Founded in 1993, Virgin EMI’s dance imprint Positiva Records just oozes anthems. Having headed the trance scene and soundtracked the heyday and the hedonism of Ibiza through the '90s, the label's tracks turned bank managers into tank-top ravers, throwing dance music into a world above ground. They branched out with Strictly Rhythm, releasing early house classics from the likes of Barbara Tucker, and followed things up with modern disco groovers from the likes of Spiller. The label even tried its hand in drum 'n' bass. It's safe to say that Positiva’s weighty back catalogue was responsible for dropping dance into the sphere of commercial music.
It hasn't stopped working to sculpt the dance scene, adding modern-day pioneers in the shape of Martin Garrix and the late Avicii to its arsenal, ensuring generation after generation has fallen in love with its impressive discography.
Now, Mixmag celebrates Positiva’s silver anniversary by recalling, remembering and looking back at a match made in heaven, that match being underground music and regular listeners of today. It’s hard not to find a song to love, with classics like ‘Ayla’ right through to chart bombs like Shapeshifters’ ‘Lola’s Theme’, Guetta’s ‘When Love Takes Over’ and even Vengaboys' ‘Boom, boom, boom, boom!’.
Positiva’s eye for an infectious rhythm is sharp, and has been since ‘93. Open a window on your phone or computer, book a one-way flight to Ibiza and prepare to reminisce as we go through 25 Positiva gems.
Oliver Payne is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow him on Twitter
Judy Cheeks 'So In Love (The Real Deal)'
Providing Positiva with its first Top 40 hit, Judy Cheeks, an already huge name in disco, found her voice on house music with ‘So In Love’. Sasha’s remix took the track to another level later on. The original, however, is soulful and heart-warming; certainly the real deal. Cheeks would later go on to release ‘Reach’ and ‘Respect’ on the label, which both achieved chart success, too.
Reel 2 Real 'I Like To Move It'
Some millennials can only think of an animated Madagascan lemur when they hear ‘nice, sweet, fantasteec’, but it was, in fact, Trinidad and Tobago ragga rapper The Mad Stuntman and Erick Morillo as Reel 2 Real that did it first. ‘I Like To Move It’ was a sign that Positiva was physically fit to dominate the charts, and that it did, reaching number five on the UK Singles Chart. It was also a number-one hit in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Zimbabwe.
Barbara Tucker 'Beautiful People'
What a riff. What a bassline. And that vocal! Sampled countlessly, this was one of Positiva’s definitive classics to spin off into being homed on the Strictly Rhythm imprint that soon shaped soulful, grooving house as we know it. Beautiful. Barbara Tucker also went on to release 'Get Lifted' and 'Everybody Dance', also known as the 'Horn Song' with the label.
The Bucketheads ft. Kenny Dope 'The Bomb (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind)'
Led by the masterful Kenny Dope, The Bucketheads was formed in answer to Eurodance in 1995. Dope came up with the idea of melding different disco tracks together upon a rolling house beat. In just three days everything fell into place and the ‘Dungeon Tapes' EP was formed with ‘The Bomb’ on the B-side. It was a commercial hit in the spring of '95, getting to number five in the UK Singles Chart.
Ruffneck ft. Yavahn 'Everybody Be Somebody'
Ruffneck is an American house music group rom New Jersey, consisting of Dwayne Richardson, Derek Jenkins and Shaheer Williams. The dancefloor’s favourite, Ruffneck’s nine-minute rolling house jam ‘Everbody Be Somebody’ didn’t hold back in getting people moving. Yavahn’s perfect singing accompanies repetitive samples of 'Bostich' by Yello, some lyrics that are now nostalgic.
George Morel 'Let's Groove'
It all starts with a kick, a bassline, and then some wonderfully arranged snares, and when it drops everyone’s humming along. George Morel’s ‘Lets Groove’ was an American house track that somehow ended up on the dancefloors of UKG clubs across the UK and pushed Positiva even further into legendary label status.
Adam F 'Circles'
In 1997, jungle was for those who refused to be limited to a 4x4 beat and for those who wanted to go that bit wilder in the dance. Adam F’s 'Circles' has an atmospheric quality, smashed against drums and a bassline that hits right to the core of any raver. It left an unforgettable legacy and, at the time, every jungle or drum 'n' bass DJ wanted, and needed, to get their hands on it.
Binary Finary '1998'
Cue the Kevin & Perry Go Large glow sticks. Aptly named, the euphoric ‘1998’ summed up a year where something faster, something more European, had taken over: trance. This was Binary Finary’s first single and an introduction to the talented duo. The track was remixed by Paul Van Dyk and various versions, entitled ‘1999’ and so on, were also successful, to the point where even indie band Peace had a go at their own version.
Ayla 'Ayla' (DJ Taucher remix)
Like a ray of sunshine tearing through a storm cloud, ‘Ayla’ remains representative of Ibiza clubbing culture and in 1999 it was a true highlight among some trance gems. It was DJ Taucher’s remix that made it to the clubs and gave it that iconic edge, now resonating with listeners worldwide.
Storm’s self-titled bomb is a nostalgia-filled attack to the senses: no vocal needed. The German duo was made up of Markus Loffel and Rolf Ellmer, who might also be recognized with the pseudonyms of Jam & Spoon among many other aliases. The track came with a naughty '90s video, too.
Veracocha 'Carte Blanche'
Veracocha is the alias used for the trance music collaboration between Dutch producers Vincent De Moore and Ferry Corsten. ‘Carte Blanche’ was yet another iconic trance release from Positiva, grasping a beautiful piano-led breakdown that soon becomes engulfed in an intense, pounding beat, taking you straight to a 7am sweaty room with strobes and endless euphoria.
Spiller 'Groovejet (If This Ain't love)'
Why does it feel so good? Spiller could be the reason. Sophie Ellis Baxtor’s vocal, now known to everyone, was a hard one to shake off in 2000, evidently so, as it peaked at number one in the UK, New Zealand and Australia. It's summer all over.
The Ones 'Flawless'
An absolutely flawless tune, The Ones' 2001 release took a similar route to that of Groovejet with an enticing, grooving disco bassline. A sense of sass comes through with ease on this record, like a walk down a catwalk. ‘Flawless’ his number one in the UK dance charts and number seven in the UK Singles Charts. Yet more chart success for the Positiva label.
Shy FX & T-Power 'Shake Your Body'
Shy FX and T-Power with ‘Shake Ur Body’ took Carl Tjader’s salsa-esque ‘Leyte’ and turned it on its head, producing this energetic drum 'n' bass version. Although ‘Original Nuttah’ shook the foundations of underground jungle, this 2001 breakthrough track 'Shake Ur Body' was a number seven hit in the Singles Chart. It gained widespread support from both club and commercial radio DJs and helped to further popularise drum 'n' bass as a mainstream music genre.
Room 5 ft. Oliver Cheatham 'Make Luv'
“I like to party, everybody does!” A diverse label, Positiva continued to bring out vocal anthems from each corner of the dance scene. ‘Make Luv’ was, and still is, a disco favourite to all, a real party-starter. It gained number one place on the UK Singles Chart on March 30, 2003, where it remained for four weeks. In 2005 remixes from Axwell, DJ Tonka and Laurent Konrad were released.
Shapeshifters ft. Cookie 'Lola's Theme'
Due to its immense popularity, 'Lola's Theme' was licensed from Nocturnal Groove to Positiva Records and the summer’s soundtrack sky-rocketed straight to number one. The UK were hypnotised by the disco house track’s expert composition followed by vocals from London gospel singer Cookie in 2004.
Ferry Corsten 'Rock Your Body Rock'
A change in sound, Ferry Corsten veered away from trance with this Positiva release. It really packs a punch and, at the time, was a brave step forward into what was to be the beginning of a sound that the label would come to own. Corsten, having already dominated the trance sound, wasn't scared to lead things in a new direction with 'Rock Your Body Rock'.
Axwell ft. Max'C 'I Found U'
‘I Found U’ is still one of Axwell’s most popular songs. The ‘remode’ version received huge support on radio, kicking off with powerful piano chords, accompanied by the added warmth of a break sample. It managed to reach number seven in the UK Singles Chart in August 2007, but that was just the start for Axwell’s reign of the charts, as Swedish House Mafia, who formed a year later, were set to take over.
BBE 'Seven Days and One Week'
Recollecting another trance mainstay from Positiva, the summer of 1996 saw the release of BBE’s '7 Days & One Week', which topped the dance charts and reached number three in the general charts both in the UK and Germany.
David Guetta ft. Kelly Rowland 'When Love Takes Over'
This emotional collaboration between Kelly Rowland and the renowned dance heavyweight was Guetta’s lead single from his 2009 album. It was reportedly what inspired Rowland to pursue a dance-orientated sound on her own album later, with Guetta being influenced to explore more urban sounds himself in the future.
Martin Garrix 'Animals'
Garrix has become one of EDM’s most in-demand stars, having now worked with Dua Lipa right through to the likes of Usher. However, 'Animals' was the solo track that instigated his rise to fame. It was - and still is - different, subconsciously turning heads towards the young producer.
Avicii 'Wake Me Up'
The late Avicii can be remembered through all of his chart-topping tracks, from the mighty ‘Le7els’ to ‘Hey Brother’, but ‘Wake Me Up’ has to be one of the best. Sporting a fresh ‘country’ feel. Completely new for this sound. As Positiva started to become the forward-thinking Avicii’s UK home it was clear that he was to be a dominant force in the world of EDM.
Armin van Buuren ft. Trevor Guthrie 'This is What it Feels Like'
Dutch trance king Armin Van Buuren continued his domination of the genre with this hit. First on Positiva, the release has since been thrown about on various places but it was Positiva that owned it first, leading it into the Top 10 in the UK and beyond.
Wankelmut & Emma Louise 'My Head is a Jungle'
Being regarded as a modern classic in dance music, this MK remix was a much deeper, calmer release for Positiva. MK cut up the eerie vocal, layered it with a simple, but effective piano riff and beat. Soon, a special track was born.
Swedish House Mafia 'One'
Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso formed the EDM super-group Swedish House Mafia in 2008. This smash hit ‘One’ was an impressive feat from the trio, showcasing their ability to come up with instantly likeable melodies. Although the catchy melody was no doubt good enough, a vocal version with Pharrell was what put it into the charts.