May 27, 2020

Essential Hardcore got me started, ahem, on rave music

Essential Hardcore CD cover

When I was a young droog, much of my musical education came from chart rave, and from compilation CDs.

One compilation I had forgotten about, until I tripped over the above image online, is 1991's Essential Hardcore

It's image was not original. It had a cherub on the cover, reminding us of New Order's Technique, and the acts listed on the front, a style later copied by terribly-named series The Best... Album in the World...Ever!

What was notable was its track curation. The album never leaves strays too far from the environs of commercial dance music, but there's definitely a change in flavour as it progresses.

At the start are charty bangers like Rozalla's saxophone-fuelled Faith (In The Power Of Love) and 2 Unlimited's ubiquitous Get Ready For This. Not great. The kind of music that clueless people mention when you say you're into techno.

Then we get into classic rave. The likes of Bizarre Inc's Playing With Knives, Altern 8's Activ 8 and Slipmatt & Lime (SL2)'s DJs Take Control, with the London breakbeat's duo's biggest hit On A Ragga Tip still a few months off.

By the end of the album, we're into the slightly harder stuff. Lords of Acid's moody and stomping Take Control. Joey Beltram's The Omen (Psycho Mix). And Dutch duo L.A. Style with their jackhammering James Brown Is Dead. It's a great introduction to rave. 

And the The Shamen's wibbly Possible Worlds was a great way to end the album. Most people only knew them for Move Any Mountain, and this was a gateway drug to their more trippy side.

Please let's not talk about the inclusion of Simply Red's Something Got Me Started, though. Crumbs.

This was actually the fourth in the Hardcore series, previous iterations being Hardcore Uproar, Hardcore Dancefloor and Hardcore Ecstasy. All of them showed the dark and light side of charty dance music. The first one included Betty Boo, and Together's ravetastic top 20 single Hardcore Uproar, from which the series no doubt got its name.

I'm glad I rediscovered this again. Back in the olden days, it was useful to have compilations like this – Essential Hardcore and its sister albums played a key part in young me navigating my music taste. Hear a patchy stream of the album tracks over on YouTube.

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