Jamaican music has seen plenty of singers come and go; a few old-timers even come back for another shot at the business. Among the more successful longtime singers who’ve regained prominence are Earl Sixteen, Cornell Campbell, Anthony Johnson, Robert French, and the regal Winston Rodney (a.k.a. Burning Spear). But there are far more great vocalists who reappear only infrequently despite their time-tested talents. The sporadically performing/recording roll includes legends like Johnny Clarke, Sugar Minott, and a name probably not as familiar to casual fans: Mike Brooks.
Brooks’ career spans three decades and hundreds of recordings, many of which are thankfully still in print. He established the Teams label with longtime friend Patrick “Jah Lloyd” Francis in 1969. However, the label was not active until the release of “Soldier Round the Corner” in 1970. Brooks’ debut single, “The Earth is the Fullness,” was produced by the legendary Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and released on the Harvest label in 1972. While it didn’t exactly go platinum, the single did establish him as a major talent in Jamaica.
It was Jo Jo Hoo Kim’s Channel One Studio in Trench Town where Mike Brooks really made his mark as a producer laying rhythm tracks with the studio’s famous session band, The Revolutionaries, between 1974 and 1977. Among the tracks produced during this time was The Mighty Diamond’s classic “Shame and Pride,” released on the Teams label and co-produced with Pat ‘Jah Lloyd’ Francis. M10 Records has a nice collection of these recordings entitled Classic Anthology: 1972-1985, featuring Prince Far I, Jah Lion, and more.
Several excellent collections of Brooks’ work on respected labels are also available, including Living My Culture (Trojan), Rum Drinker (Nocturne), and Break Free (Treasure Isle). For many singers, a healthy catalog of old music would be the end of the story. That’s not the case with Mike Brooks. He’s revived his Teams label and continues to issue crucial hits. Many of his newer gentle-voiced singles stand side-by-side with popular singers like Jah Mali, Chezidek, and Ras Shiloh.
Recent gems from Brooks on Teams include “Beware Beware” (which rides a vintage Tubby-style dub), “Fussin Fighting” (on Gregory Isaacs’ “Storm“ riddim), “Glorify His Name” (Treasure Isle), and “Happy Times” on the brand new What A Feeling riddim. Each of these is a selector’s treat–a tune that not every DJ or fan will recognize at first, but acts like a secret weapon in the dub box.
After a robust career that has seen him recording Pat Kelly and Trinity at Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle, and produce for Blacka Morwell, Hortense Ellis, and Soul Syndicate, Brooks moved to London in the ’90s, and continues to record other artists in addition to his own material. If you ever hear someone say that lightning can’t strike twice, just say: “Well, you haven’t heard the new Mike Brooks single!”