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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2001 1 Jan
Sounds like … alternative pop meets modern praise set to the high-pitched rock and roll vocals of singer John SchlittAt a Glance … Petra builds off their classic rock roots to produce a rejuvenated sound influenced heavily by Sonicflood.

Never say dinosaur when it comes to describing the ever enduring and evolving rock and roll band Petra. Perhaps cats, with their nine lives, are a better animal comparison. It's impossible to count how many lives Petra has lived since their 1974 debut, while racking up a remarkable resumé of achievements along the way. The group's latest, Revival, marks their 20th project; their previous 19 have sold more than 7 million copies so far. In addition, the band has taken home four Grammy's (most recently the trophy for the 2000 Best Rock Gospel Album), and ten Dove Awards (including 1991's Group of the Year, 1994 and 1996's Rock Album of the Year, and 1998's Praise and Worship Album).

Praise and worship music is obviously a hot commodity these days, but Petra's history with this genre spans the past decade. The group took the charts by storm with 1989's Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out, introducing to the CCM market praise and worship lyrics set to a rock and roll beat. They finally offered a sequel to that project in 1997 with the widely received Petra Praise 2: We Need Jesus, known primarily for the title cut, sung by Schlitt, John Elefante (formerly of Kansas), and Lou Gramm (of Foreigner fame).

The super group's latest easily could have been titled "Petra Praise 3", but the band opted for Revival instead. Starting over again seems to be the theme of the record, both in the song selections and the group's musical progression. The lyrics, however, aren't entirely their own, unlike the first two praise projects. The group culls many of their selections from the repertoires of modern worship leaders, such as Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman. Additionally, Petra calls upon the production talents of former Sonicflood members Dwayne Larring and Jason Halbert, who produced the modern worship project All Around the World earlier this year.

The album begins with the rousing "Send Revival," a tune even longtime fans may not recognize at first as a Petra song. The track begins with rich acoustic guitar sounds and picks up a stirring string section as it progresses. During the middle of the track, the band plugs in and turns to rock with an alternative edge. It's at this point Schlitt belts out his characteristic high notes with a touch of gravely attitude. A cover of Tomlin's "The Noise We Make" follows, keeping the same spirit of the original, while adding a series of drum loops and background vocals. The opening background vocal wailing is reminiscent of Cheb Mami's vocals on Sting's "Desert Rose."

Although everyone seems to have covered "Amazing Grace" at one point or another, Petra's version has elements that lacked previous exploration. It's clear the producers had their former band in mind during the recording of the classic hymn, which continues the use of drum loops matched with the guitar solos of Bob Hartman. The loops remain, but in much quieter volumes, on tracks such as "Better is One Day" and "Prodigal Son." Both make for soothing listens, while the rich acoustic undertones of "Prodigal Son" make the emotional lyrics stand out all the more. Schlitt tenderly sings, "Open your arms/ And into your heart/ I'm falling in love again with you."

The most energetic moments come during "Jesus, Friend of Sinners" and "We Want to See Jesus Lifted High." "Jesus, Friend of Sinners" features the band fully plugged in and jamming away, set to sequencing that matches the pace of Sonicflood's "Open the Eyes of My Heart." "We Want To See Jesus Lifted High" is a classic three-minute rocker featuring Schlitt's vocals laced over one another to create a harmonized sound. Such a studio-driven effect allows listeners to perceive the song being sung by a small choir of people, perhaps driving them to sing along as well.

This record will once again prove that Petra's far from washed up and is clearly back as a contender in the modern rock scene. Although the record caters to the desires of longtime fans while offering a fresh enough sound to reel younger listeners in, I would have enjoyed it even more if Petra had penned more of the material. I also would have liked to see the producing duo leave room for more of Petra's creative input and less Sonicflood influence. Regardless, it's nice to see Petra making music again, and it will be interesting to see how their sound progresses in the near future.