In ’95 speed garage was probably brewing very nicely in the UK. From what I have read — and I’m open to being corrected on this because I’d love to know more — the genre came about when drum ‘n’ bass parties in London started featuring a side room where DJs would play US garage dubs pitched up to +6 or +8. In the morning the pirate radio stations would feature ‘come down’ mixes composed of the same material. Todd Edwards had been releasing his skippy, choppy garage since 1992, on labels such as 111 East Records, Nervous Records, and the label where he gained his profile, the Clifton, New Jersey based i! Records. By ’95 his output was prolific among other producers from the US east coast.

Edwards, of course, wasn’t the only purveyor of garage who would have influenced the British DJs at that time. Kerri Chandler, Masters At Work, MK, Todd Terry, Mood II Swing, and Smack Productions — whose tunes featured sterling the keyboard work of Eddie Perez — all exerted a considerable impact on the fledgling UK garage scene, as did some of Armand Van Helden’s remixes, like “Sugar Is Sweeter” by CJ Bolland and “Spin Spin Sugar” by Sneaker Pimps. However, Edwards shunting, swinging grooves and chopped up sample work, which took MK’s style a stage further, really defined a new wave of garage. His sound put soul, funk, disco and gospel through a digital mincer, yet what came out the other end was still soulful, funky and euphoric. He consistently created deceptively organic-sounding dance music that owed all its prowess to digital sampling.

His remix — and especially the dub — of “Alabama Blues” was the epitome of his style. Here he took Ludovic Navarre’s blues vocal samples and sliced and diced them before dumping them into an ecstatic stew of clipped, rolling guitar tones and shifty beats. This track was everywhere in ’95 and it was impossible to not dance to it. Like other monster tunes from Edwards, like the stunning “Winter Behavior” or the equally impressive “Saved My Life“, this remix inspired the British to unleash what came to be known as speed garage. I wasn’t complaining.

St Germain
Alabama Blues
F Communications /France/12
French producer, Ludovic Navarre releases his classic, deep house track from 1993 with remixes from New Jersey marvel Todd Edwards. Navarre’s fusion approach shows that those who think that dance music is confined to a constant, metronomic torture have been hypnotized into a sleep by the repetitive riffing of most rock music. A classic blues vocal about leaving Alabama to go New York in the face of the south’s brutal racism is coupled with rolling, splashy garage-style beats and soft, undulating and aquatic sounding strings. The vocalist isn’t credited, the vocals obviously appear in sample form, but could be those of Lightnin` Hawkins, a favorite of Navarre’s.

On the flipside Todd Edwards injects a more uplifting feel without sacrificing any content or soul, and more sections of the vocal appear in his vocal mix, giving it a more organic appeal. Edwards weaves his magic by adding addictive, sensual female voice snippets that career around the main vocal, touches of Hammond organ strings, flute and a hint of a disco bassline. This all adds up to a compulsive, listenable and hypnotic dance stew where organic sounds and electronics wheel around each other with incredible ease. Todd’s dub is a sparser thing, looped, but hooky, and includes Stevie Wonder intoning ‘Jesus loves you’ amid steely, clipped blues guitar and female singing. This is the future of house music, the real contemporary r’n’b. CO