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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: December 27th 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Telergy online
Hits: 202
Language: english

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