Formation and Inspiration
The members of Ambrosia decided on their name in 1970 to represent a vision of their music: all shades, textures, colors and styles. While many people are familiar with Ambrosia's radio hits of the 1970s, the songs on their five albums range from progressive to experimental.
The founding members of Ambrosia were reared in Southern California. Their initial musical influences, like many of their generation, came from The Beach Boys and The Beatles. Ambrosia fused symphonic art rock with a smooth pop sound.
An early incarnation of the band began to experiment with vocal harmonies, which led to an infatuation with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. After the group attended a show at the Whisky a Go-Go to see an unknown but highly recommended new band called King Crimson, their perception of music changed forever.
The musicians, inspired by the music and artists of the progressive rock era, acquired a significant regional admiration for their inventive musicianship and skillful arranging. In 1971, one of their friend’s, who was doing sound for the Hollywood Bowl, invited them to play there on stage to test a new sound system that had been installed. Grammy-winning engineer Gordon Parry was the head engineer in charge at the Bowl. He was so impressed with the group that he invited them back to attend performances there by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He also introduced them to conductor Zubin Mehta, who featured Ambrosia as part of a so-called All-American Dream Concert. 1970s
The group auditioned for Herb Alpert and A&M Records early on. Alpert recorded some demos and they signed with Rubicon Management who passed the demos around. Eventually, the group signed with 20th Century Fox Records.
The first album, Ambrosia, produced by Freddie Piro, was released in 1975. It spawned the Top 20 chart single "Holdin' on to Yesterday" as well as the FM hit "Nice, Nice, Very Nice." The latter sets to music the lyrics to a song in Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. The album was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Engineered Recording (other than Classical). A little known fact is Ambrosia's connection with The Alan Parsons Project. Alan Parsons was the engineer for Ambrosia's first album and the producer for their second. All four members of Ambrosia played on the first Alan Parsons Project album, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, which was recorded soon after Ambrosia's first album.
After lengthy touring, the band returned in 1976 with “Somewhere I've Never Traveled”, continuing in the progressive rock style. The album yielded the title song and the single "Can't Let A Woman", which both quickly became FM favorites, both featuring lush orchestration and vocal arrangements, while a third cut, “I Wanna Know” received minor airplay. The record sleeve folded into a large pyramid, tapping into a fad belief in mystical pyramid power. Both Ambrosia and Somewhere I've Never Traveled received Grammy nominations, and set the stage for the band's signing to Warner Bros. Records.
Additionally in 1976, the group participated in a variety of projects. They covered the Beatles song "Magical Mystery Tour" for the transitory musical documentary All This and World War II. The film's soundtrack consisted of different groups providing arrangements of Beatles songs. Their version of "Magical Mystery Tour" scored a top 40 hit and has since been very popular in their live shows.
In 1978 Life Beyond L.A. was released, Ambrosia's third album. It marked a bit of a move away from their progressive rock style and the lush arrangements and introduced a more pop/jazz influence. It was their first and only album to incorporate bongos. The year 1978 marked their biggest Pop breakthrough with their first gold single "How Much I Feel" from the album, which was a #3 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Extensive touring with Fleetwood Mac, Heart and the Doobie Brothers, in addition to major headlining shows, cemented Ambrosia's reputation as a stellar live act. For the '78 tour the group added a second keyboardist, David Cutler-Lewis, as well as an additional singer Royce Jones (ex-Steely Dan) who joined in December 1978. 1980’s and Beyond
In 1980, Warner Bros. released One Eighty, a highly successful album that produced two of the year's biggest hits. The first, "Biggest Part of Me", reached number three for three weeks on the Hot 100 and crossed over to the soul chart, where it peaked at number thirty-five, the second, another blue-eyed soul hit, "You're the Only Woman (You & I)", reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album featured the two new members, David Cutler-Lewis and Royce Jones, although Lewis had contributed keyboard work on the Life Beyond L.A. album. The album earned the band three Grammy nominations, including Best Pop Vocal Group. A headlining world tour soon followed. For the Japanese leg of this tour, the group was joined by their longtime friend, guitarist Cliff Woolley (formerly of The Association).
One of the biggest honors bestowed upon the band was Quincy Jones' declaration that "Biggest Part of Me" was one of his all time favorite songs. The title of the album, One Eighty was believed by fans to signal the group's "180-degree" change in direction. In actuality, it was so named because it was recorded in January 1980 (1/80).
In 1980 the band contributed the song "Outside" to the movie Inside Moves and the following year placed another track, "Poor Rich Boy" (written by Burt Bacharach), on the soundtrack of the movie Arthur.
In 1982 Ambrosia released their fifth and final studio album, Road Island, their first effort done without the assistance of Freddie Piro's production company. From the cover illustration of Ralph Steadman, the popular artist who illustrated Hunter S. Thompson's books, to the production of James Guthrie, to the album's dark central themes Road Island was a conceptual, adventurous work of art that brought forward Ambrosia's exceptional talents.
In 1989, Ambrosia reunited with all four original members and began playing live shows again, mostly on the West Coast. They expanded their ranks once again at this time by adding additional members Shem Von Schroeck (vocals, percussion, bass, guitar).
In 1995 the band began to expand their annual touring schedule. In 1997, Warner Bros. released Ambrosia's long awaited greatest hits CD, Anthology, an album that spanned the group's entire career and included three new tracks. In addition to Anthology, the entire Ambrosia catalog has been re-mastered and released on CD for the first time. The Year 2000 marked the 30th anniversary of Ambrosia, and the band celebrated with a very busy touring schedule.
In 2002 the band recorded a live album Live at the Galaxy. Also, in 2003 Collectables Records released another compilation album, How Much I Feel and Other Hits. Several compilation albums and another live album have been released, though none officially from the band. In 2004, the band released a DVD called Ambrosia: Real Artists Working.
1976: Somewhere I've Never Travelled
1978: Life Beyond L.A.
1980: One Eighty
1982: Road Island
2002: Live at the Galaxy
2006: Ambrosia Live
Current membersFormer members
Joe Puerta — vocals, bass, guitar
Christopher North — keyboards (Hammond organ and Chamberlin), synthesizers, backing vocals
Burleigh Drummond — Drums, percussion, vocals, bassoon
Doug Jackson - guitars, backing vocals
Shem Von Shroeck - vocals, percussion, guitar, bass
David Cutler-Lewis - keyboards, synthesizers
David Pack — vocals, guitars, keyboards, synthesizers
Royce Jones — vocals, percussion
Bruce Hornsby - keyboards, synthesizers, backing vocals
Tollak Ollestad - vocals, keyboards, harmonica
Robert Berry - vocals, guitar
Ken Stacey - vocals, percussion
Rick Cowling - vocals, keyboards, guitar
City of Origin: Southern California
Band Formed: 1970
Genre(s): Progressive | Classic Rock | Pop
Joe Puerta-vocals, bass, guitar
Christopher North-keys,Hammond organ, synths, vocals
Burleigh Drummond-Drums, percussion, vocals
Doug Jackson-guitars, vocals
Shem Von Shroeck-vocals, percussion, guitar, bass
David Cutler-Lewis-synthesizers, key
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