American soul music has had a profound influence on Jamaican reggae, and nowhere is that influence as clear or as fruitful as in the Mighty Diamonds. This Jamaican vocal trio visited the University of Maryland's Colony Ballroom last night with their blend of Motown harmonies, Philadelphia soul smoothness, Jamaican dialect lyrics and a swing mid-tempo reggae dance beat. Reggae has never produced vocal harmonies as lush or beguiling as the Diamonds', and this gave their reggae love ballads a rare romanticism.
Lead singer Donald (Tabby) Shaw had a rich, buttery tenor. He often bobbed to the band's beat, tossing his dreadlocks to and fro, feeling for just the right moment to enter the song. When he did, his delivery had an appealing off-handed naturalness. Lloyd (Judge) Ferguson and Fitzroy (Bunny) Simpson joined Shaw on the choruses with falsetto echoes that lifted his narratives into sublime morals. The trio was backed by an excellent young quintet that captured the "velvet rockers" sound of reggae producers Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. Bruce Harmon created the pulsing throb with unusually melodic bass riffs. "Termite" Roane mimicked a brass section on his synthesizers. When the trio sang "There's No Meaning Without You," a slow grind ballad, the vocals were so giddily erotic that it could have been Smokey Robinson & the Miracles. Yet the reggae beat gave it a lilting bounce in each line. Perhaps it's time that reggae turn around and influence American soul.