It started with an itch. It ended with Anita Baker’s first studio album in 10 years.
“My Everything,” due Sept. 7 from Blue Note Records, shattered Baker’s creative block.
“There are times when that creative door is just closed,” Baker says. During her recording hiatus, the Detroit native raised her two sons and cared for her ill parents.
“My parents passed away a couple of years ago,” she continues. “Then I looked up and found my boys doing their own things. And the itch started. I put my hand on that door; it cracked open a bit. Then I stuck my toe through and said, ‘It’s time to go.'”
“My Everything” is the latest in a series of new releases by veteran female R&B singers. That list includes such icons as Teena Marie, Patti LaBelle, Stephanie Mills and Regina Belle, all of whose recent albums have been well received.
Baker is also poised to reap success with “My Everything.” Lead single “You’re My Everything” counts five weeks at No. 1 on the Airplay Monitor Adult R&B chart and resides at No. 27 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart.
On “My Everything,” Baker’s warm alto reclaims the signature soul/jazz sound that earned her eight Grammy Awards and numerous hits, including two R&B No. 1s: “Giving You the Best That I Got” and “Just Because.” The 10 tracks on the album range from a duet with Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds (“Like You Used to Do”) to a Yellowjackets cover (“I Can’t Sleep”).
Baker, who wrote or co-wrote seven of the album’s cuts, arranged nine tracks with producer Barry Eastmond, who collaborated on her last major hit, 1994’s”I Apologize.” She also enlisted other longtime members of her support team: background vocalists the Ridgeway Sisters and the Perri Sisters, plus George Duke, who mixed all the songs with Erik Zobler.
“I don’t know how to sing or record any other way than to throw my whole self into it,” says Baker, who cut the songs with a live rhythm section. “Once I get my peeps in there, we just start vibing. It’s a true collaborative effort.”
Baker’s best-selling album remains 1986’s “Rapture,” which the Recording Industry Association of America has certified quintuple-platinum for U.S. shipments of 5 million copies. Her last studio set, “Rhythm of Love,” has sold 1.9 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Even before Baker began recording her Blue Note album, the former Elektra artist tested the comeback waters with several concerts in 2003. These well-received performances included the Westbury Music Fair in Westbury, N.Y., and a December stint at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
The album will be released outside the United States Sept. 27, with Baker slated to visit Europe in October. Tour plans are also developing.
“I’m energized,” the 46 year-old Baker says. “Blue Note’s focus is creativity, which is ideal. I get to do what I do. And I’m grateful that my fans have always gotten me.”
Excerpted from the Aug. 28, 2004, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.
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