Ambrosia (band)

Ambrosia (band)

Infobox musical artist |
Name = Ambrosia

Img_capt =
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Background = group_or_band
Alias =
Origin = Los Angeles, California, USA
Genre = Rock, Pop, Progressive rock
Years_active = 1970-1982 1989-present
Label =
Current_members = David Pack Joe Puerta Christopher North Burleigh Drummond
Past_members = Royce Jones

Ambrosia is a musical group formed in the Los Angeles area during the early 1970s.

Band members

The core members of the band were:

*David Pack — guitar and lead vocals
*Joe Puerta — bass and vocals
*Christopher North — keyboards (primarily Hammond organ and Chamberlin)
*Burleigh Drummond — Drums and vocals

Formation and inspiration

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 slickly produced pop sound (J. Preston, n.d.).

According to Preston (n.d.), 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 progressive rock era, acquired a significant regional admiration for their inventive musicianship and skillful arranging. In 1971, Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Zubin Mehta, who featured Ambrosia as part of a so-called All-American Dream Concert, discovered the group. However, it took them four additional years to obtain a recording contract (Ambrosia, 2005).

The major influences on Ambrosia's music include: The Allman Brothers, The Sons of Champlin, Yes, The Who, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Traffic, Pink Floyd and later Genesis and Gentle Giant. On an individual basis, David Pack is a fan of Motown which is evident in his singing and song writing. Christopher North was classically trained, but is influenced by jazz and the blues. Burleigh Drummond had early training in stage acting, and Joe Puerta liked "anything that had a tone" (Preston, n.d.).


The first album, "Ambrosia", was released in 1975. It spawned the 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 (n.d.), 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 two 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 (Huey, 2006).

In 1978 "Life Beyond LA" 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, not happy with the change, 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 Pop Singles Chart. 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 (Sonboleh, 2002). 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.

1980s & Beyond

In 1980, Warner Bros. released "One Eighty", a smash LP that produced two of the year's biggest hits, "You're the Only Woman", reaching number thirteen, and "Biggest Part of Me", which reached number three. This album featured the two new members, Lewis & Jones, although Lewis had contributed keyboard work on the Life Beyond LA album. The LP earned the band three Grammy nominations, including Best Pop Vocal Group. A headlining world tour soon followed. 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 (Sonboleh, 2002). In actuality, it was so named because it was recorded in January of 1980 (1/80). They dedicated one of their songs to Sandie Clark, a mysterious woman as yet unknown.

In 1981, they performed the song "Poor Rich Boy" (written by Burt Bacharach) to the soundtrack of the movie Arthur, starring Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, and John Gielgud.

In 1982 Lewis briefly left the group to be replaced temporarily by one Bruce Hornsby, four years before his own rise to stardom. The same year, Ambrosia released their fifth and last 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. It also marked the end of an era for the band. Critics and fans alike poorly received it and in the wake of the album's disappointing performance, the band broke up, ending their run of chart success (Sonboleh, 2002).

After Ambrosia, David Pack pursued a solo career and produced or worked with many top artists. Pack's 1985 solo album "Anywhere You Go" spawned the song "Prove Me Wrong," which also appeared on the soundtrack of the 1985 film "White Nights" starring Gregory Hines & Mikhail Baryshnikov. Joe Puerta became a founding member of Bruce Hornsby and the Range. 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: Tollak Ollestad (vocals, keyboards, harmonica) and Shem Von Schroeck (vocals, percussion, bass, guitar).

In 1995 the band began to expand their annual touring schedule. Pack had a conflict and John DeFaria filled in for him. Bernie Chiaravalle stepped in in the summer of 1997 and Mike Kenneally did the honors in 1998 & 2000 for the concerts Pack was not able to play. Brian Stiemke subbed for an ill Drummond for a few shows in 1997. In 2001 when Pack's schedule grew way too busy, he was forced to bow out altogether and was replaced by Doug Jackson, who had filled in for him for some shows the previous year.Shem had scheduling conflicts himself and Ricky Cosentino filled in for him in 1998 & 2000. Shem then left in 2003 to join Kenny Loggins' band. Robert Berry (vocals, guitars), formerly of 3 and GTR, joined in 2004 and Ken Stacey jumped in in 2005 before Shem returned in 2007. Tollak Ollestad split in 2005 to concentrate on a solo career paving the way for David Cutler-Lewis' return.

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 that reaped box office success (Ambrosia, 2005).

In 2002 the band recorded a live album (without David Pack), "Live At The Galaxy", and released a best-of album with the tracks remastered, titled "The Essentials", which includes a broad spectrum of their music. In 2004, they released yet another best-of album titled "How Much I Feel And Other Hits", which contains mainly ballads. There have been no new albums since 1982, but they have written and performed new material, so a CD of all-new songs is a possibility (Preston, n.d.). The band has recently been talking about doing another album of original music; In the meantime, David Pack recently released a solo project which features collaborations with Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles and former Journey vocalist Steve Perry, among others.



*Ambrosia discography, MP3 and reviews. (2005). Retrieved September 7, 2006, Prog archives Web site:
*Huey, S. (2006). Retrieved September 6, 2006, from Ambrosia biography on Yahoo! music Web site:
*Preston, J. (n.d.). The Ambrosia page. Retrieved September 7, 2006, from Inertron Web site:
*Sonboleh, R. (2002). Earthtone music, Ambrosia. Retrieved September 8, 2006, from Earthtone music Web site:

External links

* [ Ambrosia]

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