The Mighty Diamonds

Ice on Fire

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The Mighty Diamonds, one of reggae music's most beloved harmony groups, recorded some of its best albums for Virgin's Front Line subsidiary in the late 1970s. This bizarre effort is not among them. Recorded in New Orleans under the supervision of producer Allen Toussaint and using local musicians, Ice on Fire suffers from a sort of stylistic schizophrenia -- while singers Donald Shaw, Fitzroy Simpson and Lloyd Ferguson are, for the most part, in fine voice, the backing band is a disaster. Bassist Dave Barard plays his instrument as if it were a tuba; guitarist Steve Hughes hacks clumsily at the backbeats; the horn section is huge and intrusive. In short, the album sounds exactly like what it is: an attempt by New Orleans soul musicians to play reggae. There is one moment of brilliance: on "Cat-o-Nine," the band inexplicably slides into a perfect reggae groove -- the bassline is melodic and minimalist, the horns are tasteful, the Diamonds sing gorgeously. But everything else on this album is of interest primarily as a curiosity.

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