Old Love Rock
Long Bar hosts a blast from the past with Ambrosia, the former heartthrob, pop-rock band.
Thursday, August 5, 1999
The band has been around on and off for 28 years and was one of the hottest smooth pop-rock bands of the ''70s. Ambrosia''s self-titled debut album, released for 20th-Century Fox in 1975, was called a "masterpiece" by Billboard Magazine, and received a Grammy nomination for engineering excellence.
With five albums, numerous chart hits and 28 years of experience behind them, four of Ambrosia''s original members, namely Joe Puerta (bass/lead vocals), David Pack (guitar/lead vocals), Christopher North (keyboards) and Burleigh Drummond (drums/percussion) have recently embarked on a concert tour throughout the U.S., in support of their 1999 CD release, Anthology on Warner Brother Records (the band''s first album release since 1982). Now, where to start gushing?
With such a success-filled history that spans almost three decades, it is almost impossible to recount even a small amount of this band''s achievements and do it justice. Alan Parsons himself mixed their debut album and produced their second release, Somewhere I''ve Never Traveled (1976). In turn, Ambrosia''s four core members played on the first Alan Parsons Project album, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, which was recorded after Ambrosia''s debut release. David Pack also appears on APP''s album, Try Anything Once, where he co-wrote, played and sang two songs.
Coming back to 1999, Ambrosia was featured on VH-1''s "Where Are They Now," which started in March and will air throughout this year. The interview focuses mainly on Pack, partly due to conflicting schedules amd partly because the band wanted to do a sort of "Behind The Music" based on Pack''s becoming deaf in his left ear (due to a virus) while recording the band''s third release (which was also its debut album on Warner Bros. Records), Life Beyond L.A. (1978).
The band''s most successful release was 1980''s One Eighty, with the single "Biggest Part of Me" topping the charts both for Radio and Records. The final album, Road Island (1982) which was produced and engineered by James Guthrie (Pink Floyd''s Wall) marked the end of an era and found the band members going their separate ways and carving out individual careers.
Throughout the years, Ambrosia''s core has come back together to perform some of its magic that ranges from progressive to experimental, and from soulful ballads to driving rock ''n'' roll. Aside from old-time favorites, Anthology features new material for the first time in 18 years, and CD sales have long ago surpassed everyone''s expectations. Now it is time to taste some of that godly food, the performance that awaits you tonight will be awesome.
Ambrosia, Thursday, 9pm, Long Bar, 372-2244.
The beat goes on with the return of Vegas DeMilo. The five-piece ensemble, hailing from San Francisco, put on an excellent show at the Monterey Live Festival in June, and if you didn''t catch their act then, here''s another chance. The catchy alternative rock melodies are filled with just the right amount of cool hooks, spicy distortion and a hammering beat that will pull you from your boredom in no time. The lyrics, presented by Foster Calhoun (vocals/guitar) with a sometimes raspy, sometimes mournful voice, deal with the ever-popular questions about life and one''s own choices and fears about well, life. But VDM does more than just fit the bill, it simply fits into the niche of great versatile sound, that many other bands just fall short of. Last year''s debut album release, Before it Gets Old on Starving Cowboy Records is proof. This CD, a sort of "themed" 11-track journey through an interesting millennium-angst point of view keeps you listening on. Every song sounds and feels different from the previous one. A beautiful ballad may be followed by a piece of screaming rock and vice versa. VDM has been compared to the likes of Everclear, Jesus and Mary Chain, Guided By Voices and Superchunk. And yes, there is a certain ''80s feeling to their sound. But as it has been put quite well in the past, Vegas DeMilo sounds inspired not nostalgic, and that is one of the best compliments making a band stand out from the rest.
Vegas DeMilo, Saturday, 9pm, STARZ, 375-3056.
And then there is Five a.m., the rock ''n'' roll band with a certain twang you could categorize as Americana. The quintet is returning to the Blue Fin Caf by popular demand and, listening to their debut CD, Fade to Light (1997) once again, I can only agree that this is a band worth paying attention to. Formed in 1993, Five a.m. won the North Bay''s "Battle of the Bands" for 1997 and was voted one of Sonoma''s best bands by the Sonoma County Independent. And aside from a luscious sound that integrates the exotic dijereedoo, an ancient Australian wind instrument, and the rich versatile vocals of Trent Yaconelli and Robert Ethington, both of whom also play guitar and mandolin, what you get is one tightly woven song after the other.
Five a.m., Saturday, 9pm, Blue Fin Caf, 375-7000.
Let''s talk jazz for a moment. I just heard Penguin Jazz Quartet''s second CD, On Ice, and though I am no jazz connoisseur, I must admit that I found myself laying back, stretching out and actually relaxing while listening to some passionate beautiful music coming from the speaker. I''ve also seen them perform at Borders Books before and I watched an exceptionally large crowd sitting contentedly and relaxed as soothing notes filled the entire store. The San Francisco-based quartet knows jazz, no doubt, and will definitely give you a break from the rush of everyday life. Go check them out, they are definitely worth your time.
Penguin Jazz Quartet, Saturday, 8pm, Borders Books & Music, 899-6643.
Last but not least, if you''re in the mood for some funky dancing, catch a progressive rock/blues/funk/psychedelic performance at El Palomar Restaurant with Big Rain and Foamscape as part of the Summer Dance Series ''99.
Big Rain, Foamscape, Saturday, 9:30pm, El Palomar Restaurant, 372-1032.