Josiah Hartley counts down five of the most defining productions in garage legend Todd Edwards' back catalogue.
Last updated: 10th Mar 2016. Originally published: 2nd Mar 2016
It’s a pretty big accolade for any producer to be referred to as 'Todd the God' by their most ardent fans. But put it this way, if that man happens to be house and garage legend Todd Edwards, then he most definitely deserves the honour of being crowned the undisputed Godfather of UK garage.
The New Jersey native, who emerged on the US house scene around 1992, played a pivotal role in the development of UK garage during the mid-late nineties. A fact that many of the scenes early pioneers widely acknowledge, including his biggest supporter DJ EZ, and old spars Matt “Jam” Lamont and Karl “Tuff Enuff” Brown – collectively known as Tuff Jam - who also championed the producer’s work from day one.
Citing the likes of Marc Kinchen aka MK and Masters At Work as his primary influences, Edwards signature production style is made up of intricately chopped up vocal and musical samples, underpinned by disco-tinged basslines, and swung, bumping 4x4 rhythms.
His inimitable sound has won him a fanatical cult-like following throughout the world - most notably in the UK and France. While producers across the electronic music spectrum including Daft Punk, Burial, MJ Cole, Qualifide and Akufen, amongst many others, have been influenced by his game-changing productions.
Following the evolution of UK garage to dubstep and grime in the early noughties, along with the advent of other sub-genres like broken beat and UK funky in the same decade, Edwards, like a true pioneer continued to do what he does best, without feeling the need to jump on any bandwagons or compromise his sound.
Over two decades on, and the UK garage innovator continues to remain just as relevant and influential today in the wider electronic music sphere as he was in previous years.
This coming Saturday, he’ll be making his way across the pond to play a headline DJ set at GSS Warehouse in London, for the 15th birthday instalment of Back to 95. Ahead of his appearance we take a look back at five essential cuts from his hefty back catalogue, to gear up to the highly-anticipated event.
Todd Edwards presents The Messenger 'Guide My Soul' (1993)
Released on the iconic New York label Nervous Records under one of his most fitting aliases, Edwards, a committed Christian has always praised God in his compositions.
This particular track is an early example, where he incorporates subliminal messages within his trademark collage of samples that salutes the almighty man above, to remarkable effect. “Guide my soul” and “He can solve…for the love” being just a couple of the positive vocal snippets that are able to be understood.
Combined with the producers deep, infectious bass grooves and bumpy, four-to-the-floor beats, these spiritual phrases, simply add to the uplifting vibes of the tune. An early Todd Edwards classic, that when dropped, never fails to evoke joy amid revellers on the dancefloor, regardless of religious beliefs.
Sound Of One 'As I Am' [Todd Edwards Remix] (1993)
Originally released in 1993 on One Records in the US, before resurfacing five years later on London’s influential Locked On at the height of UKG pandemonium, this funky anthem has proved to stand the test of time, having made a much bigger impact the second time around.
Like many of Edwards visionary remixes, they occasionally tend to outshine the original and become his own, and in this case things were no different as he manages to steal the limelight from Sound Of one - an alias of NYC house legend, Victor Simonelli.
While it’s only the New Jerseyans third official remix, you can clearly pinpoint the unmistakable hallmarks of his production, which eventually set the blueprint for UK Garage.
From the cut up, staccato “What I am, hold me as I am” vocal hook, and the clipped organ stabs, through to the lively, disco-style bassline, interweaved with those swinging hi-hats and bumping drums. It’s one of his most popular remixes, especially amongst the old skool garage-heads. And even today you can still expect to hear it being caned by just about any respectable UK garage DJ, smashing up dancefloors in garage raves from London to Ibiza, Ayia Napa and beyond.
St. Germain 'Alabama Blues' [Todd Edwards Vocal Remix] (1995)
Not only was this Mr Edwards' breakthrough release that firmly placed him on the global house and garage map, but it was also the catalyst for his flourishing career of remixing artists on an international scale. French touch maestro, St Germain, was the first artist outside the US to seek the American producers remixing talents, offering up a fine deep house cut in the form of ‘Alabama Blues’ for the “Toddify” treatment.
And boy did the garage don deliver, eclipsing the brilliance of the original, with both the vocal mix and equally superb dub. Here on the former version, Edwards makes full use of the original vocal, while finding room to pepper the track with his trademark pastiche of unintelligible vocal samples and sounds that somehow provides a melodic sub hook around the main vocal.
The icing on the cake is his implementation of a funky octave bassline that bounces around the raw, swinging four-to-the-floor beats, making this track the straight up, irresistible groove that it is.
Nobody else in the game sounded quite like Edwards at the time, so it’s easy to see why his somewhat quirky, yet original style of US Garage House, caused a major stir within French house circles and London’s developing UK Garage scene, especially when this killer remix dropped in ‘95.
Todd Edwards 'Saved My Life' (1995)
An absolute landmark cut from Todd Edwards. This one struck a massive chord with all the key players of the UK’s burgeoning garage scene, who exposed the American’s music to a generation of British house and garage fans via pirate radio and underground nightclubs.
Starting off with a rugged, shuffling, set of Kenny Dope-inspired drums, you can tell instantly that this track is going to be something special. Then as if out of nowhere, a farrago of hypnotizing samples enter the track, amongst them – horn and organ stabs, and even his Father’s voice that provided the ghostly “Oooooah” melody.
Much in the same way house legend MK chops vocal samples to shreds, treats them like instruments and creates hooks out of them, Edwards took the technique - that his said musical idol pioneered – to a next level on this masterpiece.
Daft Punk 'Face To Face' (2001)
The legendary French house duo declared their respect for Todd Edwards when they gave him a shout out on the track ‘Teachers’ from their 1997 debut album Homework. Four years later, in an act of serendipity, the garage godfather teamed up with the robots for the extraordinary ‘Face To Face’ that featured on the duo’s hugely successful follow LP Discovery.
Edwards co-wrote, co-produced and even sang on the track, which marked one of his first or at least most significant forays into song-writing and undertaking lead vocal duties on a record.
Just five bars into the track and you can detect his musical contribution via the distinct vocal cut-up technique that make up part of the songs hook. Then the arrangement switches up in proper Daft Punk fashion to a familiar pop-song structure, where Edwards lets his blue-eyed soul vocal talents shine during the verses.
‘Face To Face’ was the first of his collaborations with Daft Punk, the second of which came in the shape of ‘Fragments of Time’ from Random Access Memories – the 2013 album that earned the Parisians and its collaborators, Grammy Awards for Album of the year and Best Electronica album.
Although Edwards solo work is widely recognized within the underground electronic scene, his stellar collaborations with Daft Punk has certainly helped to bring his own material to an even broader, mainstream audience, picking up a new generation of fans along the way.