Music » Livewire

The Mighty Diamonds

Sunday, May 12, at Peabody's.

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Do you recall the British reggae group Musical Youth and its mid-'80s smash hit "Pass the Dutchie"? Well, that was originally the Mighty Diamonds' "Pass the Kouchie," a cool and classic herb-smoking anthem bastardized by the novelty group into a lightweight and unremarkable song about "communal dining." After landing belly-up within a year of their only hit, one of the young Brits remarked that they had made enough money to retire and live comfortably. The Mighty Diamonds, on the other hand, have lasted three decades and are still struggling to make ends meet.

The Mighty Diamonds were one of the most celebrated groups of reggae's roots period. By the mid-'70s, the trio linked with the musical wizardry of the Revolutionaries (featuring Sly & Robbie, arguably reggae's greatest rhythm section) and recorded a stunning series of singles. Heralding the dancehall era, the Diamonds updated classic '60s rock-steady "riddims" in the more modern roots style popular at the time. Atop these familiar rhythms were the Diamonds' sweet soulful harmonies, on loan from American vocal groups such as the Chi-Lites and the Impressions. The group's militant lyrics of African repatriation and the tribulation of ghetto life added a reflective demeanor and bittersweet tone, while the occasional love song or religious hymn could coax a tear from a rock.

But despite dropping consistent releases over the years, the Mighty Diamonds have yet to achieve the crossover hit they so desire. Their live shows are revered as ever, but rumors of a breakup seem evident, so catch them while you still can.

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