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Telergy: Black Swallow

Across four albums, multi-instrumentalist Robert McClung has slowly built a rather impressive reputation through his ability to craft concept albums within a wholly convincing progressive rock framework, all brought to life by some of the genre’s biggest movers and shakers. This latest release is no different, musicians from Spock’s Beard, Marillion, Kansas, Styx, King Crimson, Symphony X, House Of Lords and many besides helping to create the musical backdrop for a quite astounding story - that of the Black Swallow. For the unacquainted (of which I count myself) the story concerns Eugene Bullard and his exploits as the first African-American WWI fighter pilot and then the journey through life, which takes in being a WWII spy, political rights activism and persecution, and much more besides. It’s a heck of story and one that mainly through narration between but also the lyrics of some of the non-instrumental moments of the album, is told with a real sense of understanding.

Anyone familiar with the Telergy catalogue will immediately appreciate that the story and concept are given equal importance as the music on any of their albums and this is no exception. Also, with the mainman himself being a stunningly gifted musician able to attract A-listers to bring all of these ambitious projects to life, this unusually diverse selection is crafted with a real sense of style and authenticity. With Black Swallow, the intention to tell the story both through the words and the music could never be clearer, with the song titles, or sometimes the final words of the adjoining narrations sowing the seed for what flows musically. Hence “Chased” is revealed with a real air of jeopardy and “Le Grand Duc” the jazz befitting a club thriving within that scene.

For me, while that’s a real strength here, it can also become something of a stumbling block, because while all of the different aspects are keenly crafted and carefully constructed, I’m not always sure that the big band jazz of “Le Grand…”, or the smoky, intimate piano jazz of “Marcele” make for the smoothest journey between the near prog-metal meets James Bond of “Spy”, the symphonic leanings of “All Blood Runs Red” or the full on bombast of the excellent “Chased Part 2”. It’s not that any of these different styles aren’t presented in a wholly convincing and thoroughly fantastic manner, but running as one complete listen, while they are absolutely perfect for the story, musically they can feel a little forced together.

Therefore, for me, the Black Swallow is an album that I can only see me pulling from the shelves when I want a story as much, if not more, than I do a musical experience. And that really is the only downside on yet another beautifully crafted together Telergy release. In truth I don’t always fully connect with what this project are all about but I undoubtedly can admire it and this latest outing is no exception.

Track Listing
1. Georgia
2. Scene 1
3. Chased Pt. 1
4. Scene 2
5. Infantry
6. Scene 3
7. Take to the Sky
8. Scene 4
9. Marcelle
10. Scene 5
11. Le Grand Duc
12. Scene 6
13. Spy
14. Scene 7
15. All Blood Runs Red
16. Scene 8
17. Chased Pt. 2
18. Scene 9
19. Honor

Added: August 2nd 2021
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Telergy online
Hits: 1506
Language: english

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Telergy: Black Swallow
Posted by Eric Porter, SoT Staff Writer on 2021-08-02 20:33:25
My Score:

Impressive on all fronts, Black Swallow from Telergy features an all-star cast of musicians to lend their talents to telling the story of Eugene Bullard. Bullard, born in 1895, and ran away at age 11 to get to France based on advice from his father. He became the first African-American fighter pilot in WWI after suffering a severe injury while in the Infantry. He was transferred to the Air Corps and earned the nickname “The Black Swallow of Death” due to his bravery. Bullard was married with two children, and ran a nightclub where he often sat in as a drummer. Bullard eventually returned to the states, and lived out his days in Harlem, New York. He passed away in 1961.

Ok " you got a quick history lesson, now to the music. Black Swallow is setup like a movie, the song tracks are separated by short narratives (“Scenes”) to help tell the story. The music is well written, and expertly performed by guests from the likes of bands such as: Kansas, Marillion, King Crimson, Living Colour among others. The music covers a wide spectrum from acoustic bluesy guitar, to dramatic symphonic flourishes, some metal crunch, and even gospel. You even get a big band type track in “Le Grand Duc”, or the beautiful piano in “Marcelle”. The music is intense, and the longer tracks such as “Georgia” and “Infantry” give you so many different styles and moods. There are very dramatic elements to the music, and as stated, it is set up to help you visualize watching a movie. There are explosive guitar and keyboard solos, and you’ll find some additional instruments such as violin and harmonica featured. I can’t say enough good things about the cast of musicians, I feel like fans of Trans-Siberian Orchestra would eat this up. While you are enjoying the music, maybe dig a bit deeper into the subject matter to better take in the full experience.

Telergy: Black Swallow
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2021-01-26 03:51:12
My Score:

Telergy is the brainchild of musician/composer/producer Robert McClung, a project he put together in 2009 after years of plying his trade as a veteran musician. His new album is titled Black Swallow and was released in 2020. Like all the Telergy albums there is an underlying concept, examining an individual from the past, some historical figure McClung feels the need to write about. With Black Swallow, McClung tells the story of Eugene Bullard, a WWI/WWII veteran who holds the distinction of being the first African American military/fighter pilot. During his life Bullard fought for freedom and social change, an important footnote given today’s somewhat toxic environment.

On his latest disc McClung has sought out many heavy hitters within the prog/rock genres including Troy Donockley (uilleann pipes), David Ragsdale (violin), Vikram Shankar (keyboards), Gary Wehrkamp (guitar), Phil Keaggy (guitar), Rachel Flowers (piano), Mike LePond (bass), Dave Meros (bass), Pete Trewavas (bass), Tony Levin (bass), Todd Sucherman (drums), Durga McBroom (voice) and many others. An impressive list indeed.

The songs vary in length from less than a minute to over twelve, and everything in between. At just over seventy minutes there is much to explore, and the band certainly gets to spread their proverbial wings on quite a few tracks.

The first track “Georgia”, is also the longest at twelve minutes and change, and is a superb opener. A mixture of delta/swampy blues with Americana vibes, the addition of acoustic steel guitar and harmonica give it that down to earth feel, with heavy progressive metal orchestral swells. The transitions are smooth and tasty, demonstrating just how skillful these musicians are. The next three tracks are short musical/talking interludes, setting up the story. “Chased Pt. 1” does a nice job of building tension and includes more tasty violin. The next long track (over nine minutes) is the aptly titled “Infantry” where a marching drum sets the stage of going into battle. Some progressive metal and symphonic embellishments in this one, fans of Nightwish should be happy as all get out.

Really, this is an intriguing work, complex and artful yet melodic with finely honed arrangements and great attention to detail. An impressive album to be sure.

The Exodus (20110
The Legend Of Goody Cole (2013)
Hypatia (2015)
Black Swallow (2020)

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