On the surface, nothing''s changed. There''s the same core line-up, the same oppositional politics, the same live shows that erupt into drum-line blessed community parties, and the same devotion to polyglot urban sound clashing. But here''s what''s new: after 12 years of collaborative song-writing, 12 years of constant touring everywhere from Denver to Tokyo to Sydney, 12 years of supporting anti-war mobilizations and global human rights movements, 12 years of pioneering Spanish-English mash-ups of hip hop, salsa, cumbia, dub, and Middle Eastern funk, and most importantly, 12 years of facing up to internal battles and personal struggles, they''ve emerged anew with their fourth full-length studio album, Don''t Mess With The Dragon, the band''s most cohesive, polished, and joyous record to date. Don''t Mess With The Dragon was written and recorded with a firm commitment to collective creation. They began writing and experimenting with songs in informal sessions in the fall of 2005 at a local Los Angeles Latino art gallery, Tropico de Nopal. Then came recording sessions in the legendary Fantasy studios in Northern California, followed by sessions at a slew of prime LA recording houses. Much of the band''s renewed sense of musical collaboration comes from their relationship with their label, venerable jazz and Latin stalwarts Concord Records. Don''t Mess With The Dragon is Ozo''s second full length, studio offering for Concord their longest stay with a single label.
On their fourth full-length studio release, Ozomatli serve up a rhythmically seething musical mélange that serves as virtual mirror to the dizzying cultural contradictions at the heart of their Los Angeles hometown, wrapping it in a studio-polished veneer (largely courtesy of Santana/Ricky Martin producer KC Porter) that only underscores their intriguing reflections. They wear their civic pride as badge of honor on the gritty "City of Angels," a hip-hop-funk-fusion anthem that courses straight from the street to the stars. The joyous "La Temperatura," a tribute to the city''s pro-immigrant marches of ''06, picks up the local thread and weaves it into the band''s longstanding social conscience, one they focus on Washington''s inept response to Hurricane Katrina via the savory, N''Awlinz-meets-Norwalk swagger of "Magnolia Soul." The title track hints at a few conquered personal demons, while the sultry, Los Lobos-esque Spanish ballad "Violeta," the infectious 80s-ska-funk-meets-00s-punk-pop of "When I Close My Eyes," and the hip-hop-jarocho stew "La Segundo Mano" (featuring Queztal''s Martha Gonzales on vocals) stand as vibrantly disparate testaments to the band''s true range of pan-cultural musical fervor and accomplishments. --Jerry McCulley
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