Petra at 50: Come and Join Us (1977)


In celebration of Petra turning fifty years old in 2022, here at I am going album by album through their discography and reflecting on the role their music has played in my life. Today my focus is Petra’s sophomore effort, 1977’s Come and Join Us.

The Backstory

Petra waited three years before releasing their second album. In the intervening years the band went through minor changes. Bill Glover resigned from the band and was replaced by several others. However, when it was time for the second album to be recorded, Petra ended up hiring Glover as a studio musician.

Notably, Petra didn’t have a true lead singer for their first album. That would not change with this album; however, Hartman didn’t believe his vocals were right for where the band was going (he was right, no offense to Hartman). Thus, a number of guest vocalists were brought in to strengthen the voice of the record. Among them was Steve Camp, who would go on to record several CCM albums from the 1980s into the 2000s. Here’s my favorite. Another guest would turn out to be someone who would become synonymous with Petra for years to come, former e band vocalist Greg X. Volz. 

One of the songs Volz featured on was “God Gave Rock and Roll to You,” a cover of a song previously released by Argent. Petra had to seek permission to use the song and, importantly, change the lyrics. In 2022 the song might not seem like a big deal, but in 1977 the song was provocative, to say the least. Ambassador Artist Agency president Wes Order said, “It was the boldest statement anyone in Christian music had made until that time. This was a radical notion, especially in the minds of the leaders of conservative churches.” Indeed, opposition from churches would mark much of the next ten years of Petra’s ministry.

The process of recording the album was not exactly smooth either. Hartman wanted to name the album God Gave Rock and Roll to You, but Myrrh records rebuffed that idea and went instead with the name of another of the album’s tracks, Come and Join Us. Myrrh also scuffed a song Hartman wanted included, “Killing My Old Man,” about the Pauline idea of putting the death the old self. However, it was deemed too controversial, though it would later be included on Never Say Die.

Album Overview

Petra grew up on this album a little bit. The sound is definitely more refined and polished than their initial effort. Bob Hartman was a young Christian when writing the lyrics for the first album. They are innocent in a sense and highly evangelistic. There is still an evangelistic bent to songs on Come and Join Us, particularly “Ask Him In,” but there are deeper subjects tackled as well. The confrontational lyrics stand out, but so does the mood of the music. This is an edgier record not just in lyrics, but in being harder rock. There are improved vocals, but some of the guitar and drum work is just stellar. Petra was really starting to come into their own as a rock band. Though Hartman has publicly lamented the compromises Petra had to make on this album, there is a growing confidence that comes across in the music. 

For reasons passing understanding, the song arrangement on the CD version of the album, which is the same order you find on online services like iTunes and Spotify, is different from the original order on the vinyl. The song order on the vinyl is better and makes more sense thematically, which I’ll get to below. I will be addressing songs in the order on the vinyl.

My Origin Story

I was born in 1976, so my exposure to Petra didn’t really start until I was in the youth group in 1988 and going into 1989. Thus, I was baptized in the John Schlitt era. It wasn’t until the summer of 1991 I was exposed to Come and Join Us. It also happened to be the summer that Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey came out, a film featuring a version of “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” by KISS. I was at a friend’s apartment and he had some of the older Petra albums, including Come and Join Us. He played me Petra’s version of the song and, I have to admit, I didn’t like it. I’ll talk more about how I feel about it now below, but my musical sensibilities were, shall we say, not quite as refined at age fifteen as they are now. 

As for the rest of the album, it’s one of those I bought in 2000–01, like the debut album, as I was trying to complete my collection of Petra albums. Upon listening to it for the first time, in comparing it to other stuff by Petra, I wasn’t impressed, and did not listen to the album very much for the next ten or eleven years. My opinion of the album began to change when I began to write about Petra on my former web site ten years ago when the band was forty years old. It seems, as my review below will attest, that with time my opinion of this album continues to change – for the better.

Album Information

  • Released: 1977
  • Album Length: 35:37
  • Label: Myrrh
  • The Band: Bob Hartman (guitar, vocals), Greg Hough (guitar, vocals), John DeGroff (bass)
  • Guest Musicians: Bill Glover (drums, percussion), Steve McElyea (keyboards), Steve Mergen (percussion), Allen C. Hornung (percussion), Steve Pfeiffer (percussion), Cowbell Bob (percussion), Houghie I (percussion), Steve Camp (percussion, guest vocals), Greg X. Volz (guest vocals), Karen Morrison (guest vocals), Austin Roberts (guest vocals)
  • Producer: Austin Roberts
  • Recording:
    • Terry Jamison (engineer)
    • Allen C. Hornung, Bill Olszewski (assistant engineers)
    • Arrangements by Petra
    • Recorded at Golden Voice Studios – South Pekin, IL
    • Mastered by Lanky Linstrot, ABC Records – Los Angeles, CA
  • Songs written by Bob Hartman unless noted below.


  1. “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” (5:37) – As stated above, this song is original to Argent, but Petra sought and received permission to use the song and change the words. Of all versions of this song, including the later version Petra did on 1985’s Beat the System, this version is my favorite. It opens with a two minute instrumental which builds to the chorus: “God gave rock and roll to you.” That, in and of itself, was a controversial statement in Christian circles in the 1980s. Nevertheless, just as Petra opened their first album with a statement song, “Walkin’ in the Light,” declaring themselves a Christian rock band, here they are doubling down and saying, “And it’s of God!” The song also delivers a challenge: “You can learn to dance, or you can be a square. You can let the music take you anywhere. But where will you be when the music’s gone?” The song takes that challenge and turns evangelistic when Greg X. Volz sings, “If you love the sound, then don’t forget the source.” This is a great opener and, so many years later, a thoroughly underrated song.

2. “Holy Ghost Power” (2:28) – In today’s “modern worship” era the majority of the songs seem to deal with our feelings rather than exalting the Lord, and there are plenty of songs which mention the Holy Spirit, even if they do so ambiguously. In the 1970s songs about the Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost as it were (in KJV language more common to the time), were not as common. This song starts with a guitar riff, then gets a little bit funky, with the bass really carrying the groove. Lyrically, the song speaks about everybody’s talking about power, in a human sense, but it’s the power of the Holy Spirit that really counts: “Holy Ghost power’s gonna fill you today, Holy Ghost power’s gonna take you away, Holy Ghost power’s gonna fill you within, Holy Ghost power’s gonna save you from sin.”

3. “Woman Don’t You Know” (3:41) – This one was written by Hartman and Greg Hough, with Greg X. Volz once again on lead vocal. The song also seems longer than it actually is because of a lengthly instrumental portion, including extensive drums. Lyrically, the songs evoke the feeling of Proverbs 5, 6, and 7, which all include warnings regarding sexual sin and falling under the influence of an evil, enticing woman. To be sure, this song is edgy and if it were released today I’m guessing Petra would get a lot of pushback for it, but that’s how it goes when you truly bring biblical themes to the forefront. I really like this song. Consider the final verse: “I told you about salvation, but you don’t seem to want no part. You’ve been trying to take me, you’ve been trying to steal my heart. Woman don’t you know, I ain’t gonna have no part.” Now consider Proverbs 7:24–25: “So now, my sons, listen to me, and pay attention to the words of my mouth. Do not let your heart go astray into her ways, do not wander into her pathways.” It’s a much-needed message today, just as it was then. Extra points for drum solo and guitar riffs, slight deduction for the computer-generated noises during the instrumental portion. 

4. “Sally” (4:28) – Written also by Greg Hough, “Sally” takes the theme of “Woman Don’t You Know” and paints a picture of that woman, named Sally, a girl who used to be happy and used to act like a Christian. After all, “Everywhere that Sally went, the lamb was sure to go.” But things weren’t as they seemed because Sally has apparently abandoned the faith. In fact, she’s been seen on the other side of town smoking weed and drinking and fooling around. How about those lyrics for 1977 contemporary Christian music? It’s no wonder this album made Myrrh Records nervous. Nevertheless, the crux of the song lyrically is “Why would she want to run away from God and all His love, and go back in that world and live so hard and rough?” Ultimately the perspective of the songwriter is, from his vantage point, he’s almost relieved she’s not around right now because it appears she was the type of woman who enticed him in a Proverbs 5–7 sort of way. The song’s lyrics could have been sharper in the final verse, but I like the message of the song, the guitar work, and the funky groove. It’s worth a noting that the outro to this song has what appears to be an allusion to Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.” If so, it’s not the last time we will hear a little bit of Jimi Hendrix in Petra.

5. “Come and Join Us” (4:40) – Side one closes with the title track, and I just love this song. The guitar work is absolutely superb, with a great intro and solo later on. The drums aren’t half bad either. Hartman singing lead, the lyrics feel like a callback to the songs from the first album, as they are very evangelistic. They also show Hartman’s growth as a lyricist, as there is a style here of biblical references, imagery, and theology that would characterize much of his writing in the years to come. For example, “We are like stones built together in a wall, made up of whosoever the Master Builder calls. We are not worthy but together we are strong, built on the Rock of Ages, the wall is almost done. Come and join us in the sunlight. . . Come and drink from the well that will never run dry.”

Check out this live version from 1978 in which Hartman is not singing lead. Plus, stick around for some material that would appear on their next album, Washes Whiter Than.

6. “Where Can I Go” (3:53) – Hartman had to have been reading Psalm 139 when he wrote this one. It starts with a guitar riff that repeats before breaking into some drums. The sound reminds me personally of Grand Funk Railroad, and it works. Lyrically, the song is about the love of God which pursues (haunts) the sinner, all while the one singing recognizes his unworthiness. At one point Hartman seems to be drawing on lyrics of other popular rock songs: “I could climb the golden stairway to heaven, I could catch the crowded highway to hell.” Of course, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway” was several years old by this point. AC/DC’s hit was still a couple of years away. In any event, this is just a straight up good rock song.

7. “Without You I Would Surely Die” (4:28) – Written by Greg Hough, this one starts with more great guitar riffs and drums. Just a running theme for this album. The song itself is written from the perspective of a man who knows he’s all kinds of mixed up and helpless without the intervening lovingkindness of God. He writes, “Sometimes I feel like I’m all mixed up inside sometimes I feel like I wanna go run and hide. But then You put Your arms around me and I feel Your sweet love surround me. Then I know just where I’m going.” And the chorus: “You keep my head on my shoulders. I’m well adjusted inside. You are my love, You are my only life, without You I would surely die.” A knowledge of our own lack of sufficiency before God, without Christ, would do us all good.

8. “Ask Him In” (3:32) – On the CD version this is the second song, and I just have no idea why someone decided that was a good idea, because this was clearly written to be the last full song on the album. If the first seven songs have been the sermon, this song is absolutely the invitation hymn, and now it’s time to respond. So Hartman sings, “Now that you’ve heard the music, where do you go from here? You see music only takes you to the place where you’re ready to hear. We could sing and tell you we love you, and you could say it wasn’t true. But how can you say that about a man who died for you?” Petra has always recognized that Christian music is only good inasmuch as it glorifies God and points the listener to God the Son, Jesus Christ. Musically this is just a simple ballad, but I love the point of this song and it’s right place on the album.

9. “God Gave Rock and Roll to You (Reprise)” (2:52) – This one starts with children singing the chorus and slowly builds to where you hear very clearly the voice of Greg X. Volz and others. Then you hear the guitar riff, then the drums, and as this all repeats it slowly begins to fade. A fitting way to end the album.

Ranking the Albums

  1. Come and Join Us
  2. Petra

The #Petra50

Ok. Here we go. Where do the songs of Come and Join Us fit into the Petra50, my fifty favorite Petra songs of all time? Keep in mind this listen will evolve as we move from album to album, with songs eventually falling off the list, not because they aren’t great, but because Petra has so much music to consider. I won’t bother putting every song in the list.

So when we think about Come and Join Us, I’m going to say “Holy Ghost Power,” “Sally,” “Without You I Would Surely Die,” “Ask Him In,” and the reprise of the opening track won’t make it on the final list, so I’ll stick to the other songs, and here is where the list now stands (previous rank in parentheses)…

  1. “Come and Join Us” – As stated above, this song was a sign of great things to come. 
  2. “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” – A bold statement for the times and a great song to boot.
  3. “Woman Don’t You Know” – I love the edginess and the rock of this song. Might be higher if not for the computer noises. 
  4. “Where Can I Go” – Grand Funk Railroad is kind of overlooked today but fifty years ago they were huge and this sounds like them, and I like it.
  5. “Walkin’ in the Light” (1)
  6. “Get Back to the Bible” (2)
  7. “Lucas McGraw” (3)
  8. “Backslidin’ Blues” (4)

Parting Thought

This album didn’t sell well, and as a result Myrrh Records dropped Petra from the label and left Bob Hartman and company wondering if there should even be a Petra. Thank God they decided to press on. I wonder if Myrrh didn’t promote this album because they were so worried about the potential controversy. To be sure, Petra pushes 1977’s Christian culture envelope with Come and Join Us. Petra would change, but they would press on.

Nevertheless, I think this is a great album. No disrespect to the first album, as if you read that post you know I like it more now than I used to, but despite Hartman’s compromises in the making of Come and Join Us, this album is a step up in every way. This album will have a greater place in my rotation going forward. I regret not appreciating it more when I was younger. I have no idea where this will wind up when I’m done with these rankings, but I know this is an underrated, under appreciated gem, and I encourage you to listen to it – right here.

Next up will be 1979’s Washes Whiter Than, which features Petra’s first radio success. Come and join me for that one.

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