The Mighty Diamonds

Right Time

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Few reggae bands evoked their audience's suffering as viscerally as the Mighty Diamonds, not least because of lead vocalist Donald "Tabby" Shaw. Although overshadowed by stars like Bunny Wailer, Shaw's aching lilt remains a compelling signature of the roots-oriented '70s era. His graceful yet forceful presence on songs like "I Need a Roof" -- which laments lack of housing -- is exactly what the music needs. A strong moralistic undertone runs throughout the album. "Right Time" warns of an impending breakdown in social order, and "Why Me Black Brother Why" decries the rampant lawlessness afflicting the island nation. "Them Never Love Poor Marcus" scornfully denounces the people who betrayed the black nationalist leader (Marcus Garvey) for "rice and peas." "Gnashing of Teeth" takes up the Biblical imperative of Judgment Day, in which "only good works shall see you through." Some strategic departures help to leaven the band's approach, most notably the love song "Shame and Pride." Lloyd Ferguson steps out of his backup vocalist role on "Go Seek Your Rights," which reminds people to respect their differences while striving for social change, and "Africa" is a wistful tribute to the continent that Rastafarian believers consider their final home. The playing is first-rate, bolstered by unobtrusive contributions from session aces like bassist Robbie Shakespeare and drummer Sly Dunbar. No student of the genre should miss this landmark roots album.

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