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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Jimmy Hotz

Beyond the Crystal Sea – 30th Anniversary Edition

Review by Gary Hill

Apparently this album is considered to be one of the best Christian progressive rock albums of all time. Frankly, I’ve never heard of it before, and this is the 30th Anniversary Edition. Well, it’s quite a strong album. The biggest influences I can hear are Yes and Genesis. It reminds me a lot of The Flower Kings at times, but that has to be more about shared influences than anything else. As to the Christian aspect, I’m not a big fan of Christian music, but there’s nothing that beats you over the head or preaches here. This is more like an epic adventure.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Observations of a Larger Reality

Keys start this off, and then it seems to shift towards metal. From there, it turns out to a dark kind of progressive rock. It grows from there. Weird sounds come and go as this continues. We’re taken through several changes and alterations before it drops way down for the vocal movement. It works out into some interesting instrumental territory beyond, teetering between pure prog and metallic sounds. It continues working through variants on the song’s main themes until it eventually fades out. It’s a powerful piece of music.

Night Passage
Sound effects bring this one in as it builds rather texturally. This is a fairly short instrumental that serves as a segue.
The Vision Ship
The keyboards that lead this off make me think of Rick Wakeman. It becomes a powerful progressive rock ballad with a lot of great keyboard textures. As this continues to grow I’m reminded of a cross between Genesis, Yes and The Flower Kings. It turns towards a more hard rocking version of itself further down the road, but never rises at all towards metallic prog, but rather stays in the territory that it shares with The Flower Kings. 
Teton
There’s some awesome instrumental work on this cut, but it might scare prog purists off by being too tied to heavy metal elements. Personally, I’d put it closer to an even more progressive rock version of 1970’s Rush. The main riff that drives a lot of this is quite cool. This is another instrumental and features a lot of keyboards. 
Beyond the Blues
I kind of hear this as being a more purely progressive rock oriented version of Styx. Mind you, it’s the keyboards that make me think that, definitely not the vocals. That said, there is a movement later that again makes me think both of Yes and Genesis. This is a good track, but perhaps not as effective as the numbers that preceded it. 
Alpine Magic
This is another short instrumental and it’s quite pretty. 
From Love Life Did Begin
There’s a rather classical bent to the vocals on this cut and the track has a pretty and powerful progressive rock element to it. It grows quite nicely and reminds me at times of Yes (or more accurately Chris Squire solo material). There are some more purely Yes-like sections here, but I also hear The Flower Kings. 
Long Long Ago
This is one of two bonus tracks added to commemorate the anniversary edition. A mellower song, there are definitely things here that remind me of Chris Squire’s solo work. It grows well beyond its origins, though. 
The Gates of Time
Rather operatic, this is intriguing and has some powerful guitar work. As it continues it reminds me of something from Peter Gabriel. There are segments here that make me think of Yes, too – mostly due to the guitar work. This is another bonus piece.
 
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