In the summer of 1975 I was in college majoring in music and having discovered progressive rock a couple of years earlier I was firmly entrenched in the mostly European phenomenon. I was in awe to see groups like Yes, Genesis and Gentle Giant combining rock influences with classical music structures to create this rich new musical landscape that was to be the heart of my musical journey that has lasted nearly 40 years. Outside of Kansas, America was virtually unrepresented in the genre at that time, a fact that I found somewhat disturbing. But then acting on the recommendation of a high school marching band member that rode on the school bus I drove, I bought a new album simply entitled Ambrosia.
And there it was, an American band, strike that, a band from the South Bay, had created a prog masterpiece. It was fresh, lyrically interesting, musically adventuresome, and harmonically exciting. But besides these typical prog traits, there were beautiful harmonious voices applied with soul and a hint of pop. David Pack, Joe Puerta, Christopher North and Burleigh Drummond became my new heroes and one of my top 5 favorite bands of all time.
As the years moved on and the band got more and more recognition, they started favoring the pop side (driven by financial rewards I suspect) and ended up garnering 5 Grammy nominations. But even as they became pop icons, in each album you could always find some songs that harkened back to their progressive beginnings.
Ever since CalProg started in 2004, they have been on our radar as a possible act. We even went so far as to take members of the CP Exec Staff on a scouting mission to one of their live shows in San Pedro. It was an odd night, the crowd filled mostly with what appeared to be longshoremen, and bands like Titanic Johnson and The Zombies shared the bill. A fist fight even broke out in the lobby during one of the band's sets, which did it's part to mar the event for us. Ambrosia SOUNDED great, but they played all their pop hits and barely touched on the prog gems we were hoping to hear. We feared they had permanently gone to the dark side and so did not pursue them any further. But then the following year they were booked to do a prog set at ROSfest and by all accounts they brought the house down. (many thanks to Iggy for having that insight!)
Last year I got in touch with Burleigh (the drummer) and we started discussing ways to combine forces to present Ambrosia as a prog band. And when booking this year's festival it seemed the time was right to bring my long time heroes to the CalProg stage. "We are so excited to be able to return to our progressive roots and do an all prog show here in southern California" says Drummond. "This is gonna be great!"
So it is with great excitement that we welcome this band who has collaborated with the likes of Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Vonnegut Junior and Alan Parsons to the CalProg stage to share their classic prog catalog with us.