Living My Culture
Mike Brooks
Trojan Records
November 22, 2005

Track list
Disc 1

  1. What A Gathering
  2. Love Won't Come Easy
  3. Grooving (Keep On Moving)
  4. Living My Culture
  5. Sensi Man
  6. A Man Is King
  7. Reggae In The Sun - Thin Leg
  8. Down In Jamdown - Bim Sherman
  9. In God We Trust - Morwell Esquire
  10. No War Over Woman
  11. Never Give Up
  12. Far Away Land
  13. Lovers Street
  14. You'll Never Know (I'll Be Back)
  15. Wonderful World
  16. Fighting Your Brethren
  17. Love On The Highway
  18. Money Is Not All
  19. Complicated Love
  20. Oh Natty Dread
  21. Woman Of Asylum
Disc 2

  1. Change
  2. Change Dub
  3. Underground
  4. Underground Dub
  5. Too Long
  6. Solid Ground
  7. Stoney Place
  8. Crime
  9. Middle Class
  10. I'm Thinking Of You
  11. Dub Hill Side
  12. I'm Thinking Of You Dub
  13. Psalms Of Blessing
  14. Psalms Dub
  15. To Be Or Not To Be
  16. My Fight
  17. Diamond Ring
  18. Cry
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 3 Backing : 3 Production : 3 Sound quality : 2 Sleeve : 1
A mixed reaction to this album -- to start with, the sound quality and mastering on CD1 is horrible -- the rhythm tracks are for the most part, murky, with harsh bright and distorted vocals.

Ok for a punk rock album perhaps -- not good for reggae music.

The sleeve notes -- written by the knowledgeable, experienced journalist John Masouri who wrote such evocative sleeve notes for the Jah Shaka "Visions" video -- are crudely put together.

This is only made worse by the baffling, confusing sleeve art /design presentation from mystery.co.uk -- the company who did such a beautiful job on the Clancy Eccles album last month. They use a dazzling array of gratuitous type size change, font distortion, poor photographs and clumsy colour schemes which make the sleeve notes almost impossible to read anyway, even if they were good -- which they are not. Also, the lovers tunes included here simply do not work, either lyrically or musically.

Paradoxically perhaps -- given the criticism in the preceding paragraphs -- the record is still well worth buying -- because Mike Brooks is a distinctive singer and a talented lyricist who has been largely overlooked by reggae listeners'/reggae management's often fickle and selective take on history -- and he does deserve his niche in reggae's canon.

His more thoughtful narratives are consistently evocative -- showing us his world from the point of view of a patient struggler -- who sometimes gives in to a justified resentment, scepticism and restlessness. Check out the distaste, contempt and perceptiveness inherent in his tune "Middle Class" -- check out the empowered stoicism of "Solid Ground", in which Brooks makes it plain he knows his place in this world and isn't going to accept the subjugations others may wish to visit upon him.

The best track is the spiritual insight of "Money Is Not All" in which Brooks rejects a world view based entirely on utilizing and misusing others for personal benefit.

The latter two tracks were on a Tabou and EFA compilations about five years ago: both disappeared overnight from the record stores over arguments concerning rhythm copyright issues -- so it's a pleasure to see such strong tracks made easily available once more.

Of course, the Bim Sherman contribution here is faultless too, and is another good reason to check out this disc. (The best tracks on this disc -- without hesitation -- deserve a five out of five top score : the over all rating only drops due to bad sound on CD 1 and the lovers tunes.)