The members of Ambrosia decided on the moniker 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 constituents of Ambrosia were reared in Southern California in the area known as The South Bay, later adopting San Pedro as their hometown. Their initial musical influences, like many of their generation, came from The Beach Boys and The Beatles. Ambrosia fused symphonic art rock with a slick produced pop sound.
According to Preston, an early incarnation of the band began to experiment with 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 friends, 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. Despite this early career break, however, it took them four additional years to obtain a recording contract.
The major influences on Ambrosia's music include Frank Zappa, The Allman Brothers, The Sons of Champlin, Yes, The Who, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Traffic, Pink Floyd and later, Genesis and Gentle Giant. Motown has influenced David Pack's singing and songwriting. Christopher North was classically trained, but is influenced by jazz and the blues. Burleigh Drummond had early training in stage acting, and Joe Puerta supposedly liked "anything that had a tone".
The group auditioned for Herb Alpert and A&M Records early on. The audition did not go well, but Alpert let the band do 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 classic "Nice, Nice, Very Nice." The latter was based on Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. The album was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Engineered Recording (other than Classical). According to Preston, 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. David Pack appears on the Alan Parsons Project album Try Anything Once (1993), co-writing, playing and providing vocals on three songs.
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, which quickly became an FM favorite and featured lush orchestration and vocal arrangements. 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 (Ambrosia, 1975).
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. Christopher North, with family obligations, left the group in 1977 during the album's recording. 1978 marked their biggest Pop breakthrough, scoring their first gold CHR hit, with "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, North returned and 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.
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