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Articles Home » 1978 Articles » Ambrosia - 1978 Life Beyond LA
Ambrosia - 1978 Life Beyond LA

ARTIST: Ambrosia
ALBUM: Life Beyond LA
LABEL: Warner Bros
YEAR: 1978
CD REISSUE: 2000, Warner Bros, 9 26870-2


LINEUP: Joe Puerta - lead vocals, bass, guitar on 'Heart To Heart' David Pack - lead vocals, guitars, acoustic and electric keyboards Burleigh Drummond - drums, percussion, backing vocals

Other Musicians: Christopher North - piano on 'Camarillo', organ on 'If Heaven Could Find Me' and 'Camarillo' * Joe Sample - piano on 'Apothecary' and 'If Heaven Could Find Me ' * David Cutler Lewis - piano on 'Art Beware', rhodes and clavinet on 'Dancin By Myself', mini-solo on 'Not As You Were' * Cliff Woolley - harmonica on 'Art Beware' * Marty Krystall - sax on 'Dancin By Myself' * Daniel Kobialka - violin on 'Heart to Heart'

TRACK LISTING: 01 Life Beyond L.A * 02 Art Beware * 03 Apothecary * 04 If Heaven Could Find Me * 05 How Much I Feel * 06 Dancin' By Myself * 07 Angola * 08 Heart To Heart * 09 Not As You Were * 10 Ready For Camarillo


Fans of Ambrosia will recall this album with reverence, especially for those of us who recall 1978 vividly, and the music being played on radio at the time. This Californian band who presented us with two progressive rock outings in 1975 and 1976, continued on their merry way, but by 1978 they had also added distinctive commercial appeal to their arsenal. Listening to this album, you can kind of gauge where a band like Toto would draw some inspiration from. It is from this Americanized hybrid of west coast meets progressive rock that their sound would be forged. Certainly their first three albums would bow at the altar of Ambrosia, particularly this album, as it is a case of square peg meets square hole. All of Ambrosia's five studio albums offer something unique and different. With this one however, the band decided to set sail for the mainstream by producing 'Life Beyond L.A' themselves alongside Freddie Piro, and dispensing with the services of Alan Parsons, who engineered the debut and produced the second 'Somewhere I've Never Travelled'. In essence, this was the album that transform Ambrosia from bit-players to superstars.

The Songs
'Life Beyond L.A' is a track I've admired for ages. The synth sequence is kept through the opening section, and is embellished by Toto like piano parts and a stop/start arrangement. A great track!

'Art Beware' reflects on their past progressive efforts, with this sweeping but short airy interlude.

We then segue into 'Apothecary', which has more than a hint of jazz in it, but is still melodic and commercial. The Crusaders Joe Sample provides the piano tinkling on this.

'If Heaven Could Find Me' is the first of the radio oriented tracks here. The fantastic harmony vocals were always a feature with this band, and they are repeated here in all its glory.

The best known song here is the timeless ballad 'How Much I Feel'. It made it as high as #3 on the Billboard Charts. Still a regular on classic rock radio, it's place in the annals of soft rock ballads is locked away in perpetuity.

'Dancin' By Myself' is another of the radio friendly tunes onboard. The style hints at what would follow on their 1980 album 'One Eighty'. The boogie heavy flavour on the second chorus, bridge and solo sections reminded me so much of what Brothers Johnson were doing at the same.

'Angola' is a weird arrangement, with a reggae vibe and David Pack trying to sound like a native African - with unconvincing results.. well I think it's David! Did the band get some inspiration from 10cc's 'Dreadlock Holiday'? If so, it was ill-advised.. lol!

'Heart To Heart' is the acoustic diamond on the album. Joe Puerta really does shine on this song, the song just gently rolling along peacefully with orchestration providing the background elements.

One of my favourite tunes is the synth laden 'Not As You Were', complete with multi-part vocals, soaring synth leads and a pumping bass lines that keeps everyone upbeat. This is so unlike their past work, but in the context of the album, it's a welcome change in direction - from my perspective at least.

The closer 'Ready For Camarillo' has a darker tinge to it, but is no less compelling a listen. It's one of Joe's songs, and he has the knack of delivering us something mysterious and intriguing.

In Summary
Ambrosia have always struck me as a technically talented band with hooks into progressive styles first and foremost. The fact that they succeeded with a clutch of radio oriented pop songs was akin to selling your soul to the devil according to hard-core fans of the band. Admittedly, it was to their detriment because as their career took off, the very elements that hold the glue together for the band eventually began to come unstuck. They tried to revert back to their prog roots with 1982's 'Road Island' but by then it was a case of complete role reversal as fans of their poppier side couldn't understand why they would change the formula. Despite all the comings and goings of the band personnel, Ambrosia still exist in one shape or another, but for the definitive Ambrosia sound, 'Life Beyond L.A' is as good a place to start.

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#1 | reyno-roxx on July 03 2008 12:26:14
This and 'Road Island' rank as my favourite Ambrosia albums, although all of them are essential purchases.
'Life Beyond L.A.' is one of the greatest AOR tracks of all time. Man, that keyboard 'riff' at the start!
'Heart To Heart' is also one of the greatest ballads ever recorded.
#2 | rostoned on August 05 2008 18:30:17
Their highest charting album ever in the good ol US of A. Peaked at #19.
#3 | reyno-roxx on May 17 2013 21:23:32
Just received the 'Deluxe' 2CD version released by Friday Music in the post.

The packaging is, sadly, minimal and an 'interview' with Burleigh Drummond behind the CD tray consists of one paragraph of the liner notes. The booklet is only 4 pages and features full lyrics that can only be read with a magnifying glass (and I wear glasses!).

No Rock Candy style job here then, but, oh, the music. We all know how good the actual album, but the bonus live CD is exquisite.

Taken from a Warner Bros. Music Show taping from Cincinnati, Ohio on 11/15/1978 the band perform only four songs from the album itself, with the rest culled from the previous two releases. Prog Rock Heaven then!

Full track-listing for the live CD: Life Beyond L.A.; 'If Heaven Could Find Me'; 'Not As You Were'; 'How Much I Feel'; 'Somewhere I've Never Travelled'; 'Nice, Nice, Very Nice'; 'The Brunt'; 'Holdin' On To Yesterday'; 'Can't Let A Woman'; 'I Wanna Know'.
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