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Join us for the Bay Area’s most anticipated new CD release party of “SOULPILATION” by PARK AVENUE, produced by bass player extraordinaire, ELIJAH BAKER; featuring sensational SILK-E, NEPHEW, MS. MONET, and Special Guest performance by ADRIAN MARCEL, with guitarist JUBU and other surprise guest TBA.
When Park Avenue bandleader, producer & original Tony Toni Toné member Elijah “EB” Baker walked out of prison - the Big Spring Federal Correctional Institution in Texas - he left with more than just the shirt on his back. Released from the joint with a fresh batch of new songs in his pocket, tunes he had composed on the clinks’ own acoustic guitar - an instrument he only began to master during his 4 year stretch inside, being a professional bass player first and foremost - the fruits of Baker’s hard labor included an albums worth of material he wrote for his northern California super-group Park Avenue, and their brand new record Soulpilation.
“The music on Soulpilation is played with the passion,” explains Elijah, “with live instrumentation, authentic and timeless, a sound kept true to what we believe as a group. Not a sound that’s gonna change every three months. It’s like the variety of r&b we would listen to back when local Bay Area station KSOL used to play the funk, and soul, medium tempo and slow - this project, from beginning to end, sounds like a classic soul compilation, something real. That’s why we had to call it Soulpilation.”
Born and raised to the soundtrack of black music’s finest, Elijah can reel off the names of the artists that inspired him and the group, whilst on the come up in Oakland, California.
“Marvin Gaye, Cameo, Bootsy Collins and Funkadelic, Al Green, the Stylistics, Earth Wind and Fire, Pilgrim Jubilee, Chic, Larry Graham … ah man who else? Marvin Gaye…” Elijah stops himself, “Wait, did I say Marvin twice?” He laughs. Just like Gaye, EB is the son of a preacher man. His father, the Reverend Elijah Baker, is a gospel singer himself, who, along with his wife, brought up the kids Lil’ Lij Junior and his brother Kenya (it was Kenya’s studio where the lion-share of Soulpilation was recorded) in a bonafide house of music. Elijah’s high school yearbook names him as “the best dancer”, a title he earned after winning a body-poppin’ contest (“The girls loved it.” Says Elijah, adding; “In fact, the girls STILL love it!”). When he graduated in ’86 he joined six man rhythm and blues combo Tony Toni Toné with his first cousin Raphael Saadiq, handling the choreography and playing bass on tour; Saadiq being such an expert bassist himself - recording every bassline, on every Tony's recording - that Baker was determined to show what his own chops sounded like in the studio. “Everybody in Oakland knew the band members through somebody’s friend or somebody’s cousin, but I always got hidden behind the three (Raphael, Dwayne Wiggins & Tim Christian Riley). No-one really knew that I could do it on my own, my own music.”
Having produced and toured with the likes of Lucy Pearl, DJ Quick, Too $hort, Alicia Keys & Snoop Dogg to name a few - Baker finally put out his first official release Street Save Ya in 2006. A debut that, despite including the excellent slow jam My Everything (a duet with his God-sister Ms. Monet) and the Slum Village cover Fantastic, was ultimately hindered by two unfortunate circumstances; 1) an inability to promote it properly from inside jail, and 2) a proof reading miss-hap, which saw the record accidentally credited to “Elijah” and not the Park Avenue universe like it was supposed to.
A community of largely Bay Area based pro-musicians, (“Town Business” says Baker) corralled by producer-in-chief EB. Similar to the mentality of the Parliafunkadelicment thang when George Clinton opined, ‘I think Motown was a band - all the players, singers and producers, were all part of one great big band.”
No matter how personal the songs might be, it’s natural, says Elijah, for him to hear them on other Park Avenue contributors. “When I write a song it doesn’t matter what key it’s in and whether it’s in my key,” Elijah explains. “If it isn’t my key, then the song isn’t meant for me, but I always know exactly who I do want to sing it within the group.” Park Avenue’s Mario Corbino is a proper soul vocalist - like Jody took his girl and gone - who leads throughout Soulpilation, most notably on the Al Green styled I Can’t Take It and the gorgeous No More, a bittersweet duet with triple threat - singer, rapper, performer - Silk-E. Says Elijah: “Mario can pretty much sing it all. He moves around the globe, on tour, singing soul, but we established a brotherhood him and I, and when it’s time to work I can count on him. Silk E is a superstar, much like Lauryn Hill. She will give 110 percent, I can’t turn her down!” Elijah laughs, “Man, I would put her up against anybody in the world.”
Baker’s brother in law, is guitar legend and former TTT colleague John ‘Jubu’ Smith (Says Van Hunt: “I wish Jubu would do a gospel quartet album and stop playing around!”) and solo’s on the penultimate track Special (as does Doc Powell) - vocals by Elijah & Billy Ray Kemp. “Me and Billy Ray sung quartet together as kids, and when he did The Good Life Project, a gospel CD, I heard the strength in his writing. He's an all-star, whatever-you-need-kinda-guy, he plays drums too, and bass …” Elijah starts laughing, “He had the nerve to bring his bass to my session! I said ‘Whatchu doin' Billy Ray?! You ain’t gonna play bass on my record!’
When he was locked up, Elijah re-imagined his Dad’s feel-good congregation pleaser I Never Had It So Good as a stylistic, sweet soul jam. “I wanted to play that for my father soon as I got out, I called him on the phone and said, ‘I stole yo’ song and made it mine!’” Along with Mario, EB & Otis Cooper (of Otis & Shugg) young Bay Area hotshot Adrian Marcel also appears. “Adrian loved the song. He made it sound like now, like something that should be on the radio today. It was just some of that ol’ magic when it came together.”
Ms. Monet also got to feature on a Park Avenue record again. “She’s like one of the guys; I mean she’s pretty harsh.” Laughs Elijah, “I thought she was gonna miss out, she’s been on the road with Boz Scaggs like forever, but eventually came over and kicked the door down.” Ms. Monet features on OG Kush (also starring Billboard hip hop chart-toppers E-40 and Too $hort), No More, adlibs on the funky Touch My Stick, and sings the hook to I Can’t Take It - the latter track, like Soulpilation opener Guilty and the moving Ride (both sung by Baker), recalling Baker’s experiences and emotional state whilst serving time.
“You’re an open book in there; everybody knows when you eat, when you go to the bathroom, to the Rec. yard, your whole schedule. So you hear these profound stories, but you can’t talk to loved ones on the outside world. You can’t tell ‘em and I couldn’t take it. I felt nervous all the time. I Can’t Take It is a true story.” Ride is just as personal. “It was so bitter in there; everybody was losing their girlfriends and their wives you know? It was a real tough time on that level.”
Drummer extraordinaire John Roberts is in the mix on the funk of We Had To Do It - enticed to take part after watching one of the many, legendary “Lij’ Live” sessions on Facebook Live - as is Billy Ray on programming. “I told you, Billy Ray’s good ain’t he?!” Says Elijah. First single is the previously mentioned, unabashedly romantic Touch My Stick, proper thang-music, co-written with Raphael Saadiq, who also features. The initial verse has Elijah boasting about one of his main physical attributes, a lyric so meaningful to its author; he has to hit a “Rewind!” halfway through.
“I had to repeat it,” Says Elijah, “just in case in you missed it.”
‘Soulpilation’ will be released on (date) via Ambitious Records/Sony Red
For more info visit: https://www.parkavenuesounds.com or contact [email protected]