Noel Ellis
Noel Ellis
Light In The Attic
September 1, 2006

Track list
  1. To Hail Selassie
  2. Stop Your Fighting
  3. Rocking Universally
  4. Marcus Garvey
  5. Dance With Me
  6. Memories
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 5 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 5
This week sees yet another re-issue. -- Like it or not, the very best sources within the re-issue "vaults" do seem to have dried up a few years ago. Ok, we all know that Russ Disciples, Steve Barrow, Penny Reel, Gladdywax, Nyah the Nightdoctor, Fisherman, and assorted others dotted around London have profoundly deep vaults -- collections so insightful it would be something like a Gnostic conversion to listen to them.

This is an undoubted fact. But until people like them open up their vaults, seek copyright from the original artists and so on, then for most of us, the general public, the sources largely dried up when Pressure Sounds and Blood and Fire issued their very best works. Admittedly, some such as Makasound have joined in with some pretty good tunes too -- but arguably, most of their catalogue, whilst commendable, doesn't reach the heights of the best Barrow and Holdsworth sets. Blood and Fire especially, have produced a 90% impeccable back catalogue, with good mastering and erudite and professionally written sleeve notes.

So how does this album stand up? Is it yet another tiring, cynical rush job cash in, giving us yet more "rare" cuts to "Ali Baba", "Declaration of Rights", "Never Love Poor Marcus" and "Skylarking", with poor mastering and amateur sleeve notes saying nothing, a charge some of the other reissue labels are guilty of?

Thankfully, it is not such a project.

Like the astonishing Leroy Brown Makasound album, this album from Alton Ellis' son, IS in fact, mostly rediscovered silver with a little true gold too -- and needs little phoney hype.

This album DOES feature some must have tracks, and is not another utterly tired rerun of rhythms we should never have to sit through again, and neither is it -- thank God -- more tired, dull reruns of dour, morbid, morose and sullen steppers minor chord travesties. Just how much longer are people going to keep on flogging that tired old "steppers" dead horse? Please -- no more conservative steppers rip offs and 'reification' of a by now truly desperately overdone sub genre.

The sound on this album is created in Canada, and has many similarities to the Willy Williams "Messenger" album -- not surprising since it was recorded at the same studio and with the same musicians and engineers. A lot of it has distinct Coxsonne influences, particularly in the drum sound, with a touch of Wackies and Scratch ambience. It isn't a rip off though, and has its own style. As the engineer Jerry Brown says, "I was trying to achieve my own sound. We didn't copy Channel One; we just tried to do our own thing yunno? Them sounds are dangerous man."

And he has a point, as proved by the best tunes on this album. The amazing point to notice here -- is that Noel Ellis himself seems to have had little confidence in this project. In the sleeve notes, he is -- amazingly -- recorded as saying, "I tell you the truth, when I do those songs, they never sound like Jamaican songs to me -- they never sound like Channel One (so) you know, me nah interested in them because it didn't sound like Barrington Levy and all them guys. In those days, nobody ever buy any (of this album), though mostly in England it sell. Until I play it back and listen to the quality and the work (recently) -- I never realised what it was."

However -- Listening to tracks like "To Hail Selassie" with its deep and mature spiritual consciousness, and the anti materialism of the profound "Stop Your Fighting" -- it is truly difficult to understand the lack of confidence Noel Ellis seems to have had in his own occasionally sublime and elegiac work.

The album features six tracks, but don't worry, it isn't one of those annoyingly short CD's -- each track is replete with its ambient version, most tunes clocking in at around the seven or eight minute mark.

It isn't a perfect album -- it has its faults such as occasional over use of heavy handed guitar work, and some moments of forgettable anonymity -- but it truly has its high points you'd be advised not to ignore.

Like the Leroy Brown "Colour Barrier" album of last year, whilst perhaps not consistently perfect -- this album features some of the best re-issued tracks of the year. Don't miss it.

Watch out also, for the next album from the Light in The Attic label, which is a reissue of Earth Roots and Water's "Innocent Youths" album.