Review of Fire Away Album by Ozomatli

Ozomatli Fire's Away with style-mashing new release

Ozomatli Fire Away Album

'We've always had the reputation of being style mashers,' said Ulises Bella, Ozomatli's saxaphone player and unofficial spokesman. The Los Angeles based Latin funk, rap, rock, and many other genre-influenced group has indeed been both the benefactor and victim of its willingness to indulge its many interests and influences across the span of a 12-year recording career. While it's broadened the demographic spectrum of their fan-base, it has also probably kept them from the stadium and large arena touring circuit.

However, Ozomatli's approach to music is still widely popular as music fans and partygoers alike love songs that mash up Latin rhythms, ska flavored horns, rapped lyrics, and middle-eastern melodies, and a host of other worldly ingredients. And while Ozo fans love and expect that from the group they are sure to be in for a listen when the group's fifth full-length release and first for the Mercer Street/Downtown label hits the streets.

'Fire Away' takes Ozo's eclecticism to an entirely new level sounding as if a handful of different bands contributed to the 11-song album due out April 20, 2010. But it didn't start out that way according to Bella. 'We tried to record ourselves and went about it the same way we'd always done it before,' which usually included blending together ideas and bits recorded in hotel rooms and during impromptu jam sessions over long periods of time. But things weren't gelling and after a series of meetings with various prospective producers, the band decided on Tony Berg (Aimee Mann, Pete Yorn).

Berg had the band start from scratch. 'He had us in one room picking up different instruments and said, 'just start jamming.' There was just one mic' in the room. Then we used those jams as starting points for songs,' said Bella. Unaccustomed to working over the ideas and completing the compositions in a meticulous manner proved to be challenging for the band's members, but ultimately pushed them to a positive place. 'We got to calling him the 'Song Nazi,' but we needed that. We needed the extra voice in the mix.'

The proof is in the proverbial pudding. 'Fire Away' includes world party anthems, cool 60's Stax grove, Chicano soul, banda, and the band's signature party ambiance delivered in a much more clear and defined mix. It's obviously Ozomatli, but is also a very different sounding disc. Fans will immediately take to the familiar voices, global influenced percussion tendencies, and overall vibe, but will be pleasantly surprised by the boost in energy that permeates the disc as well as the diversity in sounds from song to song. Added Bella, 'we're really excited about it. We still love to see people's reaction.'

Francisco H. Ciriza

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