Ambrosia (band)

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Ambrosia in concert on May 24, 2014
Ambrosia in concert on May 24, 2014
Background information
OriginLos Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1970–1982, 1989–present
Associated actsThe Alan Parsons Project
MembersJoe Puerta
Burleigh Drummond
Christopher North
Doug Jackson
Ken Stacey
Mary Harris
Past membersDavid Pack
Rick Cowling
David C. Lewis
Royce Jones
Bruce Hornsby
Cliff Woolley
Tollak Ollestad
Shem von Schroeck
Robert Berry

Ambrosia is an American rock band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1970. Ambrosia had five Top 40 hit singles released between 1975 and 1980, including the Top 5 hits "How Much I Feel" and "Biggest Part of Me", and top 20 hits "You're the Only Woman (You & I)" and "Holdin' on to Yesterday". Most of the original band members have been active with the group continuously for well over 25 years to the present day.

Ambrosia currently tours internationally and has worked in the past and present with Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Alan Parsons, Bruce Hornsby, Bill Champlin, Michael McDonald and Peter Beckett among other notable artists.[1] In 2015 the group released a new single, and plans to release an album of all-new material.

Formation[edit source | edit]

The group was founded as a quartet with guitarist/vocalist David Pack, bassist/vocalist Joe Puerta, keyboardist Christopher North and drummer Burleigh Drummond.[2] They chose the name Ambrosia in 1970 to represent a vision of their music: all shades, textures, colors and styles.[citation needed] While Ambrosia had several radio hits in the 1970s, much of the material on their five albums is progressive in nature.

The founding constituents of Ambrosia were reared in Southern California's 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,[3] resulting in a "melodic prog" style.

Early on, the band was infatuated with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and began to experiment with vocal harmonies.[3] After the group attended a show at the Whisky a Go-Go in December 1969 to see an unknown but highly recommended new band called King Crimson, their perception of music was changed.[citation needed]

The musicians, inspired by the music and artists of the progressive rock era, acquired a significant regional admiration. In 1971 a friend 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. Gordon Parry, the head engineer in charge at the Bowl, was so impressed with the group that he invited them back to attend performances by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He introduced them to conductor Zubin Mehta, who featured Ambrosia as part of a so-called All-American Dream Concert.

Rise to Fame[edit source | edit]

Ambrosia auditioned for Herb Alpert and A&M Records early in their history, but were signed by 20th Century Fox Records, who would release two albums by the group.

The first album, Ambrosia, produced by Freddie Piro, was released in February 1975. It spawned the Top 20 chart single "Holdin' On to Yesterday" as well as the minor hit "Nice, Nice, Very Nice." The latter sets to music the lyrics to a poem in Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. The album was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Engineered Recording (other than Classical). Alan Parsons was the engineer for Ambrosia's first album and the producer for their second.[3] 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 later appeared on the Alan Parsons album Try Anything Once (1993), co-writing, playing and providing vocals on three songs.

Ambrosia backstage in the 1970s. L to R: David Pack, Joe Puerta, Burleigh Drummond, Christopher North

After lengthy touring, the band returned in September 1976 with Somewhere I've Never Travelled. The album yielded the title song and the single "Can't Let a Woman", which both became FM favorites, both featuring lush orchestration and vocal arrangements. The record sleeve folded into a large pyramid. Somewhere I've Never Travelled received a Grammy nomination and set the stage for the band's signing to Warner Bros. Records.

In 1976 the group recorded The Beatles song "Magical Mystery Tour" for the transitory musical documentary All This and World War II (November 1976). The film's soundtrack consisted of different artists providing arrangements of Beatles songs. Their version of "Magical Mystery Tour" scored a Top 40 hit and has since been a staple of their live shows.[4]

In August 1978 Life Beyond L.A. was released. It marked a move away from their lush arrangements and introduced a more raw, aggressive jazz/r&b influence. Christopher North, who had family obligations and was not totally happy with the group's shift away from the sound of the first two albums, left the group in 1977 during the album's recording.

The year 1978 marked their biggest pop breakthrough with their first Gold single "How Much I Feel" from the album, which was a No. 3 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Warner Bros advertised the title cut for radio and Life Beyond L.A. started to get significant airplay on radio stations a few months after the album's release. Extensive touring with Fleetwood Mac, Heart, and the Doobie Brothers, in addition to major headlining shows, cemented Ambrosia's reputation as a live act.[5] For the '78 touring band, North returned and the group added a second keyboardist, David C. Lewis, as well as an additional singer Royce Jones.[6]

In April 1980 Warner Bros. released One Eighty, which produced two of the year's biggest hits. The first, "Biggest Part of Me", reached number three for three weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and crossed over to the soul chart, where it peaked at number thirty-five.[7] The second, another blue-eyed soul hit, "You're the Only Woman (You & I)", reached No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. One Eighty earned the band three Grammy nominations, including Best Pop Vocal Group. A headlining world tour followed. For the Japanese leg of the tour, the group was joined by their longtime friend Cliff Woolley (formerly of The Association, who had also guested on Life Beyond L.A.) on guitar, harmonica and backup vocals.

The title of the album One Eighty was believed by fans to signal the group's "180-degree" change in direction.[5] The fans were correct; the album was named by Ambrosia's technician,[8]Robert "Omaha" Toth, for the very reasons the fans believe. They dedicated one of their songs to Sandie Clark.

Also in 1980, the band contributed the song "Outside" to the movie Inside Moves and "Feels So Good to Win" appeared in the film Coast to Coast later that same year. The following year they placed another track, "Poor Rich Boy" (written by Burt Bacharach), on the soundtrack of the movie Arthur.

In 1982 David C. Lewis briefly left the touring group to be replaced by Bruce Hornsby, four years before his own rise to stardom. The same year, Ambrosia released their fifth and final studio album, Road Island (May 1982[9]), their first effort without the assistance of Freddie Piro's production company. Produced by James Guthrie, the album consisted of intense, driving hard rock (outside of the soft ballad "Feeling Alive Again" and the progressive rock closer "Endings"). Though it scored a minor hit with "How Can You Love Me", the album was a commercial disappointment. The band broke up afterwards, ending their run of chart success.[5]

Later Years[edit source | edit]

After Ambrosia, David Pack pursued a solo career and produced or worked with many top artists. Pack's 1985 solo album, Anywhere You Go, included the song "Prove Me Wrong," which also appeared on the soundtrack of the 1985 film White Nights. 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 touring ranks once again with Tollak Ollestad (vocals, keyboards, harmonica) and Shem von Schroeck (vocals, percussion, bass, guitar).

In 1995, the band expanded their annual touring schedule. Pack had a conflict and guitarist John DeFaria filled in for him. Bernie Chiaravalle likewise stepped in the summer of 1997 and Mike Keneally did the honors in 1998 and 2000 for the concerts Pack was unable to play. Brian Stiemke subbed for an ill Burleigh Drummond for a few shows in 1997.

In May 1997 Warner Bros. released Ambrosia's greatest hits CD, Anthology, which contained tracks from all five albums plus three new tracks. In addition to Anthology, the entire Ambrosia catalog was remastered and released on CD.

The band launched a 30th anniversary tour in 2000. Early the following year, it was announced that Pack had permanently left the band and he was replaced by Doug Jackson, who had filled in for him for some shows the previous year. Pack's final show with the band was on November 4, 2000 in Chandler, Arizona. Jackson was in place on guitar for their 2001 shows, except for one gig at Stone Mountain Park in Georgia on August 25, where Steve Farris (from Mr. Mister) subbed for him.

Ricky Cosentino filled in for Shem for some concerts in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2003. Shem then left in 2003 to join Kenny Loggins' band. Robert Berry (vocals, guitars), formerly of 3 and GTR, joined temporarily in 2004-2005, and singer/guitarist Ken Stacey became a member in 2005. Shem then returned and he & Stacey alternated with the group for a while.

Tollak Ollestad left in late 2004 to concentrate on a solo career and relocate to the Netherlands where he has had success. David C. Lewis then returned, after having substituted for Tollak on some 1999 and 2003 gigs. But Tollak remained on call to sub for various band members and came back to play with Ambrosia's spring 2009 tour in place of Lewis & Shem.

Later in 2009, Rick Cowling (formerly with Kenny Loggins) came in on vocals, guitar and keyboards, though Tollak still appeared with the band from time to time, most recently in 2010 when Doug Jackson was out playing guitar for Gary Wright and Tollak handled keys once again while Cowling moved over to lead guitar until Jackson's return later in the year.

Current Era[edit source | edit]

Ambrosia between sets at an outdoor concert in Agoura Hills, California on August 3, 2014. L to R: Joe Puerta, Ken Stacey, Mary Harris, Christopher North, Doug Jackson, Burleigh Drummond

Ambrosia appeared on the May 2, 2011 episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon as part of the host's "Yacht Rock 2k11" theme show, performing "Biggest Part of Me" (during the show) and "How Much I Feel" (after the formal taping, but put up on the Fallon website.)

Since 2012, Burleigh Drummond's wife Mary Harris, after filling in on a show or two since 2000, has become a permanent band member on keyboards and vocals. Harris is also a vocal arranger and songwriter, who has co-written new material for Ambrosia performed onstage. She has previously worked in varied capacities with Pink Floyd, XTC, Stanley Clarke and for many years with Jimmy Buffett.

Ken Stacey rejoined in 2014 after Rick Cowling departed. Ambrosia's current six-person lineup has been stable since that time, and the group continues to tour, sometimes combining their talents with other artists including Bill Champlin, Peter Beckett, Michael McDonald, Edgar Winter, Dave Mason, Gary Wright, Al Stewart and others. Ambrosia's live performances showcase both their legacy hit material and more recent songs. Ambrosia continues to feature a majority of the band's founding members, with Puerta, Drummond and North onstage, as they have been for the past twenty five years.

Live and alumni albums[edit source | edit]

On September 1, 2001 the band recorded a live album at the Galaxy Theater in Santa Ana, California without David Pack. This album, Live, was released in May 2002. 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. Ambrosia has written and performed new material, and an album of all new original material is currently being recorded, their first since 1982.

David Pack released two 2005 solo projects: Unborn, a compilation of older unreleased material, and the more up-to-date The Secret of Movin' On featuring collaborations with Timothy B. Schmit of Eagles fame, former Journey vocalist Steve Perry, Heart vocalist Ann Wilson and America co-founder Dewey Bunnell amongst others. Both albums follow in Pack's later era style of smooth pop-rock.

Member solo projects[edit source | edit]

Several members have established careers outside of Ambrosia.

  • Joe Puerta has started a studio near his suburban Milwaukee home, The Exchange, where he's produced several artists including Les Lokey, Big Nick & the Cydecos, Alaria Taylor and The Good Luck Joes.
  • Burleigh Drummond drummed for roots CCM supergroup Lost Dogs for several albums. He and Mary Harris co-founded their own group, Tin Drum, which has released three albums to date. Tin Drum also become a production company with such varied artists on their roster as bluesman Mighty Mo Rodgers and kids-oriented gospel act Kingdom Bound.
  • Doug Jackson released his second solo album in 2016.[10]
  • David Pack joined childhood friend and former bandmate Fred Beato to form Beato Band.[11]

Discography[edit source | edit]

Studio albums[edit source | edit]

Band members[edit source | edit]

Timeline[edit source | edit]

<timeline> ImageSize = width:800 height:auto barincrement:23 PlotArea = left:120 bottom:100 top:10 right:10 Alignbars = justify DateFormat = dd/mm/yyyy Period = from:01/01/1970 till:11/05/2021 TimeAxis = orientation:horizontal format:yyyy Legend = orientation:vertical position:bottom columns:1 ScaleMajor = increment:5 start:1970 ScaleMinor = increment:1 start:1970

Colors =

id:vocals   value:red       legend:Lead_and_backing_vocals
id:v  value:pink       legend:Backing_vocals
id:guitar   value:green     legend:Guitar
id:keys     value:purple    legend:Keyboards
id:bass     value:blue      legend:Bass_guitar
id:drums    value:orange    legend:Drums
id:perc     value:claret    legend:Percussion
id:studio   value:black     legend:Studio_album

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layer:back color:studio

BarData =

bar:RB text:"Robert Berry"
bar:KS text:"Ken Stacey"
bar:RC text:"Rick Cowling"
bar:DP text:"David Pack"
bar:DJ text:"Doug Jackson"
bar:CN text:"Christopher North"
bar:DL text:"David C. Lewis"
bar:BH text:"Bruce Hornsby"
bar:TO text:"Tollak Ollestad"
bar:MH text:"Mary Harris"
bar:JP text:"Joe Puerta"
bar:BD text:"Burleigh Drummond"
bar:RJ text:"Royce Jones"
bar:SS text:"Shem von Schroeck"

PlotData =

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bar:DP from:start till:01/08/1982 color:vocals width:3
bar:DP from:start till:01/08/1982 color:keys width:7
bar:DP from:01/06/1989 till:04/11/2000 color:guitar width:13
bar:DP from:01/06/1989 till:04/11/2000 color:vocals width:3
bar:CN from:start till:01/10/1977 color:keys width:13
bar:CN from:01/06/1989 till:end color:keys width:13
bar:CN from:01/01/1979 till:01/08/1982 color:keys width:13
bar:JP from:start till:01/08/1982 color:bass width:13
bar:JP from:01/10/1977 till:01/12/1978 color:keys width:7
bar:JP from:start till:01/08/1982 color:vocals width:3
bar:JP from:01/06/1989 till:end color:vocals width:3
bar:JP from:01/06/1989 till:end color:bass width:13
bar:BD from:start till:01/08/1982 color:drums width:13
bar:BD from:start till:01/12/1978 color:perc width:7
bar:BD from:start TILL:01/08/1982 color:v width:3
bar:BD from:01/06/1989 till:end color:drums width:13
bar:BD from:01/01/2009 till:end color:perc width:7
bar:BD from:01/06/1989 till:end color:v width:3
bar:RJ from:01/01/1979 till:01/08/1982 color:vocals width:3
bar:RJ from:01/01/1979 till:01/08/1982 color:perc width:13

bar:DL from:01/01/1979 till:01/06/1981 color:keys width:13
bar:DL from:01/02/2005 till:01/01/2009 color:keys width:13
bar:BH from:01/06/1981 till:01/08/1982 color:keys width:13
bar:TO from:01/06/1989 till:01/11/2004 color:keys width:13
bar:TO from:01/06/1989 till:01/11/2004 color:v width:3
bar:SS from:01/06/1989 till:01/01/2009 color:perc width:13
bar:SS from:01/06/1989 till:01/01/2009 color:v width:3
bar:SS from:01/06/1989 till:01/01/2009 color:guitar width:7
bar:DJ from:04/11/2000 till:end color:guitar width:13
bar:RB from:04/11/2001 till:01/02/2005 color:guitar width:3
bar:RB from:04/11/2001 till:01/02/2005 color:vocals width:13
bar:KS from:01/02/2005 till:01/01/2009 color:vocals width:13
bar:KS from:01/02/2005 till:01/01/2009 color:guitar width:3
bar:KS from:01/12/2013 till:end        color:vocals width:13
bar:KS From:01/12/2013 till:end        color:guitar width:3
bar:RC from:01/01/2009 till:01/12/2013 color:vocals width:13
bar:MH from:01/03/2012 till:end color:keys width:13
  bar:MH from:01/03/2012 till:end color:v width:3


References[edit source | edit]

  1. "Billboard Chart". Retrieved July 20, 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. Steve Huey. "Ambrosia". AllMusic. Retrieved February 23, 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Preston, J. (n.d.). The Ambrosia page. Archived August 27, 2006, at the Wayback Machine (retrieved September 7, 2006)
  4. Steve Huey, Ambrosia Biography, from Yahoo! Music,
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Sonboleh, R. (2002). Earthtone music, Ambrosia. Archived April 12, 2018, at the Wayback Machine (retrieved September 6, 2006).
  6. Rossi, Patrick; Lewis, David Cutler. "Access All Areas". Archived from the original on July 7, 2011. Retrieved May 22, 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 29. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. Robert Toth Electronics Engineer
  9. "Billboard". Nielsen Business Media, Inc. May 15, 1982. Retrieved August 9, 2018 – via Google Books. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. "♫ The Performance - Doug Jackson. Listen @cdbaby". Retrieved April 20, 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. "Beato Band". Fred Beato and David Pack.

12.| Ambrosia Band Top Brnd Biography Some Music detail

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