Five Reasons You Absolutely Have to Catch the Mighty Diamonds @ 2720 on 5/25

Mighty Diamonds - the classic original model


by Michael Kuelker

Bringing their trademark luminous harmonies, The Mighty Diamonds return to St. Louis on Friday, May 25 at 2720. The evening also features Zion & the Lion Roots Band plus The Iron Curtain Hi Fi with The Mad Russian and guest Michael Kuelker.

You might be unaware of the show or vacillating on whether to get off your couch or take off of work and go and if this is so, you are being put on notice.

1. The Mighty Diamonds represent reggae at its finest.

Roots knotty roots. Donald ‘Tabby’ Shaw, Fitzroy ‘Bunny’ Simpson and Lloyd ‘Judge’ Ferguson joined forces in 1969 in the Trenchtown section of Kingston, Jamaica – in other words, at the epicenter of reggae very early in its development.

They hit with a few singles before entering Channel One studio, which became a frothing source of bubbling riddims anchored by Sly & Robbie, aka The Revolutionaries. Some of the most memorable riddims in reggae came out of Channel One between 1976-84, and The Mighty Diamonds were one of many artists who did career-defining work, with I Need a Roof (1976), to name just one album, standing solid in the annals of roots reggae as a classic.

Catch the Channel One Mighty Diamonds action in a brief documentary film clip 1 and clip 2, and dip a few times into their mighty catalog through the years, then let’s hustle to the next point in my argument.

1976 – “Shame and Pride”

1978 – “Brothers and Sisters”

1991 – “Bodyguard” (12” mix)

1994 – “Gone Bad”

2001 – “I Need a Roof” (w/ U Roy)

2008 – “Poor Marcus” (acoustic Inna de Yard session)

2. They are (just about) the only all-original Jamaican vocal trio left from the golden 70s.

Something must be said here of longevity.

The Itals and The Meditations, two contemporaries of the Diamonds, are still around touring regularly and occasionally putting out new music, all of it at a high caliber. But let’s face it, these days The Itals and The Meditations are now a lead vocalist, Keith Porter and Ansel Cridland respectively, and whomever the said lead vocalist elects to work with. That’s what happens with groups. Life is change, people work with other people. Except in the case of The Mighty Diamonds, who bring timelessness to roots reggae in 2012.

Because little details matter, it’s worth mentioning that this topic came up in a conversation I heard between The Mad Russian and one of Pato Banton’s musicians. (It happened on the tour bus [Pato was driving] from the Tivoli theatre to 2720 in April; another story, but thanks to both Pato and Russian.) The latter cited The Tamlins – indeed correct, although in my mind I have an asterisk. The Tamlins trio work primarily as a backup group for artists such as Bunny Wailer, John Holt, Delroy Wilson, Marcia Griffiths and, way back in the day, Peter Tosh. The Tamlins also occasionally work the vintage stageshows and do have an album coming out under their own moniker this year. But since they didn’t form until 1970, we gotta give the nod to The Mighty Diamonds in this discussion as long as we cast them as “the longest-running” all-original harmony group from Jamaica. Death or disunity have made claims on the vocal groups which remain on the scene.

3. The Diamonds sound great, still. In a pristine way, full bodied, evoking the crystal clarity of the sun’s rays glistening in the waters of the Caribbean.

Can you tell I need to get back to the island? It’s one of the reasons I schlep out to nightclubs to see and hear and feel the Jamaican vibes purveyed by Jamaican artists. I’ve found it worth the effort, except when headliners do short shows. I am happy to report that these elder statesmen of reggae acquit themselves honorably in this regard, giving full and satisfying performances. We have seen them recently at La Onda and Club Viva, and it’s no dibby-dibby. Bunny, Tabby and Judge are in complete possession of their talents as singers and harmonizers and sound freakishly good together.

4. Backing the Diamonds are the Yellow Wall Dub Squad. Need we say more?

The Yellow Wall Dub Squad is tight, lithe and uber-talented, unquestionably one of the finest I’ve seen in my 20-plus years of seeing hired gun backing bands (defined herein as one which moves from one touring opportunity to another and is not associated exclusively with one artist). YWDS has been seen in St. Louis in the last few years backing Yellowman, Sister Carol and the Melodians. Amazing chops.

5. Roots reggae economics being what they are (things are on the wane here in STL], get your roots & culture while you can.

Attendances are down and have been trending in this direction for a long time. In the last year in particular, turnouts have been weak-to-middling or worse for the bigger shows. We do occasionally break the streak – there was the (for us) big beautiful Freddie McGregor show at La Onda last July – giving everyone who cares a bit of hope for roots & culture reggae music in the 314/618.

So you’re vacillating still?? Have mercy.

Vital Selection