Back in 1983, the City of Angels got a theme song. Now, more than 30 years later, someone’s written us a whole album.
The Ambassador, from singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane--the son of a Los Angeles conductor--is a must-listen as much for its provocative themes as its hummable tunes. And it’s made us appreciate our city’s beauty, even during troubled times.
The album’s ten tracks are each named for a location, complete with a street address. In the title song, “Ambassador Hotel (3400 Wilshire Blvd.),” a desk clerk recounts Robert Kennedy’s assassination there. In “Griffith Park (2800 E. Observatory Ave.),” Kahane extolls the majesty of a hilltop vista--albeit after an imaginary nuclear blast. And in the album’s centerpiece, the haunting “Empire Liquor Mart (9127 S. Figueroa St.),” the singer assumes the persona of Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old African-American girl who was shot by a Korean store owner in 1991, a precursor to the riots that would take place the following year.
At first we thought, Why so glum, Gabriel? But after listening to the songs while driving around town, and later clicking through the Ambassador Atlas, an online map annotated with backstories, we’re fans. And we can’t stop hitting repeat when the album’s done.