UK garage holds a special place in my heart. I'm not the only one. Another Mixmag writer claimed it's the best genre ever. It's not a wild statement to make when you go through the tracks released from 1995 to 2005 and these uplifting vocal tracks. In the same spirit as those lists, we've pulled together our favourite UK garage mixes, from DJ EZ and The Dreem Teem to Josey Rebelle and Conducta. Bumpers inside.
DJ EZ 'Pure Garage Vol. 1'
The pinnacle of the UK garage mix from DJ EZ, a man heavily intwined in the fabric of the treasured genre. That iconic 'DJ...EZ...DJ...EZ' intro is unforgettable, as is the way the Tottenham DJ fires through UKG classics over two CDs, from Glamma Kid's 'Why' and Zack Toms' 'Bring Me Down' to Zed Bias' 'Neighbourhood' and DJ Luck & MC Neat's 'A Little Bit Of Luck'. It doesn't fail to get you hyped for the dance and became an instant classic upon its release. That's exactly why the 'Pure Garage' series continued until '07, with EZ rattling through UKG gold in wizardry EZ fashion.
Dreem Teem - Essential Mix, 1997
"The kings of underground garage" is what Pete Tong described Dreem Teem as when introducing their debut Essential Mix in 1997. Branding them UKG royalty wasn't an exaggeration at the time and it still isn't now. DJ Spoony, Mikee B and Timmi Magic drew for a slew of bubblers in this mix, mostly tunes that are much lesser known (Industry Standard's mix of Gant's 'All Night Long' to name just one) than the ones most associated with garage's late '90s/early '00s domination. But it still features big hitters like Scott Garcia's 'It's A London Thing', Rosie Gaines' 'Closer Than Close' and Double 99's 'Ripgroove'. It's really no wonder Dreem Teem had another Essential Mix - this time in Ayia Napa - in 2000.
Tuff Jam - Essential Mix, 1997
Another Essential Mix for Radio 1, this time from Karl 'Tuff Enuff' Brown and Matt 'Jam' Lamont's Tuff Jam project. The pair were residents for Kiss FM from '97 to 2000, but this didn't stop them from being picked for Radio 1's flagship mix. Their Essential Mix came out a few months prior to Dreem Teem's, and they packed it with delightful vocal UKG to sing along to, including Castelli's Vocal Mix of Yasang's 'All Because Of You', their classic mix of Kristine Blond's 'Love Shy', Rosie Gaines' 'I Want You' and the New Horizon Mix of Robbie Craig's 'We Can Make It Happen'. It's a full-on workout from start to finish, fizzing as much as the bottles and glasses of champagne that were the drink of choice at UKG raves.
Todd Edwards 'Full On Vol. 1'
It might be called UK garage, but that doesn't mean there's not space for a North American to join the party. Todd Edwards certainly made sure of that, bringing the soulful US house influence with him. In 2001, Todd released the first edition of his 'Full On' series. In this he pulls together his own tracks, infectious vocal-licked cuts all littered with that shine and sparkle he's known for. 'Push The Love' blends into 'The Dream', which worms its way into the enchanting 'Never Far From You'. Love it.
Heartless Crew presents 'Crisp Biscuit Vol. 1'
When it comes to UKG mixes with MCs, Heartless Crew presents 'Crisp Biscuit Vol.1' is one that many regard as the champ. The crew's DJ Fonti moves through UKG classics like George Morel's 'Morel's Groove', Roy Davis Jr's 'Gabrielle' and their own tune 'The Heartless Theme' as MCs Bushkin and Mighty Moe apply their charm over the top. Bangers from beginning to end, with MC fire burning throughout.
Mr. Revealomaniac - El-B Selected Vinyls Part 1
UK garage isn't just fruity 2-step and irresistible vocal chops. Although El-B did cover that side of things as one half of Groove Chronicles, he served up a much darker and sinister side of UKG as El-B and part of the Ghost collective, setting the tone for the dubstep to come in the early-to-mid '00s from the likes of Skream and Kode9. Mr Revealomaniac's Selected Vinyls mix (we've picked part one) sees him intwine El-B's mixes and reworks of tunes by the likes of Angie Stone, Shanks & Bigfoot and Kelis, with a few of El-B's own tracks thrown in. What you'll realise is the basslines are darker and deeper. There's still that famous UKG swing, just with a more mischievous tone.
Slimzee - FADER Mix
A proper personal fave. A mix that's graced the office stereo many times, mostly late on a Friday afternoon for the final push into the weekend. Rinse FM co-founder Slimzee will be known by most as a grime DJ (see: Sidewinder Promo Mix with Dizzee Rascal and Wiley and Sidewinder Live with Dizzee), but he's a DJ whose roots lie in UK garage (he was part of Pay As U Go with Wiley, Geeneus, DJ Target et al). This FADER Mix sees Slimzee going in deep with lively UKG cuts, one's he describes as "proper, original garage, rare ones you don’t hear a lot". There's Kenny Dope's mix of Johnick's 'Magic', Groove Chronicles' 'Stone Cold', Baffled's 'Going On', Masterstepz's 'Melody' and TJR's 'Just Gets Better'. Funnily enough, the mix just gets better on every listen.
Soul Clap 'Nice 'N' Ripe Allstars'
Soul Clap - being from Boston in the United States - are an unexpected choice to mix a compilation combining all the classics from treasured UKG label Nice 'N' Ripe. Still, the duo do not disappoint, providing a gorgeous mix of UKG gems. They roll through a slew of 24 Hour Experience tracks and pay homage to prolific UKG producer Jeremy Sylvester's back catalogue, whether it be 'Got 2 Go' under his own name, 'I Can't Stand' as Strickly Dubz or 'Kissing Game' as GOD. Soul Clap also chuck in some of their own edits, notably one of Industry Standard's 'What You Want'. A bumping, thumpin' 2-step ride. Sadly full audio of the mix doesn't exist online.
DJ EZ - Boiler Room, 2012
DJ EZ's quick-finger CDJ action earned him cult status among both old heads and new-gen ravers with his debut Boiler Room set in 2012. This clip of him going from Wookie's 'Battle' to a frantic cueing up and looping of the 'baby' part from Cleptomaniacs' 'All I Do' is what caused all the hoo-hah and completely reinvigorated his career. A set that'll forever be in UKG folklore.
Josey Rebelle - Rinse FM Garage Hour, 2014
Rinse FM's Garage Hour is exactly what you'd expect. Strictly garage for one whole hour. Rinse resident Josey Rebelle took the reins back in 2014, delivering an onslaught UKG power. Kicks, snares, incessant percussion, tasty vocal licks, illuminating melodies the lot.
Pearson Sound - London Underground, Glastonbury, 2017
Hessle Audio co-founder Pearson Sound got booked for a UKG set in London Underground, one of many spots in Glastonbury's hedonistic Block9 area, in 2017. He ensured Glasto's pro ravers got what they deserved in the sweaty club, firing out MJ Cole's remix of Dub Syndicate Productions' 'I Need Your Love', Steve Gurley's remix of Basement Jaxx's 'Red Alert' and the belting Bump & Hustle Mix of Livin' Large's 'Feel Free (Love Is What We Need)'.
Conducta 'The Kiwi Sound (The Juiciest New UK Garage)'
A UK garage revival? We've heard that one before. Anyway, one of the artists spearheading what seems to be the umpteenth UKG reinvigoration is Conducta, who's Kiwi Rekords label is giving a platform to the likes of Sammy Virji, Prescribe Da Vibe and Sharda. They all appear on 'The Kiwi Sound (The Juiciest New UK Garage)', mixed by Conducta, which is a summery blend of UKG flavour. AJ Tracey's mega hit 'Ladbroke Grove' and Conducta's remix of Jorja Smith's and Preditah's 'On My Mind' also feature, giving it that extra weight. This new wave of UKG producers have definitely got it going on.
Hannah Wants - Lab LDN, 2020
Hannah Wants came through to Mixmag HQ early in 2020, equipped with a shit-load of vinyl for her set in The Lab LDN. She went full throttle, working her way through her speed garage selection and making our Friday evening office party a truly wild one. Highlight: Julian Jonah's Bad Boy Mix of Boris Dlugosch's 'Hold Your Head Up High'. Turn this up loud, trust me.
Moxie - NTS Radio, 2020
NTS Radio resident Moxie dedicated one of her home broadcasts through lockdown to UK garage, taking listeners through two hours of her collection. As always with a Moxie DJ set or radio show, vibes were on the menu and there's no vibes better than those that go with UKG. Could listen to this one over and over.
[Photo: Todd Edwards]
Dave Turner is Mixmag's Commercial Content Editor, follow him on Twitter