Ambrosia : Ambrosia
(20th Century Fox - 1975)
Category : overlooked
Four American musicians who played on the debut album of The Alan Parsons Project were also active as this band called Ambrosia. Alan Parsons engineered Ambrosia's debut album and produced their second.
Ambrosia's first album may well be the best Progressive Rock album I have ever heard. They managed to mix the best elements of the genre at exactly the right amounts to come up with what to me constitutes the perfect Prog album. It's varied, inventive and complex enough, but accessible as well, thanks to the subtle pop influences, the melodic vocal arrangements and the slick production.
Masterpieces like 'Nice, nice, very nice' (this one especially is highly recommended) and 'Holdin' on to yesterday' are essentially Progressive Soft Rock (sometimes enhanced by a small dose of Smooth Jazz), and a pleasing, almost soothing and at the same time engaging listening experience. 'Time Waits for No One' is an explosion of melodies and a showcase of their excellent technical abilities as musicians as well as composers. The medieval guitar melodies, the Flamenco hand claps and the mandolins are all nice touches that only add to the adventurous character of the song. But the most remarkable song of the album probably is the slightly weird and wacky 'Mama Frog', a Jazzy composition with a threatening sounding spoken middle part (a poem about the Jabberwocky), followed by a chaotic sounding Free Jazz bit and some crazy laughter at the end.
There are more songs on the album, and only 'Drink of Water' is of slightly lesser quality, but not enough so to take away the five star rating I feel 'Ambrosia' deserves, since the rest of the material is so strong.
Footnote: Their following album 'Somewhere I've never travelled' sounded similar to 'Ambrosia'. While it was still a very good album, I found it to be a bit more pompous, and just that little bit less fresh sounding. But it's only after that that Ambrosia's sound really started to change. 'Life Beyond LA' was a transitional album towards a style that became increasingly lighter on the Progressive side and more commercial, as evidenced by their fourth and most succesful album 'One Eighty'. While these later albums weren't bad persé (after all, these were still the same composers) , I found them to be a lot less interesting. More something for fans of Air Supply really.