It’s been described as one of the best symphonic rock albums of the 70’s, I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it’s not too far off the mark, circa 1976, Ambrosia were hovering in the same symphonic space as Kansas and Styx, but to be fair, their influences were mostly British.
Written by: gdmonline
ALBUM: Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled
LABEL: 20th Century Records
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: David Pack – lead vocals, guitars, string ensemble, rhodes ‘Danse With Me George’ * Joe Puerta – bass, backing vocals, guitar ‘Harvey’ * Christopher North – keyboards, piano, backing vocals * Burleigh Drummond – drums, percussion, bassoon, backing vocals
TRACK LISTING: 01 And.. * 02 Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled * 03 Cowboy Star * 04 Runnin’ Away * 05 Harvey * 06 I Wanna Know * 07 The Brunt * 08 Danse With Me George * 09 Can’t Let A Woman * 10 We Need You Too
WEBLINKS: Site Link
It’s been described as one of the best symphonic rock albums of the 70’s. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it’s not too far off the mark. However it is clear that circa 1976, Ambrosia were hovering in the same symphonic space as the likes of mainstays Kansas and Styx, but to be fair, their influences were mostly British.
Having Alan Parsons in their back pocket as producer certainly helped, as did having a talented keyboardist in Christopher North who really shines on this sophomore set. As Eric pointed out in his review of the debut, the first two Ambrosia albums are primetime progressive/symphonic classics, quite a lot different from their next releases which saw them settle in west coast/AOR territory.
The change in direction may have been at the behest of their new label at the time (Warner Bros) looking more for hit singles rather than peer appreciation. There are some neat pieces on ‘Somewhere..’, all typical of the time. Progressive pop, symphonic rock, baroque influences even, plus a nod toward the style of headmaster Parsons, and his Alan Parsons Project material.
The combination of David Pack’s lovely vocal, the aforementioned Christopher North and his wondrous keyboards, and a lilting set of arrangements that break out into a symphonic explosion from time to time make this an album well worth hearing. The duo of ‘And’ and the title track are segued into a close connection. Tight, cohesive, with interesting change up moments. Sounds like progressive rock 101 to me
‘Cowboy Star’ is perhaps the wierdest track on offer. Voiceover lyrics to start out with, ‘out on the range’ moments where you envisage the campfire under the moon, plus some baroque moments (harpischord), expansive cinematic like moments (like a highlights reel of cowboy TV shows), and a huge dramatic church organ surge at the end a la Vincent Price and Dr Phibes! On a good day, this could be Shooting Star at their most mesmeric! Perhaps not.. lol!
Keeping things mainly acoustic, ‘Runnin’ Away’ is a gentle glide through the Enchanted Forest, ‘Harvey’ also keeping to the acoustic road as well, though at a relative short 1 and half minutes. ‘I Wanna Know’ sees the emphasis on Joe Puerta’s funky bass lines, played out over an Alan Parsons Project like backdrop. ‘The Brunt’ comes across as a musical chameleon, the lead-in is subdued, but by half time, this track takes on a life of its own. Musicianship exemplified is how best I can describe it, it has more twists and turns circa the early 70’s era of Yes.
Christopher North gets to blitz the ivories on ‘Danse With Me George’, a cruisy number which is tipped on its head by some killer piano work from North. After all that excitement, we move forward into some pomp heavy moments on ‘Can’t Let A Woman’, perhaps a pre-cursory glimpse into Ambrosia’s future? I think so. The closer ‘We Need You Too’ drifts away on an ambient piano, before the launch button is pressed for all the symphonic salvos to be delivered before album’s end.
Certainly some fascinating moments can be found here, and if you can track this down on CD (it was reissued in 2000 by WB) then it could very well be a compulsory session under a set of headphones. The band departed 20th Century Records for the high-flying Warner Bros label, with their next set ‘Life Beyond L.A’ propelling them into the big-time, but moving away from the progressive/symphonic realm that initially introduced them to the world.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)