e.e. cummings to a beat

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond any experience,your eyes have their silence: in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me, or which i cannot touch because they are too near
– excerpt from the poem somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond by e.e. cummings, a poet who didn’t know where the shift key was on the typewriter.

ambrosia_sint_bestjpg1

I should write this post without any capitals. But I just can’t do it.

Ambrosia was a group of many colors, including using poetry and literature as inspiration for their work. Their second album, Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled, was loosely inspired by the e.e. cummings poem as well as produced by Alan Parsons. On a later album they would set Nice, Nice, Very Nice by Kurt Vonnegut to music.  And they also put Vincent Price reciting the entirety of Lewis Carrol’s Jabberwocky on their song Mama Frog on one of their later albums.

This song, or really combination of songs (And…Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled) opened up their second album–called Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled, released in 1976, and was so totally the Ambrosia sound, even though they did lots of other styles on the same album and others. The Brunt is crazy prog rock at its best, but Dance with Me George combines Chopin and Pop/Dance music in such a way that Leonard Bernstein said it should become a musical play itself and Can’t Let A Woman is a hard-driving guitar anthem, while Harvey is a simple, bare-bones acoustic number done in one take, apparently. I considered Ambrosia to be prog rock. Others will argue that and based on their later Top 40 hits, might have a point, but the Ambrosia I love is the one that shows up on this album.

Alan Parsons engineered their first album and then, shortly thereafter, the band played on Alan Parsons’ first album, the seminal Tales of Mystery and Imagination, a collection of songs all based on Edgar Allen Poe short stories. Maybe that’s the literary connection. I don’t know really.

According to band member David Pack, he was reading lots of e.e. cummings’ poems and found the poem I have never travelled, gladly beyond and thought that encapsulated what they were trying to capture in an album. At that time, before MTV and videos, the idea was to create in an album a “theater of the mind” to provoke listeners’ imaginations. He felt that title really captured that idea. They were trying to emulate Dark Side of the Moon, and in fact, that was some of what led them to work with Alan Parsons.

So the song, combined with the short introduction called “And…” is sort of a prelude to the whole of the album. I loved the sound of it when I first listened to it. I don’t remember when I first heard it, or even if I did prior to buying the album, but I do remember buying the album and putting it on my turntable and being just awed by the sound of the introductory number. Ever since this has been one of my favorite albums. I also remember putting together the funky pyramid fold out while I listened, but thinking it was creative but really kind of pointless. Keep in mind this was during the time when pyramids were the hottest rage–thought to cure all ills and bring prosperity. The design on the album was an inside joke among band members.

Here is the live version, which works very well considering how engineered the original album version is:

 

An interview led by one of Ambrosia with Alan Parsons about recording their first album (and Parsons on engineering Pink Floyd):

If you want to hear the whole album:

 

 

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