With his latest release, Rick Gallego has created an album that’s as breezy and refreshing as a California afternoon. Gallego records under the name Cloud Eleven, and his new CD, Sweet Happy Life, recalls some of the best pop music ever to come from the West Coast. String player Zane Drake and percussionist/vocalist Nelson Bragg contributed to the disc, but most of the album’s work was Gallego’s. Although he sings and plays many instruments, including guitar, pedal steel, keyboards, bongos, and tambourines, Gallego never sounds busy. The album’s prominent vocal harmonies bring a certain ‘60s surf pop band to mind, but listeners should not draw Beach Boys comparisons too quickly. Brian Wilson’s songwriting had a self-conscious yearning that translated into emotional intensity. Gallego, by contrast, seems completely self-assured, and that might not be as good as it sounds. Sweet Happy Life boasts gorgeous harmonies, smooth production, and dreamy pop goodness, but it ultimately might not make much of an impact on either listeners or the music market.
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