“The Finest” by The S.O.S. Band (1986)

The S.O.S. Band were the first act that Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis did consistent production for. 1986’s Sands of Time was the sixth S.O.S. album overall, and the third to benefit from Jam & Lewis’s involvement.

There will be other S.O.S./Jam & Lewis team-ups on this list, and I’ll go further in depth on their relationship during those posts. For now, though, let’s celebrate the angular funk -pop of “The Finest”. S.O.S. lead singer Mary Davis had this way of singing that was soulful, yet cool. She didn’t use a ton of melisma, and delivered her vocals in a straight and to the point manner. During the bridge, a male counterpoint to her singing is provided by another Jam/Lewis client, the uber-talented Alexander O’ Neal.

The airy production of “The Finest” matched the coolness of Mary’s vocal, and Jam & Lewis threw in a couple of cool production tricks. The most notable/unusual of these tricks was the fact that the music literally stopped for a couple of beats right after the chorus. Mary sings “you’re the finest I’ve ever known/the finest I’ve ever”…pause..two, three, four…then the music starts back up. It must’ve confused/thrilled the club patrons that I’m sure filled dance floors when “The Finest” came on.

“The Finest”‘s parent album, Sands Of Time, is a stone groover that also marked the end of the S.O.S./Jam & Lewis connection. Davis left the band, who soldiered on through the early ’90s. Alas, Davis also took the personality of the band when she left, and by the time she returned, there was no longer space in the contemporary R&B scene for S.O.S. Nevertheless, the band from Atlanta and the producers for Minneapolis left a legacy of some of the finest (heh) music of the ’80s.

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