Burleigh Drummond - drums, vocals; Royce Jones - vocals; David Cutler Lewis - piano, synthesizer; Chris North - organ, vocals; David Pack - guitar, lead vocals; Joe Puerta - bass, lead vocals
Formed in 1970, the Southern California band Ambrosia was first recognized by Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Zubin Mehta, who featured them in part of his All-American Dream Concert the following year. Inspired by many of the progressive rock bands coming out of England in the early-1970s, the rich harmony arrangements of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and CSN&Y, as well as the soulful vocals of Motown, Ambrosia blended these elements into an original symphonic pop/rock with a slickly produced sound. By 1975, when they released their debut self-titled album, Ambrosia had developed a strong regional following enamored with their clear melodies, strong vocal arrangements, and polished sound that was both accessible and radio friendly. With some credit due to Alan Parsons, who engineered the debut album and produced the follow-up, the group displayed inventive musicianship and skillful arranging abilities. However, among Parson's polish was a distinct sense that this band was not taking itself too seriously and having a lot of fun, which translated well into their live performances. The group toured extensively throughout the latter half of the 1970s, supporting mega-popular bands like Fleetwood Mac and the Doobie Brothers.
By the time of the band's third album in 1978, Life Beyond L.A., the group had begun tightening up the arrangements and introducing more typical ballads that showcased the soulful vocals of David Pack. Ambrosia was clearly heading in a more mainstream pop direction. During the sessions for this album, the first to be produced without the help of Alan Parsons, founding member and organist Chris North departed, leaving the remaining trio of Pack, Puerta, and Drummond to carry on, augmented by hired guns, including the talented keyboardist and synthesizer player, David Cutler Lewis, who would soon become a full-time member of the touring band. After unsuccessfully searching for an additional organ player for the tour, Chris North returned to fill his own vacancy. Former Steely Dan vocalist, Royce Jones, fleshed out the elaborate vocal arrangements, completing the 1978 touring band. This performance, recorded at the Civic Auditorium in Albuquerque, New Mexico on the Life Beyond L.A. tour, captures this transitional era of the band perfectly and features a healthy dose of the material from the new album, a few of the most popular tracks from the debut, in addition to one of the more esoteric compositions from the band's second album.
Ambrosia's performance begins with "Not As You Were, a standout track from their Life Beyond L.A. album. The FM radio classic, "Nice, Nice, Very Nice," ventures back to the band's first album, with its Kurt Vonnegut-written lyric (lifted from the 53rd Calypso of Bokonon from his novel Cat's Cradle). Although the synthesizer sounds clearly date much of this music to the latter part of the 1970s, the material demonstrates the group's advanced melodic sensibilities and lush vocal harmonies, balanced by tasteful and tightly arranged instrumental work. Representing their 1976 album, Somewhere I've Never Traveled is a tight performance of "Can't Let A Woman" before they deliver the uncharacteristically romantic ballad, "How Much I Feel." Quite different from everything that preceded it, this emotionally evocative love song would become part of the soundtrack to countless high school make-out sessions and would soon sail up the charts. Undeniably catchy, but a far cry from the music that established their reputation, this song would unfortunately stigmatize Ambrosia as lightweights in the eyes of many longtime fans, while bringing them an entirely new adult contemporary audience. Regardless, this performance clearly displays that the group was as comfortable with romantic ballads as they were with progressive rock.
The centerpiece of this performance is "The Brunt," one of the most instrumentally ambitious tracks from Somewhere I've Never Traveled, which features an impressive drums and percussion solo. This set concludes with a double dose from the Life Beyond L.A. album, beginning with the driving title track, and the slower rocking "I Wanna Know," to conclude the performance.