Thursday, July 22, 2021

A Louise Brooks musical tribute from Rick Gallego & Cloud Eleven

Recently, I received a CD in the mail from independent recording artist Rick Gallego. His latest record is titled Pandora's Box (Kool Kat Musik). Rick enclosed a brief note that read, "Hi Thomas, thought you might find this interesting, since this was inspired by Louise!" Rick is right. I liked it a lot.

Pandora's Box is a melodic joy ride whose retro power pop influences include the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), Todd Rundgren, Pet Sounds era Beach Boys, early solo Paul McCartney, and latter-day XTC. Rick has been putting out music since 1996. In short, he has a number of recordings to his credit, either as a solo artist or as part of Jiffipop and/or Cloud Eleven. He and his bands have received rave reviews, and had his music featured in TV shows on ABC, NBC and elsewhere. For more on the songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Rick Gallego and Cloud Eleven, be sure and visit his website and / or his Facebook page.

Some of the linear notes, which are printed over an image of Louise Brooks, explain how this, his latest effort, came about: "Pandora’s Box isn’t so much a ‘new’ album than a collection of previously unfinished song fragments that had been buried on old cassette tapes, plus some outtakes from other albums, and a few covers. During the lockdown of 2020, I would discover a stray chorus here, a verse there, and commence to completing the songs, then record them. In some ways, Pandora’s Box is Terrestrial Ballet part deux. Sometimes it just feels good to clean out that old junk drawer."

I emailed Rick about his new CD, and he wrote back, saying "I already had the song called "Pandora's Box" (dedicated to Lulu), so I decided to name the album that too." I asked Rick the question I ask everyone. How did you first hears about Louise Brooks? Rick answered, "In January 2020 I was doing a YouTube search for anything 1920's, as I have always been fascinated with that decade. I landed on a video (don't really remember who posted it) that reviewed various cultural attributes of the '20s, and it mentioned Louise Brooks as an icon of the period. I had never heard of her before and was really taken by her look, so did a Google search. It kind of snowballed from there into wanting to know everything about her. After seeing a couple of her movies (swoon!) and getting the Barry Paris book (the University of Minnesota Press 2000 paperback version - I ended up buying the first edition hard cover from you later on!), I was pretty much a big fan of hers by then. Since then, I joined your LBS page on Facebook, bought all of her movies on DVD/Blu-ray, and bought every book I could get my hands on, including of course, Lulu In Hollywood. There's a certain magical quality about Louise Brooks that just draws you in, kind of like the movie Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, where everyone is compelled with this 'thing' (Devil's Tower), but they don't know why. Louise Brooks is truly a fascinating person, not only beautiful, but intelligent and witty too. So very happy I found her!

The first track on Rick's new CD is titled "Pandora's Box (Schöne Lulu)." The linear notes for this track read, "This song began as a sort of Rundgren-esque synth jam and evolved into what we have here. Basic tracks were recorded in 2018 and completed in 2020. At the time of completion, I was absorbed into all things 1920s, including art deco, silent films, and specifically actress/writer/icon Louise Brooks. Her most memorable role was that of Lulu, in the classic 1929 German film Pandora's Box. This, my first ever instrumental (silent!) track, is dedicated to the lovely Lulu." Here is the video for that track. Just turn off your mind, relax, and float down stream.

And here is the video of the CD's second track, "Row Row Row," Cloud Eleven's version of the children's nursery rhyme. I really like this gorgeous recording. The song features a homage to the Beatles, while this video features a homage to a couple of Kansas icons. You can likely guess which ones.

And lastly, here is the video for one of my very favorite tracks on Pandora's Box, a mock garage rock cover titled "I Can Do Anything I Want!" I think Kansas-born artist Bruce Conner, a Louise Brooks devotee, would have liked this.

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