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Noel Ellis

Noel Ellis (Light in the Attic)

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While the bland and monotonous dancehall movement spread across Jamaica in the early '80s, Jamaican immigrants abroad began issuing far more tasteful reggae records than producers back home. The recent reissue of Noel Ellis' self-titled showcase from '83 serves as proof. Recording in Toronto, both Ellis, son of legendary singer Alton, and producer Jerry Brown were longtime Jamaican-Canadians who had thoroughly absorbed American soul, funk, and R&B.

On the dark, apocalyptic opener "To Hail Salassie," Ellis wails and moans behind a glorious bass-heavy mix -- his fragile voice becoming a distant cry in a wilderness of machine-gun snare drums and endlessly echoing guitar scratches. Though not all is doom and gloom here. Willi Williams, another JA resident of Toronto, joins Ellis on the upbeat "Rocking Universally," a remake of the Williams classic "Armagideon Time" (which had been a recent hit for the Clash). On it, Ellis' playful rap does teeter on the brink of dancehall. But his overall delivery oozes sincerity and soul, allowing Ellis' debut to stand out -- long after the dust has settled.

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