In 1989, producer and veteran vocalist Derrick Morgan took DJs Tony Rebel and Little Bimbo into the studio and recorded a split album. He changed the course of Jamaican music when he convinced the latter artist to have a go at singing a few numbers.
The following year, Bimbo inked a contract with Steely & Clevie and they gave him a new name, Garnett Silk, but not the album they promised. That sat on the shelf, and, disgusted, the newly christened artist withdrew from the music scene.
Of course, Silk returned with a vengeance, garnering his first hit in 1992 under the aegis of Bobby Digital. It wasn’t until 1994 that Steely & Clevie finally got around to releasing the set they’d been sitting on, and when it appeared, Love Is the Answer soared up the chart. The fabulous devotional title track was a huge hit, one of Silk’s best, and was followed by “Fight Back,” which the pair did not produce but appears here in an even more ferocious remix that they did oversee. That number paired Silk with Richie Stephens to phenomenal effect across an adamant, soulful refusal to give in to life’s travails.
The lovelorn “Used to Be My Girl” brings the singer together with DJ Supervisor, with both men lamenting the loss of their girls. Less successful is “Friends and Lover” that unites Silk with Sharon Forrester. But that is just the beginning of some of the set’s difficulties. In those early days, the singer was still in need of guidance, but instead he got producers whose attention was obviously elsewhere, at least part of the time. Left to his own devices, Silk experimented with a variety of vocal styles, from emotive soul, R&B, dancehall, and even lighter pop-soul. His musical excursions are thrilling; the backing, however, at times goes straight off the boil.
“A Man in Love,” for instance, features a fabulously emotive vocal, but the stark rhythm — a blizzard of beats and a repetitive keyboard riff — does little to showcase Silk’s talents. “All the Woman I Need” doesn’t even sound finished and cries out for more of Steely’s superb Studio One-flavored keyboards. A dancehall number like “Put on the Pressure” is a real shock attack, its lyrics now fatally dated, but so strong is Silk’s performance and the producer’s rhythm, you can forgive that flaw, while “Get Up Shock Out” is nearly as strong. But the album’s acknowledged masterpiece is the ferocious cover of Horace Andy’s “Skylarking,” which itself alone is worth the price of admission. In 1990, this album would have been a revelation, even though the producers’ eyes weren’t always on the ball. Four years later, it’s still a great set with enough classics to equal the artist’s latest work.