OF the numerous harmony groups that emerged in Jamaica during the 1960s and 1970s, The Mighty Diamonds are among the few still active.
The trio's remarkable legacy is revisited in Reggae Anthology: Pass The Knowledge, a double CD/DVD set released on August 27 by VP Records through its long-running 17 North Parade series.
Pass The Knowledge contains 39 songs from the Diamonds' heyday during the 1970s at Channel One where they made their name. It also has recordings from their stints with producers Bunny Lee and Augustus 'Gussie' Clarke.
For the aficionado, there are songs like Party Time and The Last Dance which are released for the first time on CD as well as I Want to Know and Swell Headed which were previously available as dub plates.
The 25-minute DVD captures the Diamonds in concert at Reggae Sunsplash 1989.
Formed in 1969 in Trench Town, the Mighty Diamonds retains its original members: lead vocalist Donald 'Tabby' Shaw, Fitzroy 'Bunny' Simpson and Lloyd 'Judge' Ferguson.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer last week, Simpson said the songs that made them famous, including I Need a Roof, Right Time, and Pass The Kutchie, are still the core of their live show.
"If wi don't sing them the fans wouldn't stand for it. Wi do new songs but wi have to do the old songs."
According to Simpson, the Diamonds started out performing on talent shows before kicking off their recording career with various producers including Rupie Edwards, Bunny Lee and Pat 'Jah Life' Francis. The latter produced Shame and Pride, which was a minor hit.
They first went to the fledgling Channel One in 1974, cutting a reggae version of The Stylistics' Country Living which did well in the West Indian community in Britain.
The following year, the Diamonds hit their stride at Channel One with a series of roots songs that are now regarded as classics. They include I Need a Roof, Africa and Have Mercy which were compiled for the Right Time album.
Their biggest hit, however, came in 1982 with the weed anthem Pass The Kutchie which stayed at number one in Jamaica for several weeks. Within a matter of months, the song was covered by British group Musical Youth as Pass The Dutchie and topped the British national chart.
Because the song was recorded on the Full Up rhythm (originally done at Studio One in the 1960s), copyright issues prevented the Diamonds from earning from Musical Youth's version. For Simpson, it was a lesson well learned.
"We write the lyrics but after it hit there was all kinda problems cause every man come forward an' sey dem play the 'riddim'," he explained. "Wi learn a lot from that experience."
The Mighty Diamonds maintain a steady annual touring schedule. To promote Reggae Anthology: Pass The Knowledge, they are scheduled to embark on a 10-date tour of the United Kingdom, starting October 17 at the Wardrobe venue in Leeds, England.