The UK Garage Years: 10 Classic Songs from a Golden Age

The UK Garage Years: 10 Classic Songs from a Golden Age

There was a time in the mid to late 1990s when the word “urban” was still wet behind the ears and David Guetta was still just another obscure French house dude. In those days, Britain was rocking to the UKG sound. The genealogy of UK Garage should be well known, but I’m gonna give you an overview before introducing 10 classic songs that defined the era.

In 1993-1994, Jungle had re-introduced RnB, Hip Hop and Ragga heads to electronic music. But by 1995, it had all gone a bit dark and aggressive (as would happen with Garage). At around the same time, more and more heads started frequenting clubs and bars playing house music and gradually a distinctive UK sound emerged. While the earlier songs still stuck to the basic 4/4 “four to the floor”, they introduced more vocals and melodic elements. There was an annoying but thankfully short-lived period when big basslines took over, before 2 Step emerged.

Instead of the normal 4 to the floor, producers skipped the 2nd and 4th beats to usher in the 2 Step sound. This is the sound that would explode onto the national scene and make stars out of people like Craig David in 1998 to about 2000. Then, as we know, the mainstream got bored of UKG and on the grassroots level, the ‘yout ‘dem pioneered what would become Grime.

Here are 10 songs that I think nicely sum up the UK Garage years. The good news is that UK Garage never really went away and has remained popular on the radio waves in London. And in the last few years, a revival has kicked in with new tracks bringing back those golden years. Enjoy!

1. Smoking Beats – Dreams
Such a simple track but so powerful. A perfect example of 4/4 UKG.



2. CJ Bolland – Sugar is Sweeter [aka Sugar Daddy Yo!) – Armand Van Helden mix
Guaranteed floor filler to this day. Probably the first UK Garage track to cross over in to the RnB clubs and get away with it. Armand was hot property after this one. See also his remixes of Nuyorican Soul – Runaway and Tori Amos Professional Widow.



3. Danny J Lewis – Spend the Night (H-Man mix)
There are at least 3 mixes of this song that I could have chosen. I opted for this one because it’s a good example of the transition from 4/4 to 2 Step. The live bass gives it a disco kinda feel too.



4. Goldie – Believe (MJ Cole Mix)
MJ Cole’s productions were the classier side of UKG. This mix is classic MJ, with the horn stabs, bumpy bass line and switches from 2 Step to 4/4… and back.



5. Roy Davis Jr Ft Peven Everett – Gabriel
This was produced by US producer Roy Davis Junior and featured singer Peven Everett. The chilled out soundscape and uplifting, spiritual lyrics make this an absolute classic. Never fails to get the crowd moving:



6. Ramsey and Fen – Lovebug
This might be track that really got 2 Step going. A little known fact about this song is that MJ Cole was the engineer for it.



7. Brandy & Monica –Boy is Mine (Garage mix)
For some reason, Brandy’s voice seemed to suit garage remixes. The bass lick was also used for “I Wanna Know” by Restless Natives (aka Y-Tribe). Wish I could include that here also.



8. Sound of One – As I Am (Todd Edwards Mix)
The fact that this guy is called “Todd the God” by UKG aficionados says it all really. Had to get one from him in there.



9. Wookie – Scrappy
There was no other producer like Wookie, though many tried. His remix of Sia’s Little Man and his various remixes all displayed his militant drum patterns and bass addiction.



10. Zinc – 138 Trek
UKG always maintained a darker, edgier side which would eventually blossom into Grime. This is probably the archetypal example of this.



I’m ashamed about all the songs I’ve had to leave out, so please also check out this Youtube Playlist for more:
http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL70084DEAB0A1398E

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