Monday, October 14, 2019

Weird Wild Stuff: Ambrosia Trades Yacht Rock For Prog On Career-Killing 'Road Island'!

Though we have never quite been able to put the name with the song, so to speak, I suspect many reading this are deeply familiar with the music of Ambrosia whether we know it or not.

Hell, most of us can probably sing such soft-pop radio staples "You're The Only Woman", "How Much I Feel" or "Biggest Part of Me" at Karaoke Night without even glancing at the lyrics because, long before Toto came along and stole all their thunder, Ambrosia were THE consummate radio band that you'd have bet money was comprised solely of L.A. session guys.

For as much of a stranglehold as Ambrosia had on that smooth '70s west coast soft-pop sound, the band successfully resisted becoming overly reliant upon a winning pop formula. Instead, by the early '80s, this San Pedro-based band was looking to change things up a bit.

And by "a bit", we mean "a LOT".

Keep in mind that, for a band like Ambrosia, "changing it up a bit" could have meant anything - coming up with a new logo or hiring a new keyboardist, for example - but nobody could have foreseen Road Island.

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when the band turned in the album's final mix to their label. You can almost hear the sweat dripping down the necks of Warner Brothers' A&R department as "For Openers - Welcome Home" strays into metal territory

"Still Not Satisfied" should have been immediately farmed out to Michael McDonald, for whom it would have been a monster hit. David Pack's vocals, while adequate, fall just a tad short in capturing that reedy radio-ready sheen that McDonald's vocals had in spades.

Ten seconds into "Kid No More", one imagines Lenny Waronker taking a sledgehammer to the tape deck and chuckling "Okay guys, very funny. Where's the real album?"

Amazingly, the label would sign off on the commissioning of artist Ralph Steadman for the album's cover art, complete with marijuana leaf.

Despite metal and prog making serious advances towards mainstream acceptance that year, thanks in part to albums by Judas Priest (Screaming for Vengeance), Scorpions (Blackout) and Asia (their platinum self-titled debut), it would seem that Road Island could and should have done a little more than end the band's recording career.

While one can understand why the riveting 7-minute centerpiece "Ice Age" didn't get released as a single, it remains a mystery as to why "How Can You Love Me" failed to breeze into the Top 40 based on the band's previous credentials and the fact that it fell squarely into the same sonic territory as Christopher Cross's genre-defining debut album, which was still pulling down massive radio spins.

Sadly, rather than lick their wounds and deliver an album of predictable wind-blown California soft pop, the band chose instead to call it a day.

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