Rock band Ambrosia will show its many colors in Park City
Ambrosia will play at 8 p.m. from Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 23-25, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Thursday tickets range from $29 to $45. Friday and Saturday tickets range from $35 to $55. For information, visit www.parkcityshows.com.
When Ambrosia plays its three-night Park City run Aug. 23 to Aug. 25 at the Egyptian Theatre, fans can expect to hear its hits from the 1970s, “How Much I Feel” and “Biggest Part of Me,” said bassist Joe Puerta.
“The show is primarily a retrospective show, but we have a wide variety of music, because we’re a band that isn’t stuck in a single mold,” Puerta said. “Early on, people thought of us as the American answer to the English prog-rock bands like Yes and King Crimson.”
One of the reasons for this was because Ambrosia recruited rockstar producer Alan Parsons, who is known for his work with The Beatles, Pink Floyd and his eponymous band, The Alan Parsons Project, to mix its self-titled debut.
“Alan is considered one of the greatest music engineers of the history of rock music, and he mixed our first album and produced and mixed our second album,” Puerta said.
Ambrosia’s first single, “Holdin’ On to Yesterday,” which peaked at No. 13 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in 1975, had a mystical progressive sound that was the result of many influences, according to Puerta.
“It actually started out as a country-rock song in the same vein as Crosby, Stills & Nash,” he said. “Our drummer Burleigh (Drummond) suggested we bring in a bluesy element to the songs and we took right to it, because we all had strong rhythm and blues leanings. Then we had Alan mix it and it became something totally different.”
Today Puerta, Drummond and keyboardist Christopher North, all original Ambrosia members, have teamed with guitarist Doug Jackson, keyboardist Mary Harris and acoustic guitarist Ken Stacey to keep the Ambrosia catalog alive, which started nearly a half century ago in the South Bay region of the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
“The idea back then was to put together, in our own little way, the best and innovative players we could,” Puerta said. “The goal was to be the next Beatles, but we didn’t make it. Instead, it came down to us finding chemistry, personalities and musical backgrounds that created our sound.”
Puerta clarified that he, Drummond and North haven’t played continuously as Ambrosia throughout the 48 years.
“I did take a break, and played with Bruce Hornsby and The Range for seven years,” Puerta said. Hornsby, incidentally, just played in Park City on Thursday.
Puerta said Ambrosia will pay tribute to his time in Hornsby’s band by playing a song or two from that era.
“It’s a fun little thing we can do, because Bruce is an incredible and versatile musician,” Puerta said.
In addition to Hornsby, Puerta and his Ambrosia bandmates have had opportunities to perform with other renowned “Yacht Rock” singers and songwriters including Robbie Dupree, Peter Beckett from Player and Stephen Bishop of Bread, according to Puerta.
Yacht Rock is a genre formerly known as the “West Coast Sound” or “Adult-Oriented Rock.”
“We actually do five or six shows a year called Ambrosia and Friends when we play with these guys,” Puerta said. “The thing that has helped reinvigorate the band is (SiriusXM) radio. There is the Yacht Rock channel that plays the heck out of our catalog and of our friends.”
Ambrosia also maintains close ties to The Doobie Brothers and its former lead singer Michael McDonald, who were signed with Warner Bros. Records during the late 1970s.
“When they were at the height of their career, we opened for them in the big arenas, and became like brothers,” Puerta said. “To this day, we still perform with Michael, and we recently did a cruise where we were Michael’s band. That was a thrill for us.”
Other people’s music aside, Puerta said that Ambrosia fans continue to tell him how much the band’s music means to them.
“It’s sometimes hard to realize how much these songs have been a part of people’s lives, but there is no doubt that the songs have had an impact on our fans’ psyche,” he said.
Puerta pointed to some of Ambrosia’s “romantic hits.”
“When we play the songs, we can see people processing the experiences they had with these songs,” he said with a laugh. “They’re remembering when they were in the backseats of cars and things like that. We joke about that during the show.”
The bass isn’t known for being a romantic instrument, but Puerta objects to that perception.
“I think it’s really the most underappreciated instrument out there, and you have to think differently to play it,” he said. “When you listen to records and you really focus on the bass parts, you can hear how it can settle a groove and serve as the glue that bonds the melodies and the harmonies at the same time.”
Puerta’s influences include Motown bassists James Jamerson and Carol Kaye, The Beatles’ Paul McCartney, Yes founder Chris Squier and the late jazz phenom Jaco Pastorius.
“Carol wasn’t always given credit, but she and James played some amazing parts on the Motown records,” Puerta said. “Of course Paul came along and took the bass to a new level of melodicism. Chris plugged in a more aggressive sound, while Jaco redefined jazz bass playing.”
Looking back on his career, Puerta said he is thankful for the opportunities music has given him.
“What other job is there when, at the end of the day, you get people to stand up and cheer,” he said. “I’ve never had a regular job. I always made my money by playing music, whether it was at Fort MacArthur at San Pedro at the noncommissioned officers club or a lesbian bar in North Hollywood while we were making our first album. I mean, there are not a lot of people who say they are going to ‘play’ when they go to work.”
Summit County gardeners can purchase local-climate friendly plants and seeds to grow this season