One Eighty

by: Ambrosia

When Life Beyond L.A. became their biggest hit to date on the strength of smooth AOR like "How Much I Feel," Ambrosia decided to continue in this direction on One Eighty. It became their most successful album but lacks the ambition or inspiration that infused their first two albums. The prog rock style that characterized the group's early work is almost completely gone: The only real progressive cut is "Kamikaze," which attempts to create a stylized blend of prog rock and traditional Japanese music but comes off as stilted and awkward. The rest of the album's songs are either pop/rock tunes or ballads. Rockers like "Ready" go for an ambitious blend of radio-friendly rock and new wave elements, but sound too forced to be convincing. The ballads are the album's redeeming feature. They are all lovingly crafted and boast strong, often complex melodies that keep them from getting too sappy or sentimental: "You're the Only Woman" is a keyboard-rich song that highlights Christopher North's soulful Hammond organ playing, and "Livin' on My Own" layers harmonies reminiscent of the Doobie Brothers over a jazzy tune driven by an intricate bassline. The album's finale, "Biggest Part of Me," is the best of these ballads. It combines rich Beach Boys-styled harmonies with a heartfelt lyric to create a rich slice of blue-eyed soul that gave the group a number two hit single. These classy ballads make One Eighty worth a listen for devoted Ambrosia fans, but the casual listener might want to seek these songs out on the group's Anthology album. ~ Donald A. Guarisco

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