SWEET CRYSTAL: Still standing CD. Christian A.O.R / Melodic Hard Rock, a la JOURNEY, SURVIVOR, WHITE SISTER. CHECK audio (whole album)
This American Christian band comes out of Michigan and they are a big AOR sensation in the underground scene. Their debut CD ‘Still standing is filled with high quality 80s typed hook laden AOR with superb vocals, catchy choruses and loads of pure 80s AOR keys and in general, the band has a big sound, comparable to JOURNEY and SURVIVOR. SWEET CRYSTAL has been around for over 25 years now, so I guess you can say that they have gained some experience through the years. It’s amazing that they haven’t been discovered sooner, because their AOR is from a very high level and could have placed them next to the big guys back in the 80s. The whole CD is sensational, with no weak songs. The vocals of lead singer/keyboardplayer/bassist Marq Andrew Speck are definitely giving the AOR of SWEET CRYSTAL the finishing touch, because his voice is quite superb and comes dangerously close to JIMI JAMISON from SURVIVOR. A lot of the songs are uptempo 80s typed AOR rockers that remind me of WHITE SISTER, early FM, CRY HOLY, SIGNAL, AVIATOR, early ALLIES and most of all SURVIVOR and JOURNEY. Favourite tracks are “”When I think of you”” (straight-ahead 80s AOR a la WHITE SISTER), “”In God we trust”” (superb 80s AOR keys and harmonyvocals), “”No two masters”” (AOR ballad duet with a great female singer) and “”In your name”” (hello JIMI JAMISON’s SURVIVOR Power AOR ballads!). On the other hand, why pick favourites, because the rest is also fantastic, like “”Do you believe in love”” (semi AOR rocker, very much like SURVIVOR) and “”Soldiers of the crown”” (uptempo 80s AOR with cool keyboard lines and a sound like CRY HOLY and the very first ALLIES classic). The keyboardwork on all the songs is very impressive and reminds me of the 80s AOR, but also Pomp freaks will go nuts, especially on the live track “”Stand up and shout””. There’s even some Prog./Sympho on this record, in the song “”This way forever”” where we get an impression of how ASIA sounded with good old JOHN WETTON on vocals. All in all, this album is a must have.
1. Do You Believe in Love
2. Soldiers of the Crown
3. When I Think of You
4. This Way Forever
6. In God We Trust
7. No Two Masters
8. In Your Name
9. Stand up & Shout
10. Looking Back
Heartfelt vocals – guitar-laden hooks – a wall of synths and samplers – electronic rhythms powered by dynamic drumming – the musical signatures of a band that has bridged decades with a drive and desire to deliver the Word and the music that has served as it’s own inspiration from the beginning.
Marq Andrew Speck Lead vocals, keyboards
Bill Blatter Electric and acoustic guitars, vocals
Steve Wieser Electronic and acoustic drums
The line up that has stood strong and dedicated for over 25 years, SWEET CRYSTAL takes the experiences gained from opening up for such rock legends as Bob Seger, Nazareth, Foghat and Steppenwolf and combine it with the wizardry of 21st century digital music production techniques to produce an experience that reaches out to fans and new listeners alike.
“”In The Beginning…””
Timeless words announce SWEET CRYSTAL’s return to the national music scene with the most important release of their award-winning careers.
finds this Michigan based trio of rockers not only standing firm in their beliefs, but marching forward with songs that are timeless in their message and powerful in their delivery.
UNITED STATES – This disc has a theme throughout every song, which is the word STAND. Not too many groups have an album like this. Very big sounding, positive messages, reminds me of some of the better music in the late ’80s (Shooting Star and Jim Steinman in particular. Remember Jim Steinman? Meatloaf!)
This music is so full of excitement, something always happening, and the progressions are not all standard and obvious. I like that. Makes me want to listen more. Lots of harmonies and wordings that are just not what you’d expect. This is a very original disc. I’ve liked every song so far (I’m halfway through the CD).
The musicianship here is top-notch! Marq Andrew Speck is lead vocalist supreme, and he covers the bass and keyboard duties quite well. He has a beautiful high tenor voice which soars over the artistic painting of music below. Very lifting and enlightening.
Bill Blatter sings harmony vocals and covers all guitar work. Best word to describe his playing – wow! It just went right to my soul, and touched a nerve in a good way!
Steve Wieser plays all the drums and percussion here. A nice mix of acoustic and electronic drums. Well done – hard to do that in today’s music.
The recording and production of this disc is one of the best I’ve heard in a long time – even the live track is incredible (kind of ELP-ish!) Sorry, don’t mean to compare.
The guru Gary Spaniola mastered the CD. Always a good choice for final touches. Well done, gentlemen. I was thoroughly impressed, and felt included in your music. Highlights are the entire disc. If I had to pick? “”Do You Believe In Love,”” “”In God We Trust,”” “”Stand Up & Shout,”” “”In Your Name”” (which is dedicated to NWA flight 255, 8/16/87, nice touch).
Reviewed By AIR-X
JAM RAG “”Detroit’s Music Magazine””
June 2002 Vol. XVII, No.6 CD Reviews
THE NETHERLANDS: This American Christian band comes out of the State Michigan and I can easily inform you they are the latest new AOR sensation in the underground scene. Their debut CD ‘Still standing’ is filled with high quality 80s typed hook laden AOR with superb vocals, catchy choruses, and loads of pure 80s AOR keys and in general the band has a big sound, comparable to JOURNEY and SURVIVOR. If you think that SWEET CRYSTAL is a new band, then you’re wrong, because they have been around for over 25 years now, so I guess you can say that they have gained some experience through the years. It’s amazing that they haven’t been discovered sooner, because their AOR is from a very high level and could have placed them next to the big guys back in the 80s. The whole CD is sensational, as I couldn’t find any weak song. The vocals of lead singer/keyboard player/bassist Marq Andrew Speck are definitely giving the AOR of SWEET CRYSTAL the finishing touch, because his voice is quite superb and comes dangerously close to JIMI JAMISON from SURVIVOR. A lot of the songs are up tempo 80s typed AOR rockers that remind me of WHITE SISTER, early FM, CRY HOLY, SIGNAL, AVIATOR, early ALLIES and most of all SURVIVOR and JOURNEY. My favorite tracks are “”When I think of you”” (straight-ahead 80s AOR a la WHITE SISTER), “”In God we trust”” (superb 80s AOR keys and harmony vocals), “”No two masters”” (AOR ballad duet with a great female singer) and “”In your name”” (hello JIMI JAMISON’s SURVIVOR Power AOR ballads!). On the other hand, why pick favorites, because the rest is also fantastic, like “”Do you believe in love”” (semi AOR rocker, very much like SURVIVOR) and “”Soldiers of the crown”” (up tempo 80s AOR with cool keyboard lines and a sound like CRY HOLY and the very first ALLIES classic). The keyboard work on all the songs is very impressive and reminds me of the 80s AOR, but also Pomp freaks will go nuts, especially on the live track “”Stand up and shout””. There’s even some Prog./Sympho on this record, in the song “”This way forever”” where we get an impression of how ASIA sounded with good old JOHN WETTON on vocals. All in all, this band is a must to check out if you want to hear that perfect 80s AOR all over again.
(Points: 8.5 out of 10)
Gabor Kleinbloesem, Editor
THE NETHERLANDS: Everyone out there, let me tell you that there is still hope! Just check out this Christian AOR/Pomp band from Dearborn Heights, Michigan, USA and experience its quality and brilliance. This threesome has already been together for over 25 years and had only managed to release one album before as a cassette only, but with this second album available on CD, they are going to conquer many more fans, mark my words. The band takes experiences gained from opening up for such rock legends as Bob Seger, Nazareth, Foghat and Steppenwolf.
Marq Andrew Speck on lead vocals and keyboards, Bill Blatter on guitars and vocals and Steve Wieser on drums are able to deliver an album full of guitar-laden hooks, superb emotional vocals and walls of keyboards and synths. You can hear influences of “”old”” bands like Allies, Sweet Comfort Band, Idle Cure, Whiteheart and more recently Faith Nation, which should give you an impression of what you could expect. Just listen for example to “”When I Think Of You””, which starts off as a ballad, but before you know changes to a fantastic AOR killer track, with a chorus-line straight from heaven, the lovely ballad “”This Way Forever”” or the sensational pomp rocker “”In God We Trust””, with magical chorus that kept on spinning in my head for days and you should get the picture.
The album closes down with two instrumentals, namely “”Looking Back”” (a gorgeous Journey like melody) and Ominicity, which in no way downgrade the high level of this album. Sweet Crystal definitely deserves to be checked out, get yourself a copy of “”Still Standing..””.
SWEDEN: Listen up folks, here we have a new AOR sensation in Sweet Crystal. Sweet Crystal is a 3-piece Christian act from US and they plays AOR with POMP influences in same style and quality as 80’s Asia, Cannatta, John Wetton and Tradia. They open up with a track written by Chris Eaton called “”Do You Believe In Love””. This is a superb AOR song with lots of keyboards and great arrangements in a very 80’s Asia style. The singer Marq Andrew Speck sounds a lot like John Wetton. Next song “”Soldiers Of The Crown”” is little like Saga meets Cannatta. This song has very pompish keyboards that are all over it. “”Where I Think Of You”” is a POMP/AOR song with great harmonies and a good mix of both guitars and keyboards. This song reminds of Tradia at there best. The ballad “”This Way Forever”” is a nice piece of work and has a Cannatta feel over it with nice female vocals in the background. “”In God We Trust”” is the best song of the album. This is a catchy POMP/AOR song with some dut-dut keys in the start and impressive harmony vocals in the chorus. Tradia is written all over this song and the keyboard sound are just amazing. The album ends up with two instrumental songs. One of them “”Looking Back”” is a beautiful song that makes you wanna dream away. This is a song with wonderful and amazing piano work from the singer and it sounds like it could have been played by J. Cain of Journey. Man, I can just imagine how good this song would be with words. Well this is a album for all your AOR maniacs that miss the good old days with Asia, Cannatta and Tradia. I hope that these guys will be discovered over here in Europe by some of the leading AOR-labels. This will be one of this years biggest surprises.
NEW ZEALAND: I first picked this trio up and was quite taken aback at the extremely high quality of their music, both in terms of the arrangements and the production. You could tell this effort was not put together in the back bedroom or in the downstairs basement on a dodgy 4-track Tascam! We get the full monty on this album of tracks by this Detroit based outfit. Not only do they crank out good music, but it seems they run a production and recording facility. So I suppose it’s a case of practice what you preach. Talking of preach, these guys are Christian, so the music inevitably compares to others of the genre, but added in there is a commercial but progressive element. On the rockier tracks, Idle Cure and Kerry Livgren’s A.D easily comes to mind, while on the quieter ones, Illustrator permeates out of the history books like a long lost cloud from the eighties.
The songs I’d originally heard on …..COM sound heaps better on CD, and that says something as I thought they were great. The quality really comes to life. Their opening number ‘Do You Still Believe In Love’ is a mid-paced effort written by Chris Eaton (featured elsewhere on this site). Their excellent ‘Soldiers Of The Crown’ is featured here again, like a hi-tech cross between Illustrator and Fighter. ‘When I Think Of You’ opens slowly before breaking out onto the AOR highway in top gear, complete with pulsing bass lines and swinging guitars. We get some pomp bombast through the middle of ‘This Way
Forever’, which has a very big and spacious production. ‘Messiah Song’ is an interesting track, initially a complex intro before settling into a melodic rock track that Kerry Livgren would feel at home with. ‘No Two Masters’ also features the female vocal talent of D.J Stevenson, who sounds like Debbie Davis (Witness)! No kidding!! ‘In Your Name’
continues the melodic presence, building to some big chorus climaxes. ‘On Stand Up And Shout’ you can hear Sweet Crystal in a live context, and believe me they sound rather awesome. Also heard are some big sound effects coming through. While their coup de grace is the fantastic hi-tech Tangerine Dream flavored instrumental ‘Ominicity’. This is one for the Air Keyboardists among you. Superb stuff. For those with a liking for Christian melodic rock, without going through the normal CCM channels, then go seek Sweet Crystal like I did.
For fans of keyboard based arrangements with quality production then join the queue. To find out what all the fuss is about, there will be an interview to follow with Marq very shortly..
– George Thatcher, Editor
HEART of the ROCK website
ITALY: Sweet Crystal is a Christian rock band from Michigan and is formed by musicians with more than 25 years of experience on their shoulders, and the sound – songwriting reflects their maturity, exploding into songs with great vocal melodies, important keys and a very good sound.
Marq Andrew Speck (vc, keyb, bs), Bill Blatter (gt) and Steve Wieser (dr) know how to write a catchy and intelligent song, made of passion and heart, devoted to ROCK!
Opener “”Do You Believe In Love”” is a superb pomp rock with a refrain “”ala”” Chicago and is a solid base for an exalting listen, passing through the up-tempo “”Soldier Of The Crown”” (among Sweet Comfort Band and Allies) and the mighty pomp rock “”When I Think Of You””, with an intro reminiscent of House Of Lords and a development recalling White Sister.
In “”This Way Forever”” and in the epic “”MessiahSong””, SC make a competent mix of symphonic prog rock close to Anderson – Bruford – Wakeman -Howe and atmospheres close to Asia, with exuberant keys and wonderful vocal parts, the latter enriched by the fantastic female voice of DJ Stevenson in “”No Two Masters”” for a very high emotive dream!
Towards the end, you taste the band live with the stunning “”Stand Up & Shout”” and two instrumentals, the power ballad “”Looking Back”” (waiting to add the right words) and the symphonic prog “”Ominicity””, closing a great CD to have!
Andrea Bertamino, Flash Magazine writer
UNITED STATES: Nineteen Eighty’s Style Rock is alive and well in the band Sweet Crystal’s sound. The band’s music reminds me of groups such as Journey, Kansas and Styx. Their music is filled with guitar hooks and symphonic almost whimsical sounding keyboards. The band has gained much experience over the past
twenty-five years of the group’s existence opening for such acts as Bob Segar, Nazareth, Foghat and Steppenwolf. It shows in the almost flawless sound and production on this release. The lyrics of the songs hold up their part also and are very strong and from the heart. With songs like “”Soliders Of The Crown,”” with lyrics talking about needing to stand strong in our
faith in face of all the temptations this world throws at us. To the song, “”Messiah Song,”” with lyrics telling about the life of Jesus from His miracle birth to His ascension into Heaven. The CD finishes up strong with a live cut of the song,”” Stand Up & Shout”” followed by two instrumentals, “”Looking Back”” and “”Ominicity.”” I can see why this band has been around for twenty-five years. Their music is top notch and I wouldn’t be surprised, God willing, to see them around another twenty-five years. You owe it to yourself to buy this CD for yourself and it would also make a nice gift for either a saved or unsaved friend.
Christian Rockers Online