Ambrosia still rocks 40 years later


Ambrosia's self-titled debut LP
Ambrosia's self-titled debut LP

Ambrosia, I suppose it's an acquired taste. No it's not the apple or exotica fragrance. It's a rock band that dates back to the '70s and began as a prog/rock-type outfit similar to bands like Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Their initial album was self-titled and my favourite to date. It was experimental with one song co-written with author Kurt Vonnegut Jr, along with a spoken verse from Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky. Not to mention that the record was engineered by Alan Parsons, who also produced their second album "Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled".

They had a truly unique sound, which became much more mainstream in future records. If you don't remember their debut album, you will remember such hits as  “How Much I Feel, Biggest Part of Me" and “You’re the Only Woman". All the songs did well on radio, and collected their own audience, a thousand miles away from their experimental beginnings.

And now, 40 years later, Ambrosia performed last Friday (Feb. 14) at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga. It was the perfect venue for a band that shines both in the studio and live. The hall is intimate with great acoustics.

Along with original members bassist/vocalist Joe Puerta, organ/synthesizer Chris North, and drummer Burleigh Drummond, the band was rounded out by keyboardist Mary Harris, guitarist Doug Jackson, and guitarist/vocalist  Ken Stacey.

There's something special about veteran musicians who still obviously love what they do. There's just a natural flow to the show, a joy in the sound and a passion that comes through.

An example is "Nice, Nice, Very Nice" from their debut album. It is a technically-challenging song in the studio, and yet the band pulled it off live, with vocals shared by Joe Puerta and Ken Stacey.

The natural leader of the band is Puerta, who plays bass like a lead guitar and does his share of lead vocals. But the band is also fortunate to have vocalist Ken Stacey - a seasoned studio musician every bit as talented and passionate as original singer Joe Pack.

Ambrosia is also gifted to have a lineup where everyone shares in vocals which results in magical harmonies.  "Holdin' On To Yesterday" was a key example.

Not a band to stand on past glory, they also provided never-released songs. "Let Me Down Slow" will hopefully be on an upcoming CD, an easygoing groove that could easily gain radio play.

"I'm Crying" gave keyboardist Chris North a chance to growl on his Hammond keyboard - a true aging rocker with long hair and neon shirt.

The Mississauga show is their only current Canadian date. But do yourself a favour, next time they come to town, check out some truly inspiring musicians.

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