Struggling reggae music CD album mp3
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Struggling (Live & Learn, 1985)

The Mighty Diamonds have long been one of the most loved reggae groups worldwide, and one listen to their sweet harmonies should be ample explanation as to why.  Headed by lead singer Donald "Tabby" Shaw and backed by Fitzroy "Bunny" Simpson and Lloyd "Judge" Ferguson, the Diamonds' vocals -- and particularly Shaw's -- bespeak uncommon earnestness.  Their singing is so heartfelt, it can range from heartbreaking to incendiary, depending on the subject matter.  Their writing skills likewise are top-notch, balancing both rootsy and soulful melodies and social and romantic lyrics -- making them one of the more accessible roots groups for novice reggae listeners.  Struggling finds the group in the second phase of their career, past the prototypical '70s roots sound and into a synthesized '80s groove that takes some time to get used to.  The relative strength of the songs, however, eventually shines through the somewhat cheesy synth sound, particularly "Long Time" and their cover of their own "Tell Me What's Wrong," along with "Heathen Children," "Red Tape," and the title track.

Track Listing
1. Struggling
2. Reggae-Lution
3. Heathen Children
4. Red Tape
5. Girl You Are Too Young
6. Long Time
7. Tell Me What's Wrong
8. Heartbreaker
9. Someone To Love
10. Hustling
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Works reggae music CD album mp3

Works (Victor, 1994)

This Japanese import gathers tunes -- some good, some bad, some ugly -- from several of the Mighty Diamonds' '80s albums: 1981's Changes, 1982's The Roots Is There, 1983's Backstage, 1984's Kouchie Vibes, 1987's The Real Enemy, and 1988's Get Ready (again, some good, some bad, some ugly).  Works starts off with 5 remakes -- likely disappointing those who prefer original material -- the best being the covers of their own "Pass the Kouchie" (later remade by Musical Youth to international success as "Pass the Dutchie" -- the reference to ganja in the title changed to make the song a bit more wholesome) and the Paragons' "Danger in Your Eyes," while the Heptones' "Party Time" is solid and the Stevie Wonder/Paul McCartney love-fest "Ebony and Ivory" is not as bad as you'd think.  Their version of the Abyssinians' "Declaration of Rights," however, is a bit to tame to do the song justice.  From there, mediocrity sets in, saved only by the two best tracks on Works, the atmospheric "Babylon Is Dangerous" and the old school tribute "The Way How You Walk," which includes interpretations of Dave Brubek's jazz classic "Take Five" (AKA "The Russians Are Coming," as covered by Val Bennet on Rebel Music).

Track Listing
1. Ebony and Ivory
2. Danger in Your Eyes
3. Pass the Kouchie
4. Party Time
5. Declaration of Rights
6. The Poor Man's Prayer
7. The Way How You Walk
8. Country Living
9. The Real Enemy
10. Babylon Is Dangerous
11. My Baby
12. Schoolmate
13. Heavy Load
14. Bad Boy Business
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I Need a Roof reggae music CD album mp3
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I Need a Roof (Hitbound, 1995 [orig. released 1976])

I Need a Roof is comprised largely of The Mighty Diamonds' debut album Right Time, with 3 additional tracks (numbers 11-13).  Widely considered their best album, I can't help but feel that it's a bit overrated, despite containing the classics "Have Mercy" and "I Need a Roof" (both of which they remade nicely in the '90s; see Cool Ragga Mix and Strictly the Best Volume 12).  "Go Seek Your Rights," "Them Never Love Poor Marcus," and "There's No Me Without You" help solidify this album, but I couldn't really get into much else here.  In my mind, the Diamonds' best was yet to come.

Track Listing
1. Right Time
2. Why Me Black Brother Why
3. Shame and Pride
4. Gnashing of Teeth
5. Them Never Love Poor Marcus
6. I Need a Roof
7. Go Seek Your Rights
8. Have Mercy
9. Natural Natty
10. Africa
11. Plastic World
12. There's No Me Without You
13. Praise Is All We Get
I Need a Roof
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The Best of the Mighty Diamonds reggae music CD album mp3

The Best of the Mighty Diamonds: 20 Hits (Channel One, 1997 [orig. released 1978 & 1979])

The Best of collects two of the Mighty Diamonds' early albums, 1978's Stand Up to Your Judgement [sic] and 1979's Tell Me What's Wrong.  The former, as you can tell from the title, has a more militant edge (at least lyrically), but I hesitate to call their delicate harmonies "militant."  Although it was released earlier (and although it's listed on the album first), Stand Up makes up the second 10 tracks on this collection (tracks 11-20).  The best tunes here include the group's bubbly (and thus a bit out of place on this album) classic remake of the Chi-Lites' "Stoned Out of My Mind," the righteous yet catchy "Payaka" (not the Bob Marley song of the same name), and "I Want to Know."  An excellent third album (after Right Time and Ice On Fire), Stand Up to Your Judgement is surpassed slightly by the follow-up Tell Me What's Wrong not in consistency so much as in overall quality.  Four of the group's best songs ever can be found here: the passionate love song "Still in Love," the pleading title cut, and the socially conscious duo of "Have a Little Mercy" and "Know Your Culture."  Almost as strong is "Brother and Sisters," which rides the same rhythm that Cornell Campbell utilized on the great "The Drifter."  Tell Me What's Wrong is easily one of the Mighty Diamonds' best albums, and it has more of the balance between love songs and cultural messages that would be the Mighty Diamonds' staple sound.

Tell Me What's Wrong:

Stand Up to Your Judgement:

The Best of The Mighty Diamonds:

Track Listing
1. Brothers and Sisters
2. Party
3. Have a Little Mercy
4. Tell Me What's Wrong
5. Know Your Culture
6. You Better Beware
7. No Opportunity for the Youth
8. I Don't Mind What You Are Saying
9. Love Me Girl
10. Still In Love
11. Jah Will Work It Out
12. Just Another Man
13. Payaka
14. Cho Me Brethren
15. Stand Up to Your Judgement
16. I Want to Know
17. Fools Rush In
18. Back Whey
19. Stoned Out of My Mind
20. Country Living
The Best of Mighty Diamonds
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Deeper Roots Plus Dub reggae music CD album mp3
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Deeper Roots Plus Dub (Virgin, 1997 [orig. released 1979])

Deeper Roots is easily one of the Mighty Diamonds' greatest achievements.  They are at the top of their game, with seductively poignant vocals and intelligent, socially relevant lyrics, topped off by a crisp roots musical backing produced by Joseph "Jo Jo" Hoo Kim. Virgin, who had put out a few of the Diamonds' albums in the past, thankfully re-released this classic in 1997, packaging it with dubs of all 10 songs.  The dubs are a nice touch, but aside from the tracks with the most distinctive music -- "Blackman," "One Brother Short," "4000 Years," and "Master Plan" -- the dubs are secondary to the splendid originals.  "Be Aware" and "Master Plan" are nothing short of gorgeous, while "Bodyguard," "4000 Years," "Dreadlocks Time," "One Brother Short," and "Blackman" are all strong.

Track Listing
1. Reality
2. Blackman
3. Dreadlocks Time
4. Diamonds and Pearls
5. One Brother Short
6. Bodyguard
7. 4000 Years
8. Master Plan
9. Two By Two
10. Be Aware
11. Reality Dub
12. Blackman Dub
13. Dreadlocks Time Dub
14. Diamonds and Pearls Dub
15. One Brother Short Dub
16. Bodyguard Dub
17. 4000 Years Dub
18. Master Plan Dub
19. Two By Two Dub
Deeper Roots Plus Dub
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Ice on Fire reggae music CD album mp3

Ice on Fire (Virgin, 2000 [orig. released 1977])

The Mighty Diamonds' sophomore album, Ice on Fire was one of several welcome re-releases in the year 2000 of Virgin's impressive line-up that included The Gladiators, Prince Far I, Johnny Clarke, U Roy, and of course, The Mighty Diamonds.  The Diamonds' vocals have always been soulful, and on Ice on Fire perhaps takes advantage of this more than any of their other albums.  That is, a heavy soul/R&B vibe runs throughout this album -- for better or worse (Part of this likely is due to the fact that it was recorded in New Orleans.).  The best example of this fusion of reggae and soul is the lead-off song, "Country Living," a life-affirming folk/funk/reggae mix cover of a Stylistics tune that is more enjoyable than the version on Stand Up to Your Judgment.  More traditionally reggae but still carrying an R&B melody is "Just a Song," which just sounds like a classic.  "If I Should Leave You" and "Get Out of My Life Woman" boast a similar soul edge, while the group does actually slip into -- shock -- roots harmony on a few solid tracks like "Comin' Through," "Back Weh Mafia," and "Cat-O-Nine."  Where Ice on Fire falters is where the crossover R&B sound falters -- as on the falsetto Chi-Lites-sounding "Tonight," the straight '70s Elton John-like pop of "Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley," and the half-hearted attempt at Smokey Robinson's "Tracks of My Tears."  Reggae purists may feel that The Mighty Diamonds lost touch with their "roots" literally and figuratively on this album, but their vocal skills naturally lend to a soulful sound, and although this album isn't as rootsy as I generally like to hear from them, they have the talent to pull it off.

Track Listing
1. Country Living
2. You Are Just a Song
3. If I Should Leave You
4. Tonight
5. Comin' Through
6. Get Out of My Life Woman
7. Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley
8. Little Angel
9. Cat-O-Nine
10. Back Weh Mafia
11. Whole Wide World
12. Tracks of My Tears
Ice on Fire
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Inna de Yard reggae music CD album mp3

Inna de Yard (Makasound, 2008)

Of all the artists who've participated in Makasound's Inna de Yard series so far, The Mighty Diamonds have the most impressive body of work from which to choose. The 10 tunes here are an excellent representation of the group's best, although some will be disappointed that "Pass the Kouchie" is nowhere to be found. The sound is as stripped-down as any of the series' entries, with just Nyabinghi drums and an acoustic guitar (courtesy of Earl "Chinna" Smith) providing the rhythm. The Mighty Diamonds are arguably as suited to that sparse sound as any of the other acts, due to the strong vocals and distinct melodies that carry you through drum rhythms that could otherwise feel repetitive. "Country Living" in particular blends naturally with the acoustic guitar, which enhances the song's rural, escapist vibe. Every song scores, though -- even the lesser-known '80s track "Leaders of Black Country," which admonishes Caribbean and African political leaders for forgetting that they are there to serve the people. The group's soulful vocals are as smooth as ever, and Donald "Tabby" Shaw's lead voice is still remarkably youthful after all these years. There's a uncut flavor to this session -- more so than with other Inna de Yard albums -- as several of the tracks open with vocal false starts and discussions by the artists on how they're attacking the song, which feeds into the whole "live" experience. Any fan of The Mighty Diamonds will want to hear these classic tunes reinterpreted by the original lineup, which is amazingly still intact after almost 40 years. How many groups -- reggae or otherwise -- can say that? Listen to samples at

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Track Listing
1. Country Living
2. Bodyguard
3. Poor Marcus
4. 4000 Years
5. I Need a Roof
6. Leaders of Black Country
7. When the Right Time Come
8. Go Seek Your Rights
9. Have Mercy
10. One Brother Short
Inna de Yard - Mighty Diamonds
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