Harmony singing can be a moving experience, especially when incorporated into one’s faith. It has kept the legendary vocal trio Mighty Diamonds together for approaching half a century, during which time the band have recorded and performed some of the most vital roots reggae tracks ever written. They started out in Trench town, the Kingston neighbourhood noted for the great volume of artists emerging from there in the late sixties and early seventies. Before long, success required them to put down their day jobs and devote their time to the music. They’ve never looked back, maintaining a steady output and bringing favourite tracks to followers around the world. Ahead of their show at Band on the Wall on 20th October, here’s a five track introduction to the band.
Initially released as a single in 1975 and later included on the band’ s astonishing debut LP Right Time, I Need a Roof has become a firm fan favourite. A song about life’s simple requirements, sung with emotion and humility, it had all the ingredients of a reggae hit. Sly & Robbie were at the core of the rhythm section on the LP and Joseph and Ernest Hoo Kim were at the Channel One mixing board, ensuring that the sweet sax lines, vocal harmonies and driving steppers rhythm, played off each other perfectly.
The title track from the band’s aforementioned full length debut, Right Time once again makes reference to Marcus Garvey, the Jamaica-born politician whose speeches and activism made him a figure of prophetic importance in the Rastafari movement. Its rhythm track is sensational, with a double tap snare pattern from Sly Dunbar so controlled, that it sounds at first like slapback delay. The recurring hook, “Natty dread will never run away,” represented the solidarity that could be felt throughout the Rastafari movement, resisting against those who disapproved of their practice.
The final selection from a trilogy of incredible debut album singles, Have Mercy is another track that the band has identified as being hard to exclude from any live set. The song is devotional – a prayer for guidance and deliverance for brothers and sisters alike. Its offbeat piano and rhythm guitar strike in unison, propelling the positive rhythm from start to finish.
A 12” single featuring a Sly & Robbie dub on the flip side, this seven minute cut progresses the Mighty Diamonds sound, bringing bubbling electronics to the fore without compromising the rootsy qualities of the rhythm or harmonies and deepening the vibe with hand drums. The dub portion of the track is also joy to behold.
Recorded on the ‘full’ up riddim, which became a soundsystem mainstay, Pass the Kouchie gained popularity in the UK largely because of a chart-topping cover, where the reference to the weed pipe was altered to Douchie, or cooking pot. However, this is the definitive version you want to be hearing: smooth horn swells, tight harmonies, auxillary percussion and that incredible punchy sax riff! A feel good classic that we’ll never tire of hearing.