In 1976 many classic reggae albums were released. Among them was the beautiful Right Time by The Mighty Diamonds.
The Mighty Diamonds
The group was founded in 1969 in the Trenchtown neighborhood of Jamaica’s capitol Kingston. The group consisted of singer Donald “Tabby” Shaw and harmony singers Lloyd “Judge” Ferguson and Fitzroy “Bunny” Simpson. They explicitly modeled themselves after Motown artists like The Temptations and The Stylistics, as well as after Jamaican stars like John Holt and Ken Boothe.
Following some early recordings with producers like the legendary Lee “Scratch” Perry, they got into contact with the Chinese-Jamaican producer Joseph Hoo Kim, quickly turning them into one of the most important Jamaican groups. A lot of the recordings took place in Kim’s own Channel One studio.
As was the case with many of the Jamaican groups at the time, The Mighty Diamonds appeared on the radar of a big Western record company. The go-to record company for reggae was Island Records, but The Mighty Diamonds signed a deal with Virgin.
Midway 1976 The Mighty Diamonds’ debut album, entitled Right Time, was released. It was an instant classic within the roots-reggae genre.
As usual, the lyrical content spoke of inequality, crime, return to the mother continent of Africa, the love for Jah and Marcus Garvey (pioneer in the struggle for civil rights for the black community).
The title song explicitly addresses the violence and the negative consequences, not only for the victims, but also for those who commit them.
Man a go find him back against the wall
Oh yeah, it a go bitter when the right time come
Lord, some a go charge fe treason
Some a go charge fe arson, some a go charge fe murder
When the lawman come, some a go run till him tumble down
© 1976 The Mighty Diamonds – Right Time
At the same time the song stands as a tribute to Marcus Garvey and the Rastafari movement. The Mighty Diamonds often combined multiple messages into one song.
Time a go dread
every gully a go run red
I need a roof over my head
and bread on my table
It is love in my heart
It is love for everyone
© 1976 The Mighty Diamonds – I Need A Roof
Once again the double message: take care for the people, stop hunger and poverty. But also love and unity, which arguably is the foundation of what The Mighty Diamonds want to be.
The group often referred to “righteousness”, good behavior inspired by the faith in Jah. Most of the songs address doing the right thing, staying away from the dangers of crime and living life as a good person.
Apart from the lyrics, the music also plays a pivotal role in the album’s success. The influential and world renowned rhythm section Sly & Robbie provide this album with an irresistible groove, which almost sounds like a cross between reggae and soul. The title song Right Time had this innovative drum pattern, with Sly Dunbar playing a double rim shot, which very quickly turned into a de facto standard in future reggae music.
But the one thing The Mighty Diamonds were truly famous for, was that heavenly harmony singing. The melodies are beautiful, rich and give every song extra value.
The Might Diamonds’ Right Time is a classic album that belongs in every record collection, and is part of the very best reggae has ever produced.
It’s not entirely clear how many singles were released from the album, because a lot of them were Jamaica only releases, but Right Time and Shame And Pride were internationally released. I Need A Roof, Africa and Have Mercy have all been released as singles in Jamaica.
Due to the chaos on Jamaica at the time, the total number of sales can’t be established, but it is assumed that the group was one of the most popular acts on the island.
All songs written by Lloyd Ferguson, Donald Shaw, Fitzroy Simpson and Joseph Hoo Kim, unless stated otherwise.
- Right Time
- Why Me Black Brother Why (unknown)
- Shame And Pride
- Gnashing Of Teeth
- Them Never Love Poor Marcus
- I Need A Roof
- Go Seek Your Rights
- Have Mercy
- Natural Natty
- Africa (Lloyd Ferguson)
The Mighty Diamonds
- Lloyd “Judge” Ferguson – vocals
- Donald “Tabby” Shaw – vocals
- Fitzroy “Bunny” Simpson – vocals
With help from
- Radcliffe “Rad” Bryan – guitar
- Tony Chin – guitar
- Ansel Collins – keyboards
- Anthony “Benbow” Creary – drums
- Sly Dunbar – drums
- Vin Gordon – trombone
- Ossie Hibbert – keyboards
- Herman Marquis – alto saxophone
- Tommy McCook – tenor saxophone
- Ranchie – bass
- Robbie Shakespeare – bass
- Sticky – percussion
- Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace – drums
After Right Time
For the successor to Right Time, Virgin thought it would be great if the group was linked to Allen Toussaint in New Orleans. As it turned out, the idea was terrible, Ice On Fire was a huge flop. The band quickly returned to Jamaica and Channel One and released the stunning Stand Up To Your Judgment. The following Deeper Roots, released on Virgin, was a very successful.
Going into the 1980s the group started working with producer Gussie Clarke, with whom the group recorded a lot of successful albums, including Changes, Reggae Street, Live At Reggae Sunsplash, The Roots Is There and Struggling.
The song Pass The Kouchie, a song about smoking ganja, was covered in 1982 and released as a single by the British Musical Youth. The title and the references to ganja were replaced by references to food. Titled Pass The Dutchie (“dutchie” being a cook pot) it was a huge international hit.
From the second half of the 1980s and onwards, the group released albums regularly, showing they could still churn out great reggae music as witnessed on albums like Get Ready (1988), Speak The Truth (1994) and Inna De Yard (2008). To this day, the group still performs, still in the original line-up (!) and has released well over 40 albums.
What do you think of The Mighty Diamonds and Right Time? Let me know!
The Mighty Diamonds – Live 1977 image: jamaica-gleaner.com
The Mighty Diamonds – Right Time image: music-bazaar.com
Channel One Studio & Joseph Hoo Kim image: tripadvisor.com/discogs.com
The Mighty Diamonds image: marleyarkives.wordpress.com
The Mighty Diamonds – After Right Time image: discogs.com