The Ebb and Flow of a Life: Cloud Eleven’s Illuminating Song Cycle by Alan Haber
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.
"Pure bedroom-psych-pop from the Brian Wilson/Wondermints school of soundscapes..." a review of Footnote by Aaron Kupferberg at PowerPopaholic
Rick Gallego (aka Cloud Eleven) makes music for himself and we are blessed he is able to share it with us. It’s pure bedroom-psych-pop from the Brian Wilson/Wondermints school of soundscapes. “On Pismo Beach” has a lovely building chorus with soaring harmonies, and “Aural Illusion” attempts to explain that “magic to my ears” with slow swirling chords and strings similar to ELO. “Bound To Follow” embraces the California sound with lush melody lines, overlapping vocals and sleigh bells.
The poetic folk of “For Weal and Woe” and “L.A. County” is a slight shift in approach, with brightly strummed chords over a light percussive rhythm. Gallego looks back philosophically at his career with “Skywriting” and then “One Big Hideaway” feels like an interpretation of Brian Wilson’s mid 70’s isolation. The title track explains Rick’s contentment to be a “Footnote” in music history. Overall, while the album’s theme is slightly melancholy, it’s not too depressing either. It appears these melodies are just right for quiet contemplation with headphones. Check it out.
The ULTIMATE Jiffipop/Cloud Eleven retrospective has been released!
CELEBRATING 20 YEARS OF MUSIC!
Garden Of Obscure Delights: A Retrospective (1996-2015)
Here's a note from Rick Gallego:
So here we are, 20 years after the Jiffipop album was released back in 1996, and it barely feels like a ripple in time. Many folks know that the name was changed to Cloud Eleven in 1999 after the Del-Fi Records deal was inked, and there have been four subsequent Cloud Eleven releases on various indie labels since then. The common adage, “Don’t Quit Your Day Job”, fits well with my musical trajectory, as I have never quit mine. Being an artist on an indie level doesn’t exactly pave the way to untold riches, but for me it has been an extremely rewarding and creative journey nonetheless. Why am I releasing a retrospective now, you ask? Well, besides the core dyed-in-the-wool fans that own all of these albums, most people have never heard this music before, and I’d like to change that. I’ve compiled an assortment, a Whitman Sampler if you will, of songs that I think best represents what I do musically. It’s not really a “Greatest Hits” collection because I’ve never had any hits, but this is the cream that has risen to the top of a very gratifying musical career. I’ve reverently remastered the 18 original album tracks, and have included a couple of unreleased tracks from the Record Collection album (2015), plus a cover of one of my favorite Fleetwood Mac tunes. Thanks to each and every one of my fans for your loyalty over the years, and many thanks to any new fans who may discover this music. I hope you enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed creating it.
Hello Cloud Eleven fans....As of last Monday 8/3/15, Cloud Eleven's new album Record Collection was released to the world. Feedback so far has been amazing, and it's been difficult keeping CDs and Vinyl in stock at CD Baby. Since their warehouse is overcrowded with product, they don't allow artist to send in a large amount of CDs, etc. because of the space issue, so they sell out as quickly as I send them in! As of today both the CD and Vinyl show "out of stock", but fear not, shipments should arrive today with more goodies! You can put your name on the waiting list and pre-order, and CD Baby will contact you the minute they arrive. Thank you for being patient as we try to catch up with the supply to meet the demand!
P.S. Remember, CD Baby offers 1 cent shipping if you order 3 items or more (CDs or Vinyl), which is a super deal! Also, if you want to buy CDs or Vinyl in bulk (large orders), please go to the "Contact" page (link below) and send an email with your request. Thank you!!
Review of Record Collection from Absolute Powerpop, Aug. 4th 2015:
Cloud Eleven - Record Collection
Rick Gallego returns for his first record as Cloud Eleven since 2006's Sweet Happy Life. And listening to Record Collection, you'll never know nine years passed by as it's another collection of Gallego's diverse pop stylings. In fact, the title is apt as it sounds like Gallego mined his record collection for inspiration here, from the Beatlesque title track (with a "Penny Lane"-style horn opening) to "The Mystic's Mistake" and "As You Are" (the kind of dreamy pop found on Sweet Happy Life) as well as Bacharach-ian "Too Soon Was Yesterday" and the more traditional power pop of "High As The Rising Sun". And there's a track titled "Indian Guru" that sounds exactly like you think it would. You'll definitely want to add this to your, um, record collection.
Review of Record Collection from Aaron Kupferberg at Powerpopaholic, Aug. 3rd 2015
Cloud Eleven “Record Collection”
Cloud Eleven (aka Rick Gallego) has been a reliable figure in power pop since the late ’90s, and although he’s mellowed he remains a potent talent. Rick honors his musical heroes (and his collection of vintage vinyl) on this new obviously-named album. Nelson Bragg drums on all the songs, and we’ve got assists from a top-tier crew with Probyn Gregory, Seth Swirsky and Rick Hromadka among others.
The Beatles-Beach Boys styled opening track with horns and swirling organs on the title track talks about the effort of the artist just hoping to be “played once in a while.” While this is catnip to a power pop fan, it leads to the dream-like melody of “The Mystic’s Mistake” full of subtle psychedelics and layered instrumentation. “Too Soon Was Yesterday” is an obvious nod to the Burt Bacharach’s heyday and the echoing piano melody “40 Below” adds Seth Swirsky’s solid guitar solo. “Indian Guru” is exactly what you think it is – full of sitar, bongos, and tabla drum, but my favorite track is “A Sadness In Sorry,” a Zombies styled melody with a gorgeous harmony-filled hook. Highly recommended, and worthy of your music collection (vinyl, CD or Mp3.)
New Cloud Eleven album "Record Collection" to be released!
The long awaited new Cloud Eleven album "Record Collection" will finally be released on August 4, 2015. It has been nearly 9 years since the release of "Sweet Happy Life", and 2 years in the making. It will be available on CD, digital download, and for the first time, vinyl. The main distributor for all formats will be CD Baby, but will also be available from other online stores, including Amazon, iTunes, etc.
Cloud Eleven fans rejoice!!
July 20, 2015
Review of Record Collection by Alan Haber at Pure Pop Radio
Cloud 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.”)
Review of Record Collection by John Borack at Goldmine Magazine
Cloud Eleven – Record Collection (West Coast Records)
It’s been far too long since we’ve heard new music from Rick Gallego (aka Cloud Eleven), and his latest certainly does not disappoint. It’s replete with the soft, pillowy California light psych sounds that have informed his previous releases, and each of the 11 tunes is something of a feast for the ears. The beautifully sad “Too Soon Was Yesterday” (featuring horns by Probyn Gregory) plays like a long-lost ‘60s-era Burt Bacharach cut, while the Sgt. Pepper-ish title cut and “A Sadness in Sorry” are both top-shelf upbeat ditties. The disc-closing “Let Us All Find Peace” is a dramatic piano ballad awash in strings and a positive message. Hey, whaddya say we end with a hideous cliché: you’ll want to add Record Collection to yours. Grade: A