Garnett Silk

The Definitive Collection, Vols. 1-2

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"I can't help think what if?" muses Atlantic Records' Craig Kallman in a quote from The Definitive Collection's sleeve notes. It's a question that haunts anyone who has heard Garnett Silk sing. When the vocalist died in 1994, he had yet to complete his eagerly awaited second album. Six years later, listeners had the opportunity to finally begin to answer that question. This two-CD set resurrects that lost album, whose completion was overseen by Mikey Chung (who also played guitar during the original recording sessions) and Maurice Hunt; there are ten tracks in all, including a new version of "Hello Mother Africa." Accompanied by a who's who of top Jamaican sessionmen -- Sly & Robbie, Chinna Smith, Sticky Thompson, Family Man Barrett, and Earl Lindo included, and with Brian & Tony Gold and Chevelle Franklin adding their backing vocals, the sound and musicianship is truly superb. The songs themselves are among Silk's strongest. "Tell Them to Stop" has "smash hit" written all over it -- a fiercely driving rhythm, anthemic chorus, and a tough vocal delivery to match the song's equally tough theme. The rootsy "I Love You From a Distance" was guaranteed to raise more Marley comparisons, but the bluesy "Slave" would put pay to those, with a sufferer's lament that showcases Silk at his most soulful. "Place in Your Heart," featuring guest DJ Kulcha Knox, was sure to mash up the dancehalls, while "Sayonara" had definite hopes of crossing over into the R&B market. By scattering the new songs across the two discs, their full impact is dulled somewhat -- they were intended as an album after all, not independent singles. But perhaps this was done deliberately to show that the new songs were equal to the singer's classic hits, and in that it is effective. The rest of the set features ten of Silk's earlier masterpieces: "Love Is the Answer," "Green Line," "Zion in a Vision," and seven more unforgettable numbers. Garnett Silk lives on, and under a different name as well. Infuriatingly, the singer's name is mispelled not just in the sleeve notes, but on the album's cover. But then, what can one expect from a soulless major label?

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