The BBC’s Essential Mix series has without doubt stood the test of time. Heading on the slippery slope to 30-years-old and with over 1,500 episodes under their belt – the format has been the highlight for many music aficionado’s weekends and playbacks are in the countless millions.
With thousands of artists covering hundreds of genres this was a difficult list to compile, but compile we have and below is over twenty hours of sublime audio that continues to to deliver to this day.
So, in chronological order, here is the SoundJam selection of the best BBC Essential Mixes of all time…
The Goa Mix was considered to be the finest of the 30 odd essential mixes by Paul Oakenfold. The original producer of the show Eddie Gordon wanted DJs to flex their muscles and show their musical knowledge with a variety of electronic styles.
Oakenfold fitted the bill perfectly and this mix encompasses the unique trance sound he was influenced by on the beaches of Goa alongside a stack of film soundtracks to really show what you could do with the format . It was voted the best Essential Mix ever in 2000 by Radio One listeners.
Just moments before Daft Punk blew up into the behemoth they are today, Pete Tong opened their first Essential Mix set with the immortal words “We are pleased to introduce two French blokes.” By the end of 1997 Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalte were household names.
The mix came hot on the heels of their debut album Homework and featured a raft of their own tunes alongside the likes of Armand Van Helden, Gusto and Roy Davis Jr.
Twenty plus years later and the mix still sounds as fresh as the day it first aired.
Air Essential Mix – Part one
Air Essential Mix – Part two
Another huge sound already exploding out of France was Air. Just shortly after releasing their critically acclaimed album Moon Safari featuring Sexy Boy and Kelly Watch the Stars the French duo, Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel, were invited on the show.
Citing a breakdown in communications between the French and the English, Pete Tong announced that the Essential Mix would be split over two weeks. “We told them we had a two hour show, they gave us a four hour tape, but don’t worry it justifies a two week broadcast.” We’re inclined to agree…
There isn’t much breakbeat that made the Essential Mix full stop, but in 1998 Matt Cantor and Aston Harvey were flying high and with productions such as the mix album FSUK2, and their own release We Rock Hard in the pipeline it was shaping up to be an amazing year.
The late 90s was vintage Freestylers. Great albums, great collaborations with Navigator and Tenor Fly and great party vibes. This mix is a testament of the good things set to come for the boys.
Having done somewhere in the region of 50 (yes 50) Essential Mixes this list had to include Carl Cox and by our rough calculations that puts him in the number two slot for most played – after of course Pete Tong – but surely as host he doesn’t count right?
So which mix to choose from, well Millennium Eve Essential Mix Takeover was pretty epic. Cox kicked off the show seeing in new year in Sydney then flying over the International Date Line to see the new year in again in Hawaii. I’m not sure we will ever see such extravaganza again.
We’ve gone for Muzik Magazine’s award winning Essential Mix of the year (Check out the November issue in this great archive) in Cox’s spiritual home of the Terrace in Space, Ibiza.
What list could be complete without some early 2000 UK Garage. The scene was going large and MJ Cole was at the forefront.
Hailed as ‘one of the best Garage sets ever played’ and with tracks from Basement Jaxx, Goldie, Masters At Work, Stanton Warriors & Missy Elliot this wasn’t your standard Garage mix.
Sasha and Digweed truly conquered global dominance in the early 2000s having met through Renaissance, a club and label that had its roots in an old print-works in Derby.
Renaissance hosted hundreds shows in more than 25 countries around the world including their famous monthly residency at the Cross in London, which was one of the longest running continuous club nights ever – only closing as the club was shut permanently as their Kings Cross home was redeveloped.
This mix though was live from Miami at the World Music Conference and was voted as Essential Mix of the Year 2002.
High Contrast AKA Lincoln Barrett adds another Essential Mix of the Year to this list – this time in 2007.
This was a big year for High Contrast with his second album and in particular his tune ‘If we ever’ which got huge airtime from the likes of Annie Mac and Zane Lowe. It has since been remixed and released again by Unglued which is well worth a listen.
His Essential Mix features tracks from stalwarts like Chase & Status and Hospital records alongside remixes from diverse artists like Coldplay and Kanye West.
The second Drum and Bass mix to hit our list and a real turning point for Saul Milton and Will Kennard. They forged their relationship while both students in Manchester and around this time they were raking in number ones in the UK dance charts and even hitting the regular charts with the excellent collaboration Pieces with Plan B which is the opener of this mix
Another French act to take over the Essential Mix, this time nominated as a ‘Future Star’ by Dubstep DJs Skream and Benga as part of a slight twist on the Essential Mix theme.
DJ Snake’s opener a, Bootleg of Gangsta Paradise, is worth it alone. But by the time you hit the second hour you fully know he has arrived.
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