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Archive for May 30th, 2013

Review: Tabu Wave 2 – Alexander O’Neal, Cherrelle, Kathy Mathis and The S.O.S. Band

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SOS BandThe earth has music for those who listen, proclaimed Clarence Avant’s Tabu Records label.  A major force in contemporary R&B from the late 1970s through the 1990s, Tabu followed in the footsteps of other black-owned, independent music empires as Berry Gordy’s Motown and Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International.  While Tabu never achieved the same level of crossover success as those aforementioned labels, it indeed picked up the torch of “The Sound of Young America,” and its cutting-edge electronic style still reverberates in R&B and hip-hop today.  Earlier in 2013, the U.K.’s Demon Music Group announced the reactivation of the Tabu label for an ambitious reissue program, the second wave of which has recently arrived in stores.  This batch includes two classic titles from the era-defining production team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Alexander O’Neal’s Hearsay (1987) and Cherrelle’s High Priority (1985), both reissued as double-disc sets.  In addition, this wave includes single-disc expansions of The S.O.S. Band’s S.O.S. (1980) and Kathy Mathis’ Katt Walk (1987).

1980’s gold-selling S.O.S. marked the LP debut of The S.O.S. Band: Jason “T.C.” Bryant on keyboards and vocals, Billy “B.E.” Ellis on saxophone, keyboards and vocals, Mary Davis on vocals and percussion, James Earl Jones III on drums and vocals, Willie “Sonny” Killebrew on saxophone, flute and vocals, Bruno Speight on lead guitar and John Simpson on bass.  The album was produced by Sigidi Abdullah; the band’s hits with Jam and Lewis would come later.  Abdullah co-wrote “Take Your Time (Do It Right),” the No. 1 R&B/No. 12 Pop song that became the band’s first calling card.  But it’s just one of eight essential tracks on this debut album which owes as much to the sound of the seventies as to the new decade it welcomed.

The S.O.S. Band successfully managed to synthesize the effusive but commercially-waning sound of disco with a solid bed of funk and a key pop sensibility that seemingly owed much to Earth, Wind and Fire.  Like that group, the S.O.S. Band prominently employed horns for a style that would attract soul fans both young and old, and boasted talented vocalists, including the big-voiced Mary Davis.  S.O.S. was truly the organic sound of a band at work, and showed off each side of its style, from slow-burning ballads to catchy dancefloor anthems.  Almost every track on the album could have been pulled as a single,

The sleek EWF sound is most evident on “Open Letter,” while wistful, Bacharach-esque horns add dimension to the melancholy “What’s Wrong with Our Love Affair.”   The exuberantly up-tempo “Love Won’t Wait for Love” emphasizes disco flourishes with its big strings, horns and suitable-for-dancing break.  Of course, the sexy smash “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” also had its roots in disco, and hasn’t lost any of its luster in the ensuing years.  Neither has “Take Love Where You Find It,” another big, brassy, disco-flavored track with tasty flute so redolent of the era.  Six bonus tracks have been added to S.O.S., including the single edit and disco mix of “S.O.S. (Dit Dit Dit Dash Dash Dash Dit Dit Dit),” the long version and both sides of the single of “Take Your Time (Do It Right),” and the edit of “What’s Wrong with Our Love Affair.”  Justin “Musicology” Kantor provides the liner notes, which contain fresh quotes from Mary Davis and trumpeter Abdul Ra’oof.

After the jump: the scoop on Cherrelle, Alexander O’Neal and Kathy Mathis! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 30, 2013 at 10:07