Zion (Iroko Showcase Vol. 1)
Noel Ellis
Iroko Records
CD / LP / Digital Release
November 15, 2015

Track list
  1. Zion
  2. Zion Dub
  3. Jah Love
  4. Jah Dub
  5. Solution
  6. Solution Dub
  7. Herb Stalk
  8. Herb Dub
  9. I Know
  10. Know Dub
  11. Reggae Music
  12. Dub Music
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Total votes : 6
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 5 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 5
After the release of Milton Henry's splendid album "Branches And Leaves" in the fall of 2013, Iroko Records from France and northern Spain based A-Lone Productions from well respected and much acclaimed musician/engineer/producer Roberto Sánchez have continued their fruitful collaboration for a next project, this time featuring Alton Ellis' oldest son Noel Ellis. And just like Milton Henry, Noel Ellis hadn't been recording and releasing new music for a very long time before he was approached by Roberto Sánchez and Iroko's Hervé Brizec to record an album with them.

In fact, Noel Ellis wasn't really that active in music anymore. Being an actor by trade, he was more accustomed to theatres than music venues for many years. But it actually was the reissue of his 1983 self-titled debut album by Seattle's Light In The Attic Records in 2006, that reawakened his desire to make a comeback as a singer. Feeling comfortable and inspired by the real authentic sound that would form the backbone of Roberto Sánchez and Hervé Brizec's project, made that he was eager to do something in that original roots style. Then the riddims were laid at the A-Lone Ark Muzik Studio by the Lone Ark Riddim Force, while Noel Ellis recorded his vocals in Jamaica. The final results of the collaboration between the Jamaican singer and the two European producers are presented on "Zion".

The 12-track album done in 'Showcase style', which implies that all vocal tracks are followed by their dubwise counterparts, is a more than worthy successor to Milton Henry's "Branches And leaves" and other Roberto Sánchez produced albums such as Earl Sixteen's "Natty Farming", Earl Zero's "And God Said To Man" and Alpheus' "From Creation" and "Good Prevails". Musically "Zion" is an excellent album from beginning to end, which unfortunately can't be said about the lyrical part. Most of the songs have great lyricial content, but it's a song like "Reggae Music" - and to a lesser extent "Solution" - that turns you off as, first of all, its lyrics really dosn't make much sense and, secondly, it doesn't do an artist like Noel Ellis justice when he comes up with such unimaginative lyrics.

The album opener and title track, "Zion", is an outstanding social commentary underpinned by an awesome 'rockers style' riddim that brings to mind some of the best roots tunes recorded during the heydays of reggae music in the late '70s. It's really a joy to listen to that tune and its dub version over and over again. Awesome!! Next comes a wonderful roots song called "Jah Love", sung in a style reminiscent of his legendary father. Noel Ellis actually has incorporated a little of Alton Ellis' hit from 1968 "La La Means I Love You" in this song. More niceness drops with the solid "Herb Stalk", with a riddim that incorporates a wicked bassline and some great percussion work - coming to full expression in "Herb Dub". Another highlight is the anthemic roots piece "I Know", a song of sheer beauty with a nice melodica sound. Great dub version as well!!

All in all an almost perfect album from an artist who makes a welcome return in the reggae arena.