S.O.S. Band: ‘Just The Way You Like It’ (Tabu)

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Under the aegis of then up-and-coming producers/songwriters, ex-Time members Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the S.O.S. Band hit chart paydirt in 1983 with the anthemic ‘Just Be Good To Me,’ the killer cut from their fourth LP for Clarence Avant’s Tabu label, ‘On The Rise.’ Jam & Lewis reprised their roles as producers to that album’s follow up, 1984’s ‘Just The Way You Like It,’ which like its predecessor has just been reissued in deluxe case-bound book packaging and bolstered with sundry bonus cuts.

To this writer’s ears, ‘Just The Way You Like It’ represented the pinnacle of the Atlanta soul and funk aggregation’s oeuvre. Though it followed a similar stylistic trajectory to the previous year’s ‘On The Rise’ – opening with a hypnotic groove ballad (‘No One’s Gonna Love You’) from the pen of Jam & Lewis, who helmed all of side one – it was more cohesive and consistent. The second cut, a lush duet called ‘Weekend Girl,’ is tremendously atmospheric and the first half of the album climaxes with the title track. At first listen it sounds like a facile retread of ‘Just Be Good To Me’ but though it’s sonically not too dissimilar to that song with its big chorus and densely layered instrumentation it’s tighter, better arranged and expertly executed, proving that the S.O.S. Band and Jam & Lewis had really got their act together on their second stint in the studio.

As with ‘On The Rise,’ though, the second side of the original vinyl LP didn’t reach the same heights. Jam & Lewis were responsible for the opener, the uptempo ‘Break Up,’ which is driven by slapped bass and defined by a Time-style keyboard hook, which counterpoints Mary Davis’s delicious husky vocal. The quality of the album perceptibly dips a little with the three cuts that close the album; all helmed by the band themselves. ‘Feeling,’ a blithe jazz-funk groover, isn’t bad, while ‘I Don’t Want Nobody Else’ is a half-decent ballad and the closer, ‘Body Break,’ is a slice of body-popping electro-funk powered by a Roland TR808 drum machine groove.

Bonus cuts come in the shape of remixes and ‘special long versions’ of ‘Break Up,’ ‘No One’s Gonna Love You,’ and ‘Just The Way You Like It’ plus single edits of ‘Weekend Girl’ and ‘I Don’t Want Nobody Else.’ They’re not essential but should satisfy the hardcore collectors.

(CW) 4/5