Born in 1958 in Kingston, Jamaica, Noel Ellis spent his early childhood in that city's infamous Trenchtown district. The son of reggae-soul singer Alton Ellis, the younger Ellis turned out to have a pretty good voice of his own, and even recorded an unreleased song, "It Has Been a Long Time," backed by the Gladiators, at Channel One while he was still a teenager. Alton left Jamaica and relocated to Toronto, and Noel eventually joined his father there, but soon after Noel's arrival, Alton moved on to England, where he had a significant fan base, and Noel stayed on in Toronto with his aunt and uncle, attending Castle Frank High School. Luckily, Toronto had a lively West Indian population and several record shops that catered to the émigré market, so Ellis was able to keep up on the latest 45s from Jamaica. Toronto developed its own nascent reggae scene by the mid-'70s, much of it based around Jerry Brown's Summer Records.
Recognizing Ellis' talent, Brown released Noel's "Reach My Destiny" as one side of a split disco 45 in 1978. The song didn't generate much interest, but 1979's "Rocking Universally," recorded at Summer with help from Jackie Mittoo, did, even charting in Europe as a 12" single. Four years later, in 1983, Summer released a full-length album by Ellis, simply called Noel Ellis, which featured "Rocking Universally" and five other solid roots reggae tracks in extended versions. The album didn't achieve any commercial success at the time, but has since become somewhat of a lost cult classic. Ellis left Summer and began working a series of odd jobs to support himself, occasionally tracking sides for small independent labels, eventually relocating, like his father, to London. Seattle's Light in the Attic Records rescued the excellent Noel Ellis LP from obscurity in 2006 when the label reissued it on CD. ~ Steve Leggett