Coming down after the twin high-water marks of It Takes a Nation of Millions and Fear of a Black Planet, Public Enemy shifted strategy a bit for their fourth album, Apocalypse 91...The Enemy Strikes Black. By and large, they abandon the rich, dense musicality of Planet, shifting toward a sleek, relentless, aggressive attack -- Yo! Bum Rush the Show by way of the lessons learned from Millions. This is surely a partial reaction to their status as the Great Black Hope of rock & roll; they had been embraced by a white audience almost in greater numbers than black, leading toward rap-rock crossovers epitomized by this album's leaden, pointless remake of "Bring the Noise" as a duet with thrash metallurgists Anthrax. It also signals the biggest change here -- the transition of the Bomb Squad to executive-producer status, leaving a great majority of the production to their disciples, the Imperial Grand Ministers of Funk. This isn't a great change, since the Public Enemy sound has firmly been established, giving the new producers a template to work with, but it is a notable change, one that results in a record with a similar sound but a different feel: a harder, angrier, determined sound, one that takes its cues from the furious anger surging through Chuck D's sociopolitical screeds. And this is surely PE's most political effort, surpassing Millions through the use of focused, targeted anger, a tactic evident on Planet. Yet it was buried there, due to the seductiveness of the music.
Here, everything is on the surface, with the bluntness of the music hammering home the message. Arriving after two records where the words and music were equally labyrinthine, folding back on each other in dizzying, intoxicating ways, it is a bit of a letdown to have Apocalypse be so direct, but there is no denying that the end result is still thrilling and satisfying, and remains one of the great records of the golden age of hip-hop.
Trombonist Jonathan Voltzok makes a fine debut recording with More to Come. A native of Israel who came to the U.
S. on scholarship to study at the New School in New York City, he went on to work with the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Band as well as bands led by Slide Hampton and Jimmy Heath. His rhythm section includes the talented but underrated pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Barak Mori, and drummer Ali Jackson. Like some of the bop masters of trombone, Voltzok excels in up tempo settings, such as his breezy original "More to Come" that serves as an excellent opener. He tackles Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" in a slow, thoughtful setting, never overplaying his hand, with Goldberg's lush, inventive chords providing a perfect backdrop. Hampton is a special guest in a powerful, swinging chart of "Con Alma" and a snappy blistering take of "Shaw Nuff," while alto saxophonist Antonio Hart appears in Voltzok's driving samba "A Moment of Sunshine" and the trombonist's elegant jazz waltz "The Fire Dance." This is an enjoyable first effort by Jonathan Voltzok.