Canute Neil Ellis revisits Grace Thrillers
In the late 1990s, Canute Neil Ellis was an engineer-in-training at The Grace Thrillers studio in Kingston. He was privy to that group’s catalogue of inspirational songs, which paved the way for a vibrant reggae-gospel movement during the 1990s.
One of the songs that struck a chord with Ellis was He Saw My Need, released in 1995 and produced by Grub Cooper. It hears The Grace Thrillers at the peak of their creative powers.
Recently, Ellis covered the song as Rescue Me, a collaboration between him, his wife, Barbadian singer Samantha Gooden; Jamaican deejay Yomek Radic and the ‘Thrillers’.
He produced their version, which was released on January 1.
While he yearned to do a rendition of He Saw My Need, it was an episode close to home that finally pushed Ellis to make it reality.
“My wife and I have gone through a pretty rough three years. We started our family and it almost killed her when she did IVF [in vitro fertilisation] with our first baby girl in 2021, but even after that we still hoped for another baby. And God gave us a miracle boy in 2023. Samantha was hospitalised multiple times and he was born prematurely, but God kept them both safe. It felt like God saw our need and rescued us from the despair we felt. We wanted to create a song that could be encouragement to anyone, that God can rescue any of us from anything, and that miracles are possible. It felt like such a blessing to have my wife voice the track and support the phenomenal talent that Yomek Radic has. God really can rescue us from anything!” Ellis said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.
He also wanted to introduce He Saw My Need to a new generation of fans, who are more tolerant of reggae-gospel than traditional Christians were in the late 1980s when The Grace Thrillers stormed secular charts with songs like Jesus and Can’t Even Walk.
The St Mary-born Ellis credits his four-year internship with Noel Willis, founder of The Grace Thrillers, for him developing as an engineer and producer.
Being around Cooper, the driving force behind the Fabulous Five Band, also had a lasting impact.
“Grub taught me about production, blending voices, engineering, music theory, and its approach overall,” he said.
Since migrating to the United States, he has done advanced training as a studio engineer at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Ellis has worked on projects by Beres Hammond, Israel Vibration, The Commodores, and Kirk Franklin.