On paper Robert McClung's Telergy, should be quite amazing, just due to the incredible guest musicians that perform on his albums. As on previous albums, Black Swallow is a concept album, which includes mono- and duologues to tell the story. A story that is briefly told on the inside of the digifold as well. It tells the story of Eugene Bullard, a black WW1 veteran who became a spy in WW2 and on the side was a jazz drummer in France and beaten up in an anti-communist protest, finally becoming a civil rights activist.
Musically Black Swallow starts pretty strong, with an original blues driven composition, Georgia, with J. Geils Band's Magic Dick on harmonica and some fine orchestration. A strong combination of great guitars, lush keyboard parts, a wonderful guitar solo and gospel influenced vocals make this an interesting track to start with. For the story, the short interludes and atmospherical parts are really important and do add something of the whole listening experience. For me I am more interested in the songs in-between those parts, leaving seven or eight compositions that do it for me. With musicians that have worked with The Trans-Siberian Orchestra, you kind of get a feeling of the intentions and musical direction of the album. The well-orchestrated tracks see some very fine guitar and bass parts and powerful drumming, which are really top notch. To name a few of the instrumentalists; bass players Tony Levin, Steve DiGregorio, Mike LePond, Pete Trewavas and Dave Meros, guitarists Vernon Reid, Gary Wehrkamp, Timo Somers, Stephan Lill and Andy Laroque, adding the almost complete cast of the aforementioned TSO, you know these tracks are quite OK when it comes to the musicians. But, as referred to, there are a number of parts, very important for the story, less, for the average musical aficionado. Not every track can be categorized as progressive music, jazz and blues are perhaps the main ingredient on the album, the piano parts are absolutely amazing, just for the record.
In the end Black Swallow turns out to be a pretty good album, you absolutely should listen to it in its entirety, just to get the story, later you can skip to the longer tracks and just listen to some fine compositions.
***+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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