DATE: October 13, 2013
LOCATION: Largo (Fla.) Cultural Center
With great harmonies and an energetic sound, Ambrosia -- one the most under-appreciated rock bands in America -- got a Largo Cultural Center crowd going right away and wowed the audience from start to finish.
Indeed, from the opening number (a minor 1975 hit, "Nice, Nice, Very Nice") through the encore finale (a pulsating rendition of The Animals' 1964 hit "I'm Crying"), the group demonstrated their continued enthusiasm for performing.
An obvious cohesion stems from the fact that three of the band's four original members -- Joe Puerta, Christopher North and Burleigh Drummond - are still performing with the modern-day touring group.
Needless to say, the biggest crowd enthusiasm was in reaction to performances of the group's major and most-familiar hits.
Three such songs -- "Biggest Part Of Me" (No. 3 on the Billboard pop charts in 1980), "You're The Only Woman" (No. 13, 1980) and "Holdin' On To Yesterday" (No. 17, 1975) -- demonstrated the vocal talents of Puerta and Rick Cowling, plus great work on the Hammond organ by North.
Drummond's masterful drumwork was always in evidence, as was Douglas Jackson's effectiveness on electric guitar, and Drummond's wife, Mary Harris, added a nice touch on keyboard and backup vocals.
An obvious crowd-pleaser was the performance of the band's first gold single ("How Much I Feel", No. 3, 1978), featuring the powerful vocals of Puerta and Cowling.
With Cowling singing lead, there was a well-received presentation of a Beatles standard ("Magical Mystery Tour"), which was a Top 40 charter for Ambrosia, when their rendition was used to open the 1977 film documentary "All This And World War II."
There were also several songs that will be part of an upcoming CD. Notable among these was "Hopes And Dreams", a song written by Puerta that truly fits the Ambrosia mold.
If there was a negative aspect to the concert, it was that the instruments often tended to supersede the vocalists, making some of the lyrics difficult to decipher.
Even so, such loudness didn't deter the audience's enthusiasm and support for a high-quality performance by an appreciable group. And standing ovations followed the last regular number and the aforementioned encore tune -- which also featured the evening's opening act, Twinkle -- which can be seen and heard by clicking here.
A little bit about the group Ambrosia
Ambrosia was formed in southern California in 1970, and they adopted San Pedro as their hometown. It was founded as a quartet with guitarist-vocalist David Pack, bassist-vocalist Joe Puerta, keyboardist Christopher North and drummer Burleigh Drummond. The group's name was chosen from World Book Encyclopedia for a word that meant "nectar of the gods" from Grecian mythology.
The group auditioned for Herb Alpert and A&M Records, but they weren't signed to that label. But eventually, they landed a contract with 20th Century Fox Records.
After disbanding in 1982, Ambrosia reunited with all four original members and began playing live shows again, at times expanding their touring ranks with additional musicians. The current touring members include:
- Joe Puerta: vocals, bass, guitar (1970-1982, 1989-present)
- Burleigh Drummond: drums, percussion, vocals, bassoon (1970-1982, 1989-present)
- Christopher North: keyboards, backing vocals (1970-1977, 1978-1982, 1989-present)
- Douglas Jackson: guitars, backing vocals (2001-present)
- Rick Cowling: vocals, keyboards, guitar (2009-present)
- Mary Harris: keyboards, backup vocals (on occasion, 2009-present)
- Alan Tilles: saxophone (on occasion, 2009-present)
Links to Ambrosia's Top 40 hits (click on title to hear song)
- "HOLDIN' ON TO YESTERDAY" (1975) ... original album cut
- "HOLDIN' ON TO YESTERDAY" ... live rendition on Aug. 18, 2012
- "MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR" (1977) ... original recording
- "MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR" ... live rendition on March 19, 2013
- "HOW MUCH I FEEL" (1978) ... original recording
- "BIGGEST PART OF ME" (1980) ... original recording
- "BIGGEST PART OF ME" ... live rendition on July 26, 2013
- "YOU'RE THE ONLY WOMAN" (1980) ... original rendition
To visit Ambrosia's Web site, click here.