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)

radio1

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.

Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

New on Pure Pop Radio 7.6.16

banner 5  mic-small 10

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.

Listen to Pure Pop Radio on the go using your Android and iOS devices! Download Our Mobile App.

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