The S.O.S. Band

Diamonds in the Raw

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By the time 1989's Diamonds in the Raw hit the racks, the S.O.S. Band had been chart-toppers for the better part of a decade. And though no one really expected much of the S.O.S. Band, they still had something to prove, and pulled off a hat trick of mammoth proportions, delivering a slick, sophisticated set. With vocalist Chandra Currelly stepping behind the mike alongside Fredi Grace and the production helmed by Curtis Williams (ex-Kool & the Gang), the stage was set for success. This stellar moment was tragically marred, however, by the untimely death of saxophonist Billy Ellis shortly before the record's completion. The album, then, was given to the fans in tribute. From the opening "I'm Still Missing Your Love" through the jazzy "Goldmine" and on to the edgy harmonies of "Secret Wish," it just doesn't get much tighter. The honeyed ballad "Hold Out," meanwhile, showcases the S.O.S. Band's quieter side and, as the last recording Ellis made before his death, becomes a fitting and poignant tribute. It's only the lackluster "Crossfire, Pts. 1-2" that lets the set down, but buried as the closer, it's easy to skip. That the band had maintained its style and grace is without question. That it had outstayed the musical tide in the United States is also true. Sales remained fairly sluggish stateside, but the S.O.S. Band took Diamonds in the Raw and sparkled across Europe, where the album proved a massive hit, giving way to the live Escape LP recorded in Amsterdam.

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