Sunday, February 3, 2019

Mighty Diamonds Right Time 1976

For many years, I carried around a little piece of paper in my wallet that had the names of vinyl records I wanted to purchase should I ever come across them. It was a swell thing to have with you when you stumbled across a record store unexpectedly. A guy just can't trust important stuff like that to memory.

I don't have that piece of paper any more. I've collected most of what I really want, and if I find something by happenstance and I'm in the mood, I've got a new record. The final iteration of The Vinyl List that I did carry had two records on it. One was Sarah Vaughn's 1954 gem Featuring Clifford Brown, which I finally broke down and bought on CD. The other record that had languished on the list for years was Right Time. I even bought Ice On Fire, the mostly disastrous 1977 follow-up that found the Mighty Diamonds trying to commercialize their reggae with producer Allen Toussaint. That was enough of a disappointment I wasn't even sure I needed Right Time. I was mistaken.

So as the list was being discarded, I found a copy of Right Time at one of the many online used vinyl retailers. And I ordered it, and it is one of the best reggae albums of all time, a classic of the genre, a must for reggae fans. I was much more of a reggae fan forty years ago than I am today. I liked Marley and the Wailers, The Heptones, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Steel Pulse, Black Uhuru, Burning Spear, Toots and the Maytals, and Soul Syndicate. Today I still like the music, but the genre does seem to have it's limitations, and variability can be lacking.

This one is as good as reggae music gets, hands down. The Mighty Diamonds highly politicized lyrics, pristine harmonies, and solid backing (Sly and Robbie holding down the rhythm) make for a stellar debut. Their harmonies are as soul-filled as great Motown (similar to the Heptones in that regard), and the lyrics are never throwaways. They tackle the equity issues of Jamaica in the seventies and preach the Rastafarian gospel. And it has that beat. I wrote previously about five great reggae records. Make that six.