Mike Brooks – What A Gathering
Mike Brooks – What A Gathering
Label: Burning Sounds | Format: LP | Street date: January 28, 2022 | Website label
1. You Never Know
2. Love Won’t Come Easy
3. Far Away Land
4. Fighting You’re Brethren
5. Never Give Up
1. Somebody’s Stolen My Girl
2. Oh Oh Natty Dread
3. Woman Of Assylum
4. What A Gathering
Singer and producer Mike Brooks along with singer, deejay, producer Patrick Lloyd Francis aka Jah Lloyd created their Teem label in the early ’70s and apart from producing and releasing their own music also did that for other artists like The Heptones and The Mighty Diamonds (think: Shame And Pride). In 1976, Burning Sounds released Mike Brooks’ LP What A Gathering, a compilation of tracks recorded at Channel One and produced by Jah Lloyd and named after Mike Brooks’ biggest hit, in the UK.
The Artist’s Story
Mike Brooks (aka Mikey Brooks or Prince Michael) isn’t a name that will register with casual reggae fans but connoisseurs will definitely know of him. Born Edmund Brooks in Westmoreland, Jamaica, was raised in East Kingston, near Mountain View Avenue. After singing at school and performing regularly at the ‘Idler’s Rest’ on Chancery Lane in Kingston, he made his start in the business singing with a little-known vocal group called the Tots (who also included Norris Reid and in Brooks’ words ‘a guy called Tony’). The group recorded their debut The Earth Is The Fullness for Lee “Scratch” Perry, but split up soon afterwards. However, he would often contribute to recording sessions at Lee Perry’s Black Ark Studio organized by his friend Pat Francis, who deejayed under the name of Jah Lloyd, before he re-emerged as a solo singer in the mid-’70s. Although Mike Brooks is an unsung hero who without a doubt has made his mark on the music’s development, he has always remained shrouded from the limelight which can only be explained by a lack of connections in the music industry or sheer bad luck.
After its original UK release in 1976, Burning Sounds reissued What A Gathering in 2017 on CD along with 1983 released LP One Love featuring riddims played by the Roots Radics. And now, five years later, they come up with a reissue of the What A Gathering album for vinyl collectors of which we noticed that the song playback doesn’t match the printed running order. For your convenience, we listed the correct running order in this review under ‘tracklist’.
This side takes off with three cover songs which add little although they are not really bad. First, there’s Mike Brooks’ version of Errol Dunkley’s smooth trombone-led 1972 lover’s lament You Never Know. Even though it’s a nicely done version, it doesn’t come near the original. Instead, The Heptones’ Love Won’t Come Easy is a far better effort with a killer bass sound that puts a big smile on your face. It can be a bit tricky to cover a song of Bob Andy and it shows when Mike Brooks takes I Don’t Want To See You Cry (here re-titled Far Away Land) to cover. In all, it’s not a very convincing rendition of the Studio One classic. The last two tracks on this side are originals and show that Mike Brooks is a roots singer par excellence. Both, Fighting You’re Brethren and Never Give Up, are great ’70s roots tunes with especially the latter worth going on repeat.
The other side contains four tracks with next to two roots tunes also offering the listener two lovers pieces. Things get started with Mike Brooks’ rendition of Delroy Wilson’s ska tune Somebody’s Stolen My Girl, recorded for Coxsone Dodd in 1965. Although it is a solid effort, this track and then also Woman Of Assylum fail to make an everlasting impression. The enjoyable Oh Oh Natty Dread with its Rasta-inspired lyrics is a good example of the kind of tunes that were in fashion during the roots era. The LP is rounded off by What A Gathering, which comes on a riddim that in reggae circles is mainly known from Leroy Smart’s popular stone-cold classic rockers tune Ballistic Affair from 1976. The riddim was laid by the Channel One house band, the Revolutionaries (built around Sly & Robbie), and is a ferocious updating of the Studio One classic College Rock riddim.
Recorded at Channel One and backed by the Revolutionaries, this reissued LP reminds people of what a fine singer Mike Brooks is.