It’s a Saturday night in ’85 and Lil’ Soul Jones’ Grandma is hogging the TV Times. On the telly currently is a Tetley Tea ad, but up next, according to Gran, is an unmissable new American cop show - courtesy of Glen A. Larson - due to start at 9pm (post-watershed). The premise being Britain’s finest sleuth pairs up with a sharp moustachioed copper from Oz, in a Cagney meets Magnum buddy-buddy primetime drama set in Ventura, California.
“Spread ‘em Sport,” says Detective Sparro as he handcuffs the perp on the bonnet of the duo’s golden Ferrari Testarossa. “Sammy Jay, read this piece of filth his rights.”
“Woahha!” says the perp whose name is not really Sport. “I’m not having my rights read to me by no blonde-English broad.”
SJae looks at her partner Sparro (who laughs) and moves towards the perp, kicking him right in the misters. The perp yelps as SJae gives him a withering look.
“I’m Welsh and you have the right to squeal like a sexist pig.”
Welcome to The Avenue – as the killer theme song begins and the credits roll, the Ferrari speeds along the highway snaking up the pacific coast.
In reality an action drama of that name does not exist. The anthemic song “The Avenue” is definitely real though. Featuring Australian performer Sam Sparro it serves as track one on a EP by welsh born, LA based producer SJae. Like a modern day Quincy Jones The Dude, SJae’s debut release First, is also a producer project. The sound design so evocative of mid-80s American synth funk & power pop that it immediately transports you back to the Eddie Murphy “GTFOH” era. Shoulder pads and designer jeans, Rolodex & fax machines, t-shirts with blazers & the sun setting behind the palm trees on you-know-where boulevard.
Producer/Musician SJae has had previous making authentic american music, graduating from the Brit School (the institute that taught Amy Winehouse, Adele, Jessie J et al.) she got a gig via her deal with Def Jam producing soul starlet Terri Walker. The brilliant What Will I Do that featured on Terri’s Untitled album - recorded during the peak of gospeldelic neo-soul - sounded like it could have been anointed in Tony Toni Toné’s House of Music. Moving to the U.S. SJae would go onto work with The Roots, Scratch, Pussycat Dolls, Kanye West, Damon Albarn and Rosie Wilson to mention a few marquee headliners, making a name for herself as a producer & trailblazer in a profession disproportionately dominated by men.
With Acid Rain , the EP continues in fine ‘80s form. The song conjures images of a tequila sunset, the part in the TV show where the heroine is riding a motorcycle to a montage of dramatic memories (sweeping plates and cutlery off of a set table or throwing a drink in Sparro’s face). Co-written and sung (with aplomb) by Californian artist Hilaire - the vivid lyrics memorable long after the music has faded out.
On Repeat includes the glorious sound of the Linn Drum; an instrument so synonymous with Prince and his classic recordings he probably shared his purple pillow with it.
Queen harks back to dance music’s dominance in the early ‘90s - Bob Marley shots with a handbag assault-course on the dancefloor.
Black music lege Raphael Saadiq (who worked with SJae on the score for Netflix comedy The After Party and played guitar on The Avenue) rocks up with lead vocals on the soulful, strobe stomper All I Think About - the alternate piano only version tagged on at the end showing SJae’s versatility as an arranger & performer.
An assured debut, First is named in reference to SJae being one of the first female producers to come out of blighty but also to suggest that the EP could become the first of many releases.
Soul Jones puts a cigar in his mouth - “I’d love it if that plan came together.”