Picks and Pans Review: Welcome to the Real World
Club music has always been ruled by swinging singles—that's why full-length dance albums are rarely worth the cash. But now '90s dance-music icons M People and Frankie Knuckles are changing all that, serving up discs that offer more than a few 5-minute thrills.
Rather than getting by on groove alone, Bizarre Fruit (Epic), from England's M People, stuffs in all the best elements of timeless R&B: soaring melodies, gospel backdrops, joy in repetition and big, distinctive vocals. Whether you wince at the feel-good mantra of "Search for the Hero" or remain immune to the classic good hooks of "Open Your Heart," front woman Heather Small's booming alto is hard to shake and, like her pineapple-shaped coif, impossible to ignore.
Ditto Adeva, the featured vocalist on Welcome to the Real World (Virgin), the second album by popular New York City club DJ and producer Frankie Knuckles. Although Adeva's brassy growl seems somewhat manufactured compared with Small's finesse, she shines on ballads, usually tough turf for beat-obsessed disco divas. And Knuckles's soundscapes maximize the euphoric drama of house music and its anticipatory rush. "Love Can Change It" and the title tune, especially, keep building, suggesting the best is always yet to come.