RAS Portraits...
Mighty Diamonds
June 24, 2013

Track list
  1. Gone Bad
  2. Bodyguard
  3. Posse Are You Ready
  4. Knock Knock
  5. Corrupt Cop
  6. Anti-Crack
  7. This Time
  8. Putting On The Ritz
  9. Kick Up Rumpus
  10. Gold Digger
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 4 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 4
The Mighty Diamonds have been active since the late 1960s, their debut single being the already nice 'Girl You're Too Young' released in 1969 for Rupie Edwards. Since then, they have had an enduring career, with mostly high quality songs: their harmonies are excellent and well balanced, their songwriting strong, and the main singer Donald "Tabby" Shaw has an engaging, soulful voice, mostly bringing the best out of songs, that are by the way often penned by the other two other members as well. Since 1969 the line up and three members of the Mighty Diamonds have remained the same (Donald "Tabby" Shaw, Fitzroy "Bunny" Simpson, and Lloyd "Judge" Ferguson) throughout the years, which is not very common. Their work at Channel One in the 1970s was great and classic, and also afterwards they mostly maintained a high or at least acceptable standard of quality on also their albums of the 1980s, 1990s and later. Their lyrics also remained throughout at least partly conscious, and Garvey-ite and Rastafari-inspired, combined with also nice love songs. They thus showed to be a consistenly great harmony group.

This album, released in 1997, finds the Mighty Diamonds in a later stage, when of course quite some changes have taken place in reggae music: digitalization, dancehall (as subgenre, as a locale it of course existed from reggae's beginning), etcetera. As the title says, this album collects some of their work for RAS records, notably a selection of songs from the albums "Take A Ride" (1991), "Paint It Red" (1993), and "Speak The Truth" (1994), all released at RAS records. RAS records has been active since 1979 and was started by Doctor Dread. The US-based label would in time adapt modern, digital and dancehall influences within an innovative, yet respectful and roots-focussed approach, thus maintaining an authentic, if modernized, "roots" feel of artists it signed, like Culture, Black Uhuru, Israel Vibration, Don Carlos. And the Mighty Diamonds.

What helps here is that experienced, quality Jamaican musicians were employed (Steely & Clevie, Dean Fraser and others) in recording, such as also for the said albums the songs on this album were taken from. There is a digital, semi-programmed feel to these songs, but well balanced and produced. Further, the Mighty Diamonds' songs and harmonies are as strong as ever. Most songs are quite lively and fun-minded, having a "feel-good" effect, which is of course in itself pleasant, while the songs tend to be also groovy and certainly danceable. Meanwhile, Tabby's heartfelt voice ensures the necessary "soul" in the songs.

The opener "Gone Bad" is a catchy song combining all these good ingredients. Their reworked, funny "Bodyguard" (first version on their 1979 "Deeper Roots" album) is also certainly entertaining, and "Posse Are You Ready" is simply super-groovy. The vocally catchy "Corrupt Cop" (from "Speak The Truth") is also a great song, and maybe one of the better ones on this album. Bunny Diamond shows he can sing with soul, like Tabby, on the song where he sings lead: "Kick Up Rumpus". As the title implies, the last song's lyrics are on partying, but with a nice, "melancholic" feel. A few of the other songs pale a bit in comparison, but are neither bad. "Knock Knock" is a bit more monotonous than the other tunes, but still okay. "Anti-Crack" and the falsetto-voiced love song "This Time" are I think better songs than the so-so "Knock Knock". The (ill-advised?) cover song "Putting On The Ritz" is not as bad as one would assume. It is a nice remake, and actually improves on the original, I would say.

All in all a strong, "feel-good", and creative combination of later work of Mighty Diamonds, absorbing modern influences, but within a talented, "roots harmony" context.