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The 20 best Happy Hardcore records of all time

Shining a light on happy hardcore, with 20 of the best picked by Brighton producer Mumdance.

Mumdance: “I’m gonna focus mainly on the ’93-’94 era of hardcore. There’s lots of different eras of hardcore, running from ’89 up until ’99 I guess, and in my mind it gets worse as time goes along. That’s not to say it’s all bad, but I’ll always feel like the best bit was when I was 13 years old buying vinyl. I used to have a paper round, I used to get £13 a week, and that was enough for a bus fare into Brighton and two records. Anyway, I’m gonna focus on my favourite happy hardcore records, and I’m gonna concentrate on vocals and pianos, as that’s the best thing to focus on when you’re talking about hardcore.

“This whole era – the end of hardcore, proto-jungle era – has that great balance, where it’s both happy and melancholic, and it’s an era of time where there were no real rules – people just made them up as they go along. That’s a bit like the period we’re in now, actually.”

Vibes – ‘Obsession (Music So Wonderful)’

“This one’s called ‘Obsession’, but a lot of people know it as ‘Music So Wonderful’. It’s a good example of this period, because it’s got 4×4 kicks and a break in it. It’s all about the vocal, basically, though – this session’s all about the vocals!”

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DJ Morph – ‘Only Love’

“This is the first record I ever bought, and I recently closed with it at Fabric Room 1. It was nice to finish at Fabric with the first record I ever bought – that felt really good to me. I used to play it on radio loads, as well. It’s got an amazing breakdown too, loads of hardcore tunes have a bit, right about… here *tune breaks down* where it just changes completely. Sick.”

Sunshine Productions – ‘Above The Clouds’

“This came out on Just Another Label, I think it was Vibes and Wishdokta’s label… Those two have really stood the test of time, where a lot of these producers haven’t. Banger! Again, listen to that piano and that vocal. That’s what this session is about – the best pianos and the best vocals. It’s wicked – ‘hold me in your arms’, such a simple great hook. The way they layer breaks, too – you never hear tunes that do that anymore, outside jungle I guess.”

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Jimmy J & Cru L T – ‘Take Me Away’

“We’re going for the original mix here, but there’s also a Slipmatt mix which is sick. It doesn’t drop until a good two and a half minutes into the tune, this one, people used to mix for a lot longer then. The mixdown’s so brutal, too, it’s great.”

Force & Styles – ‘Field Of Dreams’

“This one’s ’96 or ’97, and you can hear the difference. This one’s edging – edging – on being bad, but you can’t deny that this is a powerful vocal. If you hate on this vocal you’re a dick.”

Bass Selective – ‘Blowout Part 2’

“This is an all-time percy. Again, Korg M1 piano, a vocal and a breakbeat, that’s all you need for a hardcore classic. This is actually T-Power, who went onto work with Shy FX and stuff. I posted this on Twitter a while back, and someone was like ‘oh, classic hardcore lyrics about nothing’, and I was like ‘you had it all boy?! That means so much in one line’. ‘You had it all’ – that means a lot mate.”

Orca – ‘4AM’

“This is a classic melancholic sample, it’s from an old power ballad. This tune just reminds me of being on the back of the bus to school, sharing a headphone with your mate and sneaking a fag at the back. That’s what hardcore is to it. Bomber jacket with an undercut.”

Hixxy & Bananaman – ‘Together Forever’

“Let’s go back – well, forward – to the period where hardcore was erring on bad. This one is pretty bad but the vocal and piano are amazing. You can’t deny this piano! It’s not aged as well as a lot of this list, but I stand by it being a banger.”

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Fat Controller – ‘In Complete Darkness’

“Prime example of the 1993-1994 purple patch. Banger!”

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Jimmy J & Cru L T – ‘Six Days’

“Jimmy J & Cru L T are some of my favourite producers in hardcore, also residing on the Kniteforce label and they pretty much always deliver the goods: a rough sounding break, pitched up vocal & piano… Can you see a theme developing? This one always reminds me of being at a pikey funfair for some reason, but in a good way.”

Force & Styles – ‘Heart Of Gold’

“Again, ’96-’97 period happy hardcore which has lost the breakbeats and is focused more on 4×4, which I wasn’t a fan so much of. I still love the vocal though. If you were super high in a club this one would be very, very, very powerful.”

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DJ Torchman – ‘Tell Me’

“Literally love everything about this track, the strings and vocal are absolutely spot on, fits perfectly into this happy / melancholic bracket that I’m trying to describe.”

Foul Play – ‘Finest Illusion’

“Classic. Everyone knows this one. Epic vocal and piano yet again. Love how reverbed out the vocals are too, they sit much further back in the mix than most tracks. I’m a massive fan of the happy, loved-up messages that hardcore tracks always convey: ‘after all that we been through, that won’t change the way I feel about you.'”

Ramos & Supreme – ‘The Journey (Part 1)’

“This is one of my all time favourites too, no vocal in this one but it’s an absolute roller, just nails this happy / nostalgic / melancholic feeling perfectly. Last tune of the night, play it from start to finish business.”

DJ Brisk & DJ Trixxy – ‘Eye Opener’

“This track is one is more 4×4 but it also happens to contain, literally, one of the best if not the best hardcore vocals of all time.”

SMD – ‘3’

“SMD stands for Slipmatt Dubs and was a series of records that DJ Slipmatt put out around 93-94. This is my favourite of the series, the arrangement is quite weird ’cause there are so many different sections to the tune, but each one compliments the others really well.”

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DJ Force & The Evolution – ‘Perfect Dreams’

“Man, I keep saying the same thing over and over, but this session is about the vocals, strings and pianos. This one is on Knitetforce too, I think a bit later than the ones I mentioned before. There are some sections that I don’t like so much, but you can’t deny the vocal!”

Fade & Banananman – ‘Dream Surprise’

“Again slightly later, ’96-’97 I’m guessing. This vocal is really cheesy, actually, but I’m still standing behind the fact it’s great.”

Go Mental – ‘Died In Your Arms’

“Classic sample. They used to always play this one at the under 18 nightclub I used to go to when I was 14 at the end of Worthing Pier, Rutherfords. I was probably wearing a Kappa tracksuit.”

NRG – ‘I Need Your Lovin’

“This came out a few years before Baby D’s ‘Let Me Be Your Fantasy’. I don’t actually know the story behind it, but the two are pretty much exactly the same, this one is better though.”


More Rave Week!
– FACT mix 458: Kevin Saunderson
– Inner City and the inside story of ‘Big Fun’
– Joe Muggs is a Rubbish Raver
– Terry Farley on the history of house
– Jerome Hill is keeping rave alive
– Mella Dee’s Top 10 Rave Tapes
– Makina: the scene keeping the hardcore flame burning
– The 20 best rave videos on YouTube
– The A-Z of Rave


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