BASED ON AMERICA’s West Coast, Ambrosia began their recording career in the mid 70s as a full blown progressive rock band, brandishing a sound that was clearly influenced by British groups like Procol Harum, Genesis and Caravan. However, with the passing of time, their style was to radically shift towards a more accessible, song based, approach, resulting in brace of melodically inclined albums that elevated the band’s profile considerably.
Issued in 1980 on the Warner Bother’s label, ‘One Eighty’ was the band’s fourth album and is now regarded as the high point of their AOR period. As a six man outfit, the approach is studious yet exploratory; leaving enough space for the songs to breathe and be supported by carefully executed multi-layered backing vocals and a soulful r ‘n’ b undertow.
Comparable to other premier melodic rock acts of the period such as Toto, Player and Steely Dan, the album benefits hugely from two US top twenty hit singles, ‘You’re The Only Woman’ and ‘Biggest Part Of Me’; both of which showcase front man David Pack’s world class voice. But don’t go running away with the impression that their music is all sweetness and light; tracks such as ‘Ready’, ‘Shape I’m In’, ‘Cryin’ In The Rain’ and the anthemic guitar driven ‘Rock ‘N A Hard Place’ position the band firmly at the epicentre of a some serious and powerful hard rock. Hugely recommended. Special Deluxe Collector’s Edition, fully remastered sound shaped from 24 BIT digital technology,12 page full colour booklet, 3,500 word essay, enhanced artwork, rare photos and new interview.
By the eighties the group had morphed into a hugely successful AOR unit, enjoying hit singles and mainstream media exposure very much in the breezy but precise style of Toto, Player and Steely Dan. Of course, the icing on the cake was vocalist David Pack, a man whose voice has been compared to such masters of the art as Bobby Kimball, Michael McDonald and Steve Perry. ‘Road Island’, originally issued in 1982, was Ambrosia’s fifth album and in many ways saw them returning to their progressive roots composing songs blessed with ambitious arrangements.
This stylistic volt-face was in part emphasised by their choice of producer, Pink Floyd engineer James Gutherie, with recording partly undertaken in London’s famed Kinks owned Konk Studios. In addition, the album artwork’s illustrative calligraphy (undertaken by Ralph Steadman - one time illustrator of satirical publication Private Eye) was somewhat reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’, further emphasising their progressive rock roots. Musically brilliant, the album contains lashings of intelligently conceived tracks, such as ‘For Openers (Welcome Home)’ and the seven minute quasi-prog epic ‘Ice Age’. Other more traditional sounding melodic rock tracks included ‘Still Not Satisfied’ and the Fleetwood Mac reminiscent ‘How Can You Love Me’ - two of the band’s finest compositions.