Released on April 8, 2022 (Frontiers Music Srl)
Black Swan are another Frontiers “super group” concept. I start with that because the understanding has to be that you can’t go buy a ticket to go see this band play because, as far as I know, they haven’t played any live shows. That is my biggest and most glaring objection to any and all “super group” releases. As a fan, you can’t wear a Black Swan t-shirt to your local Walmart to show support for the band… Because, it is even really a band? I mean, really? Is it a band? Or, just an album or, in this case, series of albums?
With that out of the way, let me start by saying that I love the first Black Swan record. I do not recall if I had it at #1 of my top pick as a contributor to Sleaze Roxx that year. But, if it wasn’t A-Numero-Uno, it was darn close. It was, and remains, an awesome album. And, Robin McAuley‘s Standing On The Edge from last year was a strong record too. But, Black Swan are back together with another release this year, 2022, and the results are in! From me, the album gets a thumbs up!
Robin McAuley might be the most under-appreciated and under-utilized vocalist in our genre’s vast history. I know he was in MSG and had a stint singing for Survivor. But, this guy’s powerful voice could and should be considered up there with the likes of Ronnie James Dio. It is amazing. And, the way he can turn a phrase or craft the lyrics in a way rivals Vince Neil — yes, I’m throwing vocal love at Vince Neil! Come at me, bro! On this album, McAuley is best, at his peak, in songs like the opening track “She Hides Behind.” It is a fast tempo rocker and the way McAuley crafts the chorus really gives it more emphasis than a more by the book singer such as Myles Kennedy would deliver.
“Generation Mind”, the title track, is the third track on the album but really the second song as the opener is just musical masturbation to set the tone. I’m finding those less enjoyable of late, I must admit. Anyway, “Generation Mind” is the video everyone that was interested in finding out about the second album probably saw first. It is good but doesn’t have that “Shake The World” vibe that that made me go, “Holy shit” when it dropped a few years ago. It is just a good song…. Great guitar, great vocals, great everything… But, it comes off just good. Does that make sense? That happens a few times in this album. You’ll think, “This is good! But, I’m not in love with it…”
“Eagles Fly” is another example of McAuley‘s up tempo turning of the phrase really carrying the song. “See You Cry” is a very melodic hard rocker that makes me think of the 1999 Ratt self-titled album for some reason. I love that record in spite of widespread condemnation amongst my peers. It just has such a great vibe. This might be the best track on the album. “Killer On The Loose” still has me thinking Ratt, for some reason but, more of an Out of The Cellar vibe. But, it left me a little bemused. For that matter, so did “Miracle”. McAuley‘s voice is most strained and the content is somewhat forced.
“How Do You Feel” is the ballad of the album and is where McAuley‘s vocals sound the most relaxed. Very bluesy track which will satisfy those who want the softer side of the hard rock albums. “Long Way Down” is another hard rocker that has all the right elements and just doesn’t quite land. You can add “Crown” to that list which either has to do with modern politics, likely the case because Jeff Pilson can’t help himself and that isn’t a compliment, or a rant about the artists themselves enjoying less success. It does, however, have the best guitar solo on the album that reminds me why I love Reb Beach so much on Dokken‘s Erase The Slate album, which he played on. The man is a guitar God.
Speaking of Dokken, Robin McAuley‘s last effort Standing On The Edge had a lot of people saying it sounded like a Dokken album with McAuley singing. Well, “Wicked The Day”, the next track, has a very Dokken-like vibe somewhere between “Tooth and Nail” and “Kiss of Death.” But, it doesn’t connect as well as either of those two Dokken classics do. “I Will Follow” follows, pun intended, and wraps up the album with a softer song with a slightly more modern sound. I actually like this track a lot.
So, there it was. Black Swan‘s second album after blowing my mind a few years back is in the books and I’ve shared my take on each song. As a whole, it is a good album but, it just isn’t as good as the first. That isn’t to say I regret buying it — I don’t! It also isn’t to say I encourage those on the fence not to buy it. If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one… Just, you know, a little less. I would’ve liked a few more “Shake The World” and “She’s On To Us” type songs on here. Instead, we got a cool colletion of songs that more or less all deliver. So, I’ll grade it a solid B-? Then again, I praised Vince Neil‘s vocal work and the 1999 Ratt album in this review. So, you probably don’t really care what I think anymore anyway!
01. Before The Light
02. She Hides Behind
03. Generation Mind
04. Eagles Fly
05. See You Cry
06. Killer On The Loose
08. How Do You Feel
09. Long Way Down
11. Wicked The Day
12. I Will Follow
Robin McAuley – lead vocals
Reb Beach – guitar
Jeff Pilson – bass
Matt Starr – drums
Black Swan‘s “Miracle” video:
Black Swan’s “Eagles Fly” video:
Black Swan‘s “Generation Mind” video: