Ambrosia is one of the most talented and creative bands to emerge from the post-psychedelic Los Angeles music scene of the early 70s. It is unfortunate that they are under-rated and virtually unknown in progressive rock circles. Hopefully, you will be compelled to give them an honest try after reading this review.
Don’t be fooled by their Top 40 reputation in the early 80s. Ambrosia’s roots are firmly planted in peculiar soil, as their first album, the self-titled Ambrosia, clearly reveals. Released in the early winter of 1975, it was so incredibly engineered, mixed, and produced (with the assistance of Alan Parsons) that it was worthy of a Grammy nomination for Best Engineered Album! You will understand why after your first listen.
The first track, “Nice, Nice, Very Nice”, was influenced by author Kurt Vonnegut Jr., who had become good friends with the band. While the lyrics are amusing, it is the quirky music that will draw you in. A variety of odd instruments are used here, including an attempt at the bassoon by drummer Burleigh Drummond, but the next song has even more diversity. “Time Waits for No One”, inspired by T.S. Eliot and dedicated to renowned composer Leonard Bernstein, includes Javanese gongs and a Russian balalaika ensemble!
The following tune, “Holdin’ On to Yesterday”, might seem like a mushy love song to many new listeners, but once again, it is the quality of the music that sends you off into another plane of existence. Its haunting melody, soaring vocal harmonies, and beautiful violin will capture your soul. It was this song, a big hit on the radio, that first made me notice the band. I bought the LP because of it, and Ambrosia instantly became one of my favorite groups.
“World Leave Me Alone” is a feisty rocker that displays the amazing skill of guitarist David Pack. He is a gifted musician as well as a singer/songwriter, yet his talent on the strings has been unjustly overlooked. This song is followed by the dreamy, introspective “Make Us All Aware”, which includes contemplative lyrics and a lively interlude complete with harpsichord. The wistful mood carries through to the sensual, sultry “Lover Arrive”, a song that is sure to stir more than just your soul.
The next track is the highlight of the entire album! “Mama Frog” is a fantastic, mind-blowing journey that excites all the senses! Both the lyrics and the music reveal the creative genius that is Ambrosia. With a reference to Lewis Carroll, this song inspired me to read more classic literature at a young age (I was 13 when this album was released), and spurred my love for reading in general. I am an English Major because of this song! I also named my fan website after it.
The fun-house ride soon comes to an end, but you will not be disappointed in its follow-up. “Drink of Water” is an amazing song! If the music doesn’t give you chills, the lyrics certainly will. It’s a breathtaking ballad that showcases the unbelievable vocal talent of bass player Joe Puerta, whose voice is just as golden as Pack’s, if not more so. The song includes a pipe organ skillfully played by keyboardist Christopher North. I truly believe he belongs on the same level as Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, and Dennis DeYoung. His energy level is dazzling!
Thus ends the first album by an exceptional group of young men. Inspired by English bands such as Yes and Traffic, Ambrosia added their own spin and originality and emerged as a front runner on the American prog scene. I urge fans of all musical genres to listen just once to this incredible album. It’s a beautiful thing!
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