but for a moment on S.O.S. they were international stars far beyond the mostly R&B only successes that came after 1982.


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