Ozomatli – Place In The Sun (2014)

I can say without reservation that the Los Angeles-based Ozomatli puts on the best live show I’ve ever experienced. The term “show” doesn’t do the band’s live gigs justice since the audience can’t help but be caught up in the “Ozobeat.” There’s no passive involvement in an Ozomatli concert.

Ozomatli has been playing steadily since 1995, but burst on the recording scene in 1998 with its self-titled debut which fused rock en Espanol, hip-hop and cumbia. Along the way they have won Latin Grammys, forged new musical alliances, and developed a devoted if not fanatical fans. Place In The Sun marks their eight studio effort, but there is a children’s record, a video game soundtrack, fantastic live recordings and DVD’s also available.

The band continues its musical journey to the center of rock music with Place In The Sun. Gamely produced by Robert Carranza, Ozomatli leaves behind many of the hip hop elements from the first two albums. The title track leads things off by driving ahead with a convincing rhythm propelled by bassist Wil-Dog Abers and an equally effective vocal and rap interlude by Justin ‘El Niño’ Porée. Ozo continues to effectively mix genres with the best of them. Ozo also proudly wears its social conscience on its sleeve. Every Ozomatli album has songs which comment on the human condition; however, unlike most bands of a similar ilk, Ozomatli puts its actions where their lyrics are. They have long been active in the L.A. Chicano community, and have taken their ideas on education, peace and social involvement to a worldwide stage.

“Only Love” combines social activism and personal responsibility in one effective and touching ballad. ”Echale Grito” finds the band in full party mode, combining a hot Latin beat with hip hop elements. Trumpeter/vocalist Asdrubal Sierra teams up with Eurythmic man Dave Stewart for the ska-like “Brighter,” coming up with an uplifting pop song with an equally uplifting message. “Ready To Go” and “Prendida” find the band moving ahead full throttle with both a driving dance and cumbia track respectively.

Perhaps the strongest song on the album is “Burn It Down.” It’s a driving rock and percussion workout which effectively captures the rock energy of the band and evokes the “let it go and move on” attitude that’s needed for change.

Place In The Sun doesn’t catch the full energy of the Ozomatli show experience, but it’s a good companion to listen to until you see them live.

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Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Chicago. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.