From those who were around the ‘in the old days’ of Jesus music it seemed that the criticism was that the product was inferior. In some ways that might’ve been true. The production values couldn’t compare with the deep pockets of the major labels. So the sound of many early Christian rock albums just weren’t up to snuff.
That being the case even if the musicianship was up to the quality of their secular counterparts, chances were the production would obscure their talent in a wall of sonic mud. Well thanks to Matt at Retroactive he has started another new label, entitled Born Twice it will solely focus on reissuing classic Jesus rock from a bygone era.
Now for me to be honest I’d not heard of Jimmy Hotz before. Yet as I ravaged through my bible bookstore memories I did remember seeing this album before, about 26 years ago. It sat in the ‘demo’ section of my local Bible Bookstore, long out of print. At the time it wasn’t ‘heavy enough’ for me. Well with time comes refinement and greater appreciation, as I slipped an advanced copy into my CD player I truly felt transported Beyond the Crystal Sea.
If you’re a fan of Pink Floyd, Archangel, Yes perhaps Emerson Lake and Palmer than this album should be right up your alley. Beyond the Crystal Sea provides soaring melodies and ethereal moments of synthesizers and keyboards. However Jimmy provides a tasty and emotional lead guitar that he isn’t afraid to bring right on out into the open. His guitar romps are reminiscent of Phil Keaggy or Jeff Beck in style and execution.
I’ve heard Hotz vocals compared to early Peter Gabriel, when he fronted Genesis that might be a fair comparison. The music is of a more relaxed variety that has more in common with 1970 than 2010. Comparisons to Archangel shouldn’t really be attempted, Hotz plays electric progressive rock. Archangel has been more known for their acoustic prowess. It should be noted the Kemper Crabb, leader of Archangel, plays recorder on the instrumental track, ‘Alpine Magic.’
There are also two bonus tracks for nine songs total. ‘Long, Long Ago’ and ‘The Gates of Time’ are fantastic Floydian/Yes styled compositions that add a lot to the album. These additions provide a swirly dreamy musical tapestry that will have hitting repeat on your player more than once.
Yes the production is a bit dated yet it is a reminder that this album was made for love. It wasn’t produced for some type of top ten splash in any market. This album is a labor of love that continues to please those who are lucky enough to unearth it.
Beyond the Crystal Sea is not for everyone, but it is a reminder of the purity and honesty of what Jesus music was in 1979. An art form that hadn’t been completely watered down or corrupted by the selfishness of man. Enjoy this release and take a journey Beyond the Crystal Sea.