Road Island

by: Ambrosia

On their final album, Ambrosia forsakes the airbrushed AOR sounds that defined Life Beyond L.A. and One Eighty in favor of a strong, rock-oriented sound. They are aided in this aim by a gutsy production from James Guthrie (a producer better known for his work with groups like Judas Priest and Pink Floyd) that takes the group to a new level of sonic firepower. Songs like "For Openers" and "Still Not Satisfied" reverberate with a newfound sense of rock & roll muscle: The drums kick, the basslines throb, and the guitars and Hammond organ wail with abandon. Even Ambrosia's trademark ballads benefit from their newly beefed-up sound: "Feelin' Alive Again" features the airy harmonies and delicate keyboard shadings expected from this style of song, but it also gains an added sense of dramatic weight from Burleigh Drummond's thick drumming and piercing, emotional guitar solos from David Pack. The group also revives their early progressive sound on "Ice Age," an impressive epic tune built on a militaristic drum pattern, heavy power chords, and Pink Floyd-styled sound effects. The end result is an album that harkens back to the blend of slick musicianship and prog rock imagination that characterized Ambrosia's early work. Despite receiving many good reviews, Road Island never achieved a notable level of success because, much like Somewhere I've Never Travelled, it lacks a standout single that could have helped it cross over to mainstream pop fans. Just the same, it is an above-average album that is worthy of reappraisal by progressive rock fans and lovers of hard rock in general. ~ Donald Guarisco

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