Reviews: 7.9.19: The Ebb and Flow of a Life: Cloud Eleven’s Illuminating Song Cycle

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Cloud Eleven – Footnote (West Coast, 2019)

The minimalist front cover that houses Rick Gallego’s latest, meticulously crafted songs is bathed in a wash of lightened, sun-soaked grains of sand; at bottom right, water reaches a line on an ethereal beach. The new song’s titles are typeset within the upper half of the equally minimalist back cover; the small parade of players, all imaginary yet full of life, are listed below–cohorts in a dreamy song cycle (Gallego is the only actual living, breathing player).

The cover, an homage to the wrapper for Todd Rundgren’s 1976 album, Faithful, is no accidental nod; Gallego sends out “special gratitude to todd rundgren, who lighted the way to my own musical existence all those years ago” and sets the text in lowercase, just as Todd did.

Footnote is Gallego’s seventh go-round as Cloud Eleven’s chief cook and bottle washer. This new release is no mere footnote, however; it is, in fact, what the previous six releases have been traveling toward all along: a gorgeous song cycle about the ebb and flow of a life (a songwriter’s?) as one follows a path and discovers his or her essence along the way.

The songs on Footnote sound nothing like Todd Rundgren, even though the Hermit of Mink Hollow’s influence is in there; with each new release, Gallego paints a masterpiece colored as only a Cloud Eleven album can be.

Gallego’s songs and arrangements are crafted with a unique combination of hues, tints, tones and colors; one flick of his brush too many and his songs might tilt toward another form altogether. Here, as the songs on Footnote play, we get the feeling that Gallego is painting his soundscapes, touched by the spirit of ELO and the harmony-laden Beach Boys, while balanced on a tightrope of his own devising; what a gloriously creative and fulfilling place that must be to hang.

Footnote opens with a quartet of songs set in a melodically-charged dreamscape. The first song, “On Pismo Beach,” sets to sail with a ghostly strum of guitar that barrels into a rich blast of harmony before it draws a lyrical picture of a place where all is blissful and serene. “Aural Illusion” builds on that ideal, positing that in sound we prosper (“If you can believe that music is love / Then you’ll understand the meaning of / Aural Illusion”).

The second half of the first block of songs continues on the path set by the first. The lovely ballad “Solar Fields” suggests that, after allowing sound to enrich your existence, the warmth of the sun will help to complete you (“With the sun on your face / You will never fade away / In the bright glowing light / You won’t fail”). And, armed with the benefits realized from pleasing sounds and sunlight, you can trust in someone to lead you down a valid path of exploration (the Brian Wilson-ish “Bound to Follow”).

This emotional journey continues with the relaxed-sounding, Free Design-like “For Weal and Woe,” in which we discover that the days ahead bring a promise of discovery, so long as we are in tune with ourselves (“Our lives ebb and flow / For weal and for woe”). And then, we are transported to terra firma, where we learn even more about ourselves.

In “L.A. County,” we are entranced and inspired by a girl who gives us a reason to set down roots (“We will live our lives here”). “Skywriting” allows a songwriter to connect with the magical muse that surrounds him (“But I’ll try to do my best / Hope my muse will do the rest / It’s like magic when songs appear, I confess”).

Sometimes, though, it is hard–impossible, even–to connect. The subject of the grand, wistful ballad, “One Big Hideaway,” squirrels himself inside his home–inside his room–as the world turns around him. He misses his family, but can’t find a way to reach out to them. There will be no doubt in the listener’s mind as to who this song is about.

In the end, we are left to ponder the validity of our life’s journey. Do we learn from what we discover as we make stops along the way, or do we downplay what we have achieved and consider ourselves to be nothing more than a speck of dust because none of it will matter in the grand scheme of things? “Now I’m content to be / I won’t pretend I’m anything, but a / Footnote,” Gallego sings in the closing, title song.

Songs can teach us a lot about ourselves. Throughout our lives, we learn who we are by also learning who we aren’t. Rick Gallego’s illuminating song cycle won’t provide us with all of the answers we desire, but its beautifully rendered songs will at least provide us with some lovely, melodic hints.

Where to Get It: Kool Kat Musik, Amazon (CD and digital), Apple Music (iTunes), CD Baby (CD and digital)


Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August.

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New on Pure Pop Radio 7.6.16

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Spins and Reviews | July 6, 2016 | by Alan Haber

The hits just keep on coming, with the Carpenter touch in today’s lead positions…

michael carpenter and the cuban heelsMichael Carpenter and the Cuban Heels | Ain’t Nothing Left to Say Country? Sure, there’s that, but moreover there are a dozen room-filling explosions of sound emblazoned with Carpenter’s trademark melodic touch. Witness the boom-boom-to-snare power of the catchy “One of these Days I’m Gonna Get Myself Right,” the easy intro-to-mid-tempo-pop punch of “Big in the City,” and the pumping, big guitars, big drums punch of “Black Chevy.” There really isn’t anything this Australian musical magician can’t do. Our playlist, and melodic pop music in general, benefit always from his mastery of the pop form.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Ain’t Nothing Left to Say,” “Black Chevy,” “I Should Have Told You,” “One of these Days,” “One of these Days I’m Gonna Get Myself Right,” “Photo,” “Big in the City,” “You’re Givin’ Love a Good Name,” “Thank You.”

crash and the crapenters 2Crash and the Crapenters | Set in Stone Pumping and thumping within just about the complete opposite spectrum of the Cuban Heels’ platter, the combo of three Carpenters–Chris, Michael, and Paul–congregate to bash out 15 smashing Chris and Michael originals (plus one Paul Weller cover). The breathless pace and let-it-all-hang-out attack is somewhat outside Pure Pop Radio’s usual purview, but the four-on-the-floor pop-rocker “Pray to Your Own God” and the upbeat, early Elvis Costello nod “Everything’s Coming My Way” fit perfectly. Yet another side of Michael’s musical palette, and a fun, assured debut for brother Chris.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Pray to Your Own God” and “Everything’s Coming My Way.”

cloud elevenCloud Eleven | Garden of Obscure Delights: A Retrospective (1996-2015) Spanning a period of 19-years, from the infant waxings of Jiffipop to last year’s sterling Record Collection, this ace release showcases the many colors and moods contained in Rick Gallego’s paintbox. An astounding selection, highlights include the lovely, mid-tempo pop ballad “Flying” from 1996’s debut from Jiffipop, Demolicious, to the dreamy, luscious, melodic wonder “Ocean,” from 2006’s Sweet Happy Life. A trio of outtakes from 2015’s Record Collection, including a winning, atmospheric cover of the 1971 Fleetwood Mac single, “Dragonfly,” close out the top-flight program. Gallego is an artist that deserves, as he always has, to fly well above the radar. He can only fly higher from here.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Blue Butterfly,” “Dragonfly,” “Evaporate,” “Flying,” “Hurry Home,” “Ocean,” “Rainbow Station,” “Sound on Sound,” “Take Control,” and “The One.”

solarflairs stereo alleySolarflairs | “Stereo Alley” Literally just in minutes ago from these Memphis power popsters that, the band says, don’t sound like a power pop band, this gently aggressive and lively guitars-driven number adds to the previous songs already on our playlist. Catchy as always.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio.

indie artists united for world peace

kirk adams photo - pop 4

Kirk Adams | “Love’s Looking for You” (from Indie Artists United for World Peace)  Appearing on this compilation promoting the world’s number one goal alongside wife Gale Trippsmith and Pop 4 compatriots Andrea Perry and KC Bowman, Florida resident Adams unspools an outtake from his superb 2015 long player Undertown. Beautiful ballad drips with melody to spare; a superbly sung and played and featuring a lovely George Harrison-esque guitar solo, this is a keeper for the ages.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio.

andy reed introduction'Andy Reed | An Introduction to Andy Reed Andy Reed’s importance in the grand scheme of all things melodic pop can not be overstated; the proof is here in this peerless collection of songs spotlighting his innate talent. The pure pop pleasures of “World of Make Believe,” from 2011’s An American Underdog album, Always On the Run; the beautiful, melodic “Dreaming of the West Coast,” from last year’s Relay Vol. 1 EP, and the glorious, straight-ahead cover of Jay Ferguson’s “Thunder Island” from the vinyl release of 2013’s celebration of lite rock, Drink a Toast to Innocence, dazzle, but then so do all 11 tracks. A great introduction, available on vinyl and in digital form, to the joy of listening to Andy Reed.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “Thunder Island,” “Dreaming of the West Coast,” “World of Make Believe,” “Your Reign is Over,” “The Show Goes On,” “Crimes of Paris,” and “Always on the Run.”

flossyFlossy | “Cloudy Brain” From Perth, Australia, songstress Lauren M. O’Hara and her sister Sinead pair up to produce this bluesy rocker balancing above a pop highwire. Deep, thumping bass, thrashing drums by Chris Winterburn, raging guitars, and committed vocals rule the grooves. Impossible to ignore, and you shouldn’t.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio.

More to come.

alan-mic-zeeAlan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the original 24-hour Internet radio station playing the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60s to today. From the Beatles to the Monkees, the Posies, McPherson Grant, the Connection and the New Trocaderos, we play the hits and a whole lot more. Tune in by clicking on one of the listen links below.

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Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

One, Two, Three…Four! It’s Day Four of Pure Pop Radio’s New Music Explosion. Get Ready to Pop!

wow-4Welcome to day four of Pure Pop Radio’s New Music Explosion. Are you ready to pop? We certainly are; this week (and next; see below) we’ve been adding hundreds of new songs and artists to our playlist. You’ve been following the fun, so you know: Once you get started, it’s hard to stop!

So we’re not going to. Our New Music Explosion will continue into next week. We’re getting very near 7,000 songs playing in rotation. That’s a whole lot of great music for you to enjoy!

Okay, then–it’s time to roll. Here we go. Here’s a Thursday mini-list of two very special, newly-added-to-our-playlist albums. There’s lots more coming. We’re here to wow you. Let’s go!

cloud-elevenCloud Eleven | Record Collection We started out in melodic pop radio back in 2005. We point this out to demonstrate how far we go back with many artists. In the case of Cloud Eleven’s Rick Gallego, we go back to 1996, when he released a compilation of 14 songs under the name Jiffipop. Thanked in the notes to that CD, called Demolicious, is Zane Drake, who pops up on Rick’s new album, playing guitar on two cuts. Which, in the scheme of all things holy, is interesting and important. Rick has been creating great pop music for a very long time; Record Collection, a superb, career-defining album releasing this coming August, is his best yet and will, if our prognostication skills are keen, be right up there on this year’s best-of lists.

As well it should be. With Record Collection, Rick has further shaped his sound into distinct parts that together form the melodic center of 11 grand constructs that fall under the heading of melodic, not power, pop. The title track, sporting a decidedly Beatley, “Penny Lane”-ish vibe, spiced with Probyn Gregory’s flowing trumpet parts and Nelson Bragg’s drums and joyous sleigh bells, sets the stage and perfectly outlines the job of the songwriter: “I take my time and make them rhyme/Day after day/The melody and the harmony/Come together for your pleasure naturally, sincerely.” Is that the lyric of the moment, one that successfully and succinctly peers into the songwriter’s soul? Indeed it is. (Both Nelson and Probyn appear throughout these songs.)

And is “Too Soon Was Yesterday” the stylistic musical marriage of the moment? Surely, this Burt Bacharach-meets-Paul McCartney-meets-Brian Wilson number is an astounding piece of inspiration, well played. The punctuating piano, topped by Probyn’s flugelhorn and moved along with care by Nelson’s drums, sits comfortably as Rick’s emotional vocal tells the tale of a love lost yesterday. “What If I Found You” marries an opening reminiscent of the Young Rascals’ “A Girl Like You” to a song whose production reminds me of Bones Howe’s work with the Association. The album’s one true power pop nod is the upbeat “A Sadness in Sorry,” which also manages to tip the scales towards the softer side of the pop scale.

Throughout the whole of Record Collection, Rick’s instrumental facility is second to none; there is seemingly no instrument he doesn’t put his hands on and make beautiful sounds with. Electric and acoustic guitars, bass, harmonium, mellotron, tubular bells, organ, pedal steel, and an authentic Indian sitar on the atmospheric “Indian Guru,” which offers up acute Beatles intonations in the intro, only scratch the surface. Also in the spotlight: popster Seth Swirsky, who plays lead guitar on “40 Below,” about a girl who builds an impenetrable wall around herself: “”She’s so cold, she’s 40 below/Turning hearts to ice, tears to snow.”

And there’s more, but we simply can’t cover it all, because then what would be left for you to discover? Turns out there’s plenty of joy to go around. Rick’s missive at the bottom of the inner credits panel of the package ring true: “Find Peace. Find Happiness.” There is a lot of both to be had here. Record Collection is absolutely, positively not to be missed.

(We’ve added the entire album–all 11 songs–to our playlist. Ladies and gentlemen, you’ll be enjoying the title track, “The Mystic’s Mistake,” “Along With You,” “High as the Rising Sun,” “Too Soon Was Yesterday,” “40 Below,” “What If I Found You,” “Indian Guru,” “As You Are,” “A Sadness in Sorry,” and “Let Us All Find Peace.”)

william-dukeWilliam Duke | The Dark Beautiful Sun William Duke’s new and absolutely wonderful collection of songs, recorded over a five year period, evokes the spirit of the Southern California sound from the 1970s, except these are the ’10s and William makes beautiful music in Northern California. So much for the game of Where Things Come From.

In any case, these songs are among the most effortlessly flowing melodic wonders we’ve heard all year. The toe-tapping opener, “The Golden Ring,” finds William channeling the vocal and instrumental style of early Bob Dylan. Another such toe-tapper is the delicious “Many Years Away,” which features harmony vocals that delight. “The Truth Comes Out at Night” weaves a slower tempo ballad into a faster gallop of a song to more than simply pleasing effect. It’s quite tremendous.

We’re playing nine tracks: “The Golden Ring,” the title song, “Sons and Daughters,” “Many Years Away,” “The Truth Comes Out at Night,” “Just Lookin’ for Some Sleep,” “The Great Escape,” “Summer Side of Life,” and “Your Laughter Fills the Room.” A nice surprise from a talented artist. We’re happy to be spinning these songs in rotation on Pure Pop Radio.

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We’ll be back tomorrow with another list of new songs and artists added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. Why not click on one of the handy listen links below and join your fellow melodic pop music fans as they (and you) enjoy the greatest pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today! See you tomorrow!

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Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes
Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes