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Petra got started in 1972 and helped define the genre of Christian rock. They were the first rock band I ever liked -- I still remember listening in awe to "Somebody's Gonna Praise His Name" from the On Fire! album. And they are still my favorite band! Hopefully this article will provoke, or renew, your interest in them.
Over the last several years, Petra's popularity has plummeted. Music tastes have changed, and Petra themselves experimented with different music styles with their last several albums. Throughout all this turbulence, which would have caused most bands to simply break up, Petra knew they had a calling to keep preaching the Gospel through music, and they kept at it. A core group of fans remained, and they kept asking for the band to get back to rock!
Those pleas have finally been answered. In August, Petra released its first real rock album in about ten years: Jekyll & Hyde. It did not disappoint. This album easily compares to what they did during their heyday in the late 80s. Here is my brief review of the songs, followed by the Scripture that inspired them.
Jekyll & Hyde -- The title track starts the album off right. It is a rocker about the internal struggle between our spiritual nature and our fleshly nature. Only God, of course, can rescue us from this conflict.
It's All About Who You Know -- Another solid rocker. I feel this song will be useful for evangelism. No matter what we have accomplished in life and no matter how many important people we know or important things we have done, our eternal state is also "all about who you know". In this case, Jesus! The chorus is a tad repetitive, but not bad.
Stand -- This one is clearly for people who know their Bible, with lyrics like Stand, having done all this. Still, it's a good reminder that God has already given us the power we need to stand up for Him.
Would'a, Should'a, Could'a -- Although this is probably my least favorite song on the album, that's not much of a knock because every song is great! It talks about the regrets we have about things we should have done but didn't. Lots of truth there.
Perfect World -- This is my favorite song on the album! The music starts off mellow, then bursts into rock when you least expect it. The message is that even though the world is full of problems today, God knows how to fix them all. He is above nature and everything else. I love the way John Schlitt (the lead singer) nails the lines This is my Father's world, and he can fix it / Our hopeless band-aids are all counterfiet and The old will pass away and bring a new birth / A whole new heaven, and a new earth!
Test of Time -- This is the favorite of many people. It has roughly the same theme as "Would'a, Should'a, Could'a". Our "test of time" is if we're making the most of every moment God gives us. The chorus is really cool but it's only sung twice.
I Will Seek You -- This is the worship song on the album, and I've already heard a report or two of it being sung in church. It is a fairly simple song, but the music is hard hitting and the chorus has a nice sound.
Life As We Know It -- Wow! This song is very useful for reminding us of the life we have in Christ. It uses words like Never perfect, but perfectly forgiven and This is life as we know it / forgiven and free / Life as we know it / more abundantly and Bent but not broken / Tempted not shaken / Kept in the shadow of His wing.
Till Everything I Do -- Here's the adult contemporary (AC) single. It should be played on CCM stations, but I think they are too afraid of Petra to try it, for some reason. As an AC/CCM song, it is certainly good, but I doubt it will top the charts. It talks about the process of God continually making us more like Him through tests and our obedience to Him. As a Petra ballad, it's good but I still prefer their classics from the 80s like "First Love" and "Don't Let Your Heart Be Hardened". Maybe that's because keyboards had an important part of those songs, and they are phasing them out now. Bob Hartman is awesome on guitar, but some of these songs just sound best with keyboards. Still, make no mistake, I like the song.
Sacred Trust -- At first I thought this was going to be my favorite song on the album because the lyrics are so missions-oriented. I do love the song, but I just like some of the others better now. The shouting in the bridge of this song detracts from the musical quality in my opinion. The message is about how bold Jesus was in telling people the truth. He commissioned us to do what He did, and that is to take His truth and love into all the world. The lyrics are great: You never shied away from critical debate / Or beat around the bushes when discussing human fate. We also need to speak the truth in love.
In summary, this is a really great album. It is one of those rare albums where every single song is great, at least in my opinion. It is a little on the short side, clocking in at 31 minutes. But think about it: would you rather have 31 minutes of great music, or 45 minutes of music, of which 20 are mediocre at best?
You can listen to the whole album online at PetraBand.com. You can also read the entire lyrics and interviews with the band and other Jekyll and Hyde related material at Petra Rocks My World J&H HQ.
If you are new to Petra and like Jekyll & Hyde, please consider acquiring some of their older albums. I recommand all the albums released between 1986 and 1990 as a start: Back to the Street, This Means War!, On Fire!, and Beyond Belief.
Praise and worship is also a large part of what Petra does. They helped pioneer the modern rock worship genre with the release of Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out in 1989. It includes classics like "The Battle Belongs to the Lord", "I Will Call Upon the Lord" and "I Exalt Thee". It remains one of my favorite praise albums. Petra Praise 2: We Need Jesus followed in 1997, containing well known songs like "Ancient of Days" and "Lord I Lift Your Name on High", as well as some great Bob Hartman originals. The band's third praise album, Revival, was released in 2001, the predecessor to Jekyll & Hyde. It has some great songs, but nothing original by Bob Hartman, which I feel was a big mistake. Without Bob's songwriting, it just doesn't feel like a Petra album.
Because Petra is still committed to ministry, they still have a message that people need to hear, and their decline in popularity is really unjustified. I want people to know about them, so they will pray for the band and support them by buying CDs and going to concerts, so that their ministry can continue for many years!