Frankie Knuckles A New Reality

As a key figure in the genesis of house music, Frankie Knuckles has accomplished more than any of his DJ/producer peers. However, he has never been much of an album artist. Despite the numerous underground classics he's penned, remixed and engineered, Knuckles always leans closer to the poppier side of dance music when working in the long-play format. Those elements are still in effect on A New Reality (his third studio-release since 1991), but the results this time around sound less compromising. That's partly because, unlike ten years ago, Knuckles doesn't have to persuade the mainstream into accepting the validity of house music. As a result, he's incorporated more techniques and voices from the underground. Chicago legends CeCe Rogers, Jamie Principle and Satoshi Tomiie appear on two of the disc's opening cuts, "Hit the Flow" and "Bac N da Day" — both of which come totally club-friendly with their high-filtered breaks, circuit-style snares and DJ-styled cross-fades. The latter-half of A New Reality is much more introspective, with Nikki Richards on the mic and tempos stretching out from smooth jazz ballads like "What's Going On" to the wailing anthems "Matter of Time" and "I've Had Enough." Well-produced and catchy songwriting makes this a good one for home listening, but the lack of raw experimentation hinders Knuckles from making a vital contribution to today's dance floor. That said, there's never been a country-house hybrid as convincing as "The Bumpkin Song" and though it's probably too hokey to hook underground heads, there's potential here for a big-time crossover. (Definity)