The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
- You'll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout this original pressing of Ambrosia's 1978 release - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- These sides are dramatically bigger and richer, and they also have more vocal presence and hard-rockin' energy than a lot of the others we played in our recent shootout
- The vocals are breathy and immediate, and you will not believe all the studio space and ambience – which of course are all qualities that Heavy Vinyl records have far too little of, and the main reason we have lost all respect for the bulk of them
- "[The album] marked a bit of a move away from their lush arrangements and introduced a more raw, aggressive progressive rock / jazz influence."
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This Hot Stamper Ambrosia LP has the kind of sound you would never expect to find in the grooves of this album. It was a THRILL to hear, especially at the volumes at which we played it. The transparency and openness were superb. We’re big fans of this band here at Better Records -- we love their take on complex, Big Production Rock.
It’s also yet another example of the value of taking part in the myriad revolutions in audio. If you never want your prized but sonically-challenged records to sound any better than they do right now, this minute, don’t bother to learn how to clean them better, play them back better or improve the acoustics of your room. No one can make you do any of those things. The only reason you might have for doing them is that it will allow you to enjoy more of your favorite music with much better sound. Is that a good enough reason? If you’re on this site I’m guessing it is.
That’s the reason we do it. We want records like this one, which didn’t start sounding good until about 2005, and now sound MUCH better than we ever thought they could, to keep getting better and better. Why shouldn’t they?
And these improvements we talk about so much have allowed us to enjoy records we could never fully enjoy before because they never really sounded all that good to us. Now they do, and they will keep getting better, as more and more developments come along in all areas of analog reproduction.
This original Warner Bros. pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to "see" the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It's what vintage all analog recordings are known for -- this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What The Best Sides Of Life Beyond L.A. Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1978
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Life Beyond L.A. may not be especially well known in audiophile circles but it is certainly an album we know and love here at Better Records. I’ve been playing it regularly for more than 40 years. There’s so much good music on the album that, now that we can hear it right, we’ve come to appreciate it all the more. It rocks in a more straightforward manner compared to the first two albums. It’s still got plenty of proggy elements and breakdowns, but now there’s an entirely new jazz element introduced into the mix, which comes to the fore strongly on the wonderful "Apothecary." Side one is exceptionally strong from first note to last.
Side two starts out brilliantly with the dynamic, energetic "Dancin’ By Myself," a song that ranks with the best by the band. It’s followed by "Angola," a tongue-in-cheek staple of their live act these days, and then on to the wonderful ballad "Heart to Heart," pointedly reminiscent of "Holdin’ On To Yesterday," right down to the violin solo. The last track is a bit of a downer, but everything before that is superb.
What We're Listening For On Life Beyond L.A.
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, lost in the mix. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Shooting Out the Tough Ones
Ambrosia albums are always tough shootouts. Like Yes, another radio-friendly pop-prog band, their everything-but-the-kitchen-sink music and approach to recording make it difficult to translate their complex sound to disc (vinyl or otherwise). Everything has to be tuned up and on the money before we can even hope to get the record sounding right. (VTA is of course critical in this respect.)
If we’re not hearing the sound we want, we keep messing with it until we do. There is no way around sweating the details when sitting down to test a complex recording such as this. If you can’t stand the tweaking tedium, get out of the kitchen (or listening room as the case may be). Sweating the details is what we do for a living here at Better Records. Ambrosia’s recordings require us to be at the top of our game, both in terms of reproducing them as well as critically evaluating them. When you love it, it’s not work, it’s fun. Tedious, exasperating fun.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
- Life Beyond L.A.
- Art Beware
- If Heaven Could Find Me
- How Much I Feel
- Dancin’ by Myself
- Heart to Heaven
- Not as You Were
- Ready for Camarillo
Ambrosia’s third album (and first for Warner Bros.) is more commercial and less conceptual than their first two releases, Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled and the self-titled Ambrosia. The album opens effectively with the title track, which is about life, or the lack thereof, in Los Angeles. The better songs on this album, including the title track and the top ten single "How Much I Feel," were written and sung by lead vocalist/multi-instrumentalist David Pack.
In 1978 Life Beyond L.A. was released. It marked a bit of a move away from their lush arrangements and introduced a more raw, aggressive progressive rock/jazz influence. Christopher North, who had family obligations and was not totally happy with the group’s shift away from the sound of the first two albums, left the group in 1977 during the album’s recording, citing creative differences (as well as certain health problems) as the reasons for his departure.
The year 1978 marked their biggest pop breakthrough with their first Gold single “How Much I Feel” from the album, which was a #3 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Despite its success, advertising of the album in Billboard and Rolling Stone downplayed the song, suggesting listeners check out the other cuts on the LP. Warner Bros pushed the title cut for radio and Life Beyond LA started to get significant airplay on AOR stations a few months after the album’s release.
Extensive touring with Fleetwood Mac, Heart and the Doobie Brothers, in addition to major headlining shows, cemented Ambrosia’s reputation as a live act.