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Don't Mess With The Dragon

3.8 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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.

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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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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 3, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Concord Records
  • ASIN: B000M06STA
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,519 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By T. Snyder VINE VOICE on April 10, 2007
Format: Audio CD
"Don't Mess With The Dragon" is Ozo's latest full-length studio album. I hesitate to call it "full-length" though, since it clocks in a just over a half-hour long. But I'd rather have a compact, tighter album than an overly long, drawn-out, watered-down 75-minute affair.

I would agree with some of the other reviewers that this isn't Ozo's best album. But it is still solid. It's upbeat and fun. Don't Mess with the Dragon is a party album, a feel-good record.

One complaint - the rapping is below average and has been for quite awhile now. They could really use a guest appearance by Chali 2na, of Jurassic 5, again. I could do without rap on any future Ozo albums.

Overall though, it's not mind-blowingly great, but it is good. And it's way better than 95% of the other new music you could be buying. So pick it up. It's hard to sit still and be unhappy when Ozo's coming through the speakers.
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Format: Audio CD
Per their interview in Paste magazine, Ozomatli set out to make a more commercial, more accessable CD. Most tracks on Don't Mess With The Dragon are clearly aimed at radio play and the club and party crowd. You can't knock them for trying to make some money for a change; we all know how hard that is in the current music biz.

I love Street Signs, but this CD is a bit of an embarrasment. Everything is stripped down and simplified. The songs are silly and shallow for the most part. There are couple of OK moments, but after listening to this CD for the second time I felt like I'd heard enough.

If you are new to Ozo, skip this and buy Street Signs instead. Now THAT is a great album!
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Format: Audio CD
I've been an Ozo fan since they were selling tapes out of the trunk of their car at the L.A. County fair oh-so-many years ago. Ozo is always changing, which is refreshing in this industry of sameness. While this is a shorter album, it's still a good, solid album. I think the best track on there would have to be "Magnolia Soul" (a fun, soulful nod to New Orleans). This album is still worth picking up, despite the weird and negative reviews from the ultra die-hards. Try it.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have been a big fan of Ozomatli since their first CD. I rave about them to all who will listen as most people who love this band do. This CD is indeed the turning point toward pop for this band. There are shades of the old band in some of the songs like La Gallina, or Violeta but most of the stuff is empty. It is like a band trying to cover Ozomatli songs. I am sure that most fans will give this a try in spite of the negative reviews, but for our sake guys don't do this again.
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Format: Audio CD
As an L.A. native and fan of Ozo since before their first album, the sound and the fury of the L.A. melange we've come to expect (and enjoy) is definitely there. I see them whenever they're in town. If I have a criticism, it is that the album is largely phoned-in. If you're accustomed to the Ozo sound, it's more of the same. But that's fantastic. Their worst day is better than 90% of most of other contemporary artists.

As has been said, Ozo's strength lies in their live performances; there's nothing like the energy of double-digit performers, musicians, and family members on stage, and this album does a great job translating that energy. It's a great pick-me-up, and a great party album. It's a great introduction to the band, and an equal addition to the Ozo library. Just don't expect a whole lot of innovation.

Having said that, I'll definitely be singing along to the songs from this album the next time they blow through town...and I'll see you there.
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Format: Audio CD
in fact, I have to say it is my least favorite album of Ozo's. That is not bad, in my opinion. I would rate their previous three as five stars. Some of the songs get a little repetitious and are rather short. However, I saw them live three weeks ago (my 15th time) and their songs have much more energy live. My personal favorite is "La Gallina". I heard it first live, and it blew me away.

As good as all their recordings are, the only way to really listen to Ozo is live. I never miss a chance to see them. If they are ever in your neck of the woods, go! But be ready to move and dance!
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Format: Audio CD
Ozomatli did what they precisely set out to do with this album. They made an album that's more accessible to a wider English-speaking audience, while maintaining their diverse style and positive message with a socio-political (but non-overbearing) edge. While this isn't their best album, it is a great installment in the evolution of their career.

Tracks:

Can't Stop: 10/10
I've always loved this track when they played it in concert, and the studio version is absolutely infectious. This is the perfect first single for their album. It combines rock, hip-hop, and pop with a little bit of world music flavor. If this doesn't get played on radio stations throughout the country, then they must think people don't want to listen to catchy music with a positive message.

City of Angels: 7/10
While I enjoy the instruments/music, I was really disappointed in the lyrics of the song. This is supposed to be an anthem for all of Los Angeles (including the grittier side) that's an update to the old Randy Newman song. However, after listening to song, it still leaves the listener wondering what L.A. is like. People from other large cities often criticize L.A. for not having any "soul." This song does little justice to the city. You really don't get a sense for the city's diverse neighborhoods or culture its people live. Aside from the name of a high school, a few streets, and a restaurant, you could get a similar sense of L.A. from various generic mid-90's rap songs.

After Party: 10/10
A great modern interpretation of 1960's R&B with a little bit of perfectly intertwined hip-hop. This is a great catchy anthem that's a hit at their live shows.
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