Tom Belt and God Unlimited

Every now and then a group comes along which represents the best of its genre. Its leadership, those who play and sing with it, everything seems to “click.” Although picking an absolute best in the turbulent era of the 1960’s and 1970’s isn’t easy, for college campus church based groups, it’s hard to beat God Unlimited.

Originally God Unlimited was the Episcopal “diocesan youth choir” at Arizona State University, under the direction of the Rev. Tom Belt. Choir isn’t exactly what they were, at least not in the sense that word was understood in the Episcopal Church. Their music is certainly folk, but their ability to move from the choral to the folk and back again with ease is one of the strong points of the group.

Obviously as a college group frequent personnel changes were a given, so with these, the first four of their discography, we see several repeats in songs. That isn’t bad, and there are several liturgical seasonal songs (which is the main reason why this is being posted during Holy Week.) But their proficiency and their charm give them a special place in the history of the “Jesus Music era.”

God Unlimited (Century 34122) 1968

In some ways a “prequel”, this album is a very home-made introduction to their music, before their years on GIA took them up a notch. But their music shows what’s to come. A couple of tracks reflect some social activism that, although not unusual with Christian music of this era, doesn’t carry over into their later productions.

The Songs:

  1. The Lord Is Come
  2. Break Open
  3. Ride On
  4. Leaves A Fallin
  5. The New Morn
  6. Blow Wind
  7. Joy
  8. Go Forth, My Brothers
  9. Sing Freedom
  10. Where Are We A-Goin
  11. The Freedom Song
  12. Listen Lord
  13. Praise God

Or you can download all of God Unlimited

Joy, And Other Sublime Aspirations (GIA M/S-120) 1968

Now on GIA, they’re still as good a before but with more polish (and somewhat better recording quality). This is my personal favourite of the four presented here, and I use “The Sun and the Sea” to portray my own home church, Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach:

The Songs:

  1. The Lord Is Come
  2. The Sun And The Sea
  3. Songs From My Heart
  4. Break Loose
  5. Blow, Wind
  6. Where The Children Run Free
  7. Joy
  8. A New Song
  9. Love Divine
  10. Streams In The Desert
  11. Sing Freedom
  12. God Unlimited

Or you can download all of Joy and Other Sublime Aspirations

Ride On (1969)

The Songs:

  1. Open Up Your Heart
  2. Son Come Down
  3. Ride On
  4. Alleluia
  5. Clouds Spinning
  6. Do You Want to be Free
  7. Black the Night
  8. Jan’s Song
  9. Universal Rhythm
  10. Break of Day

Or you can download all of Ride On

Love Knows No Season (GIA M/S-136) 1970

The Songs:

  1. Break Open
  2. Leaves A Fallin’
  3. The Silent Night
  4. The New Morn
  5. Resurrection
  6. God Unlimited
  7. Come Holy Spirit
  8. Fisherman
  9. Getting High On Love
  10. Trouble Lord
  11. Love Knows No Season
  12. Sing A New Song

Or you can download all of Love Knows No Season here

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13 thoughts on “Tom Belt and God Unlimited”

  1. Thanks, PI.
    I worked with some of these guys later in the mid ’80’s, and we produced more original songs. Their earlier sound carried through.

  2. My name is Geoge Summers and Tom Belt is my uncle. I became part of the original choir when I was 15 years old and was the lead male vocalist and guitarist on the 1st four recordings (“Where the Children Run Free” was written by me). The reason for responding to this article, is to say I appriciated the nice positive comments about our work (Joe Gear – bass, Tod Sorenson – drums, Kaaren Freeman – piano and guitar, and myself – electric and acoustic guitars were the musicians on the 1st three GIA recordings). Moreover, when we recorded “Ride On”, are ages ranged from 18 (myself and Todd) to 20 (Joe and Kaaren) and even though, when I listen to these records, I hear all of the mistakes, I also take pride in our accomplishments (especially considering our ages) and am grateful that someone else shares those sentiments.
    George Summers

    1. George – I became involved with God Unlimited in the sixties and early 70’s. I have had several music books and can’t locate them now but I need a copy of the song Set Our Spirit Free which is very appropriate for Trinity Sunday. If you have a copy, would it be possible to forward it to me. I’m in the music ministry at St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Paradise, CA and my husband is Deacon David Alves. We have an excellent music team and requests for assisting other congregations is a ministry we are taking on. My roots were very well planted in the God Unlimited ministry. I kept contact with the Bethancourts and one other who was a drummer and is now a priest somewhere in the Bay Area. He also has the distinction of putting chords to I believe all the hymns in the 1982 Hymnal which assisted many students in the Presiding BIshop’s Diploma for Church Musicians classes where I was a student for 2 years.l
      Thank you for your help.
      Marianne Alves
      13840 Tulsa Court
      Paradise, CA 95954
      530 873 9343
      alvesdm@sbcglobal.net

  3. I’ve just posted a video made with “Black the Night,” that haunting anti-war song from “Ride On.” Had to listen over and over to the song and try to get all the lyrics, still suspect I didn’t get them quite right. Pics I used came from war stills on the web…. painful. My commentary and the video can be found here:

    http://www.wilsonstation.com/?p=6417

  4. And thank you SO much for posting the other albums by God Unlimited. I collect old “Jesus Music” and this group is an absolute gem. Am downloading right now. 😉

  5. Thank you for those who posted the God Unlimited albums. I have been enjoying them! There was real talent in the creation and production of the music. It’s been fascinating to read other posts about it.
    I’m wondering if someone has the other albums not on here?
    Burst Forth Creation – 1977
    That They May Be One – 1976
    And We Shall Sing You Praise – 1975
    Ride High the Wind – 1974
    New Wine-Vintage 1972′

    Some is quite rare. I guess, let this be an special request…

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