Petra at 50: Wake-Up Call (1993)


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. In this post my focus is Petra’s fifteenth studio album, and sixteenth overall, 1993’s Wake-Up Call.

The Backstory

Unseen Power had given Petra another award winning album that connected with fans, even if it didn’t quite reach the mass appeal of Beyond Belief or have as many radio hits. The band and producers had intentionally tried to do different things during the recording of the album. Bob Hartman wrote about how the band had needed to shift their direction, but this was more of a transitional step. In some interviews I’ve read and heard in recent months I’ve also gotten the impression he wasn’t the only band member less than thrilled with how Unseen Power turned out. Of course, I think that’s a shame because it’s my favorite album. Period.

After Unseen Power the band released their fourteenth album, Petra En Albanza, a Spanish language version of 1989’s Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out. Then, however, it was type to release their next English language album.

Wake-Up Call would be that album, and it would actually be the album which brought substantial change. The arena rock sound was becoming less popular at the time, being supplanted by grunge rock, pop, and hip-hop. Another tweak in the sound was coming. Add to that the band’s desire to stay home in Nashville to record – they had recorded the past few albums in California – and it amounted to a change in producers for the first time since the Elefante brothers produced Back To The Street in 1986. Brown Bannister, well known in the contemporary Christian music industry for his work with The Imperials, White Heart, and most notably, Amy Grant, was brought on to produce from Nashville.

Album Overview

Petra would win another Grammy for Best Rock Gospel Album and another Dove award for Rock Album of the Year. They were still going strong, but it cannot be denied they were also beginning to wane. Wake-Up Call would bring the most dramatic shift in sound since John Schlitt became lead vocalist. The album definitely had its share of rock, but ballads also comprised four of the ten songs, including the last three. Hartman wrote that they were late getting started in recording and had firm deadlines to meet, so the project ended up being rushed. He concludes that while the album “had many great moments. . . what we hoped would be the end in our search for change became just another step in the process.”

You can watch the VHS release that accompanied the album below:

My Origin Story

I was all in on Petra by this point, and more than ready when this album was released in the fall of 1993. I drove my friends down to Columbia, SC, on the last Saturday night in October for one of the early concerts on the tour. Cindy Morgan opened. I recall liking the album immediately, but not quite as much as Unseen Power. “Midnight Oil,” “Praying Man,” and “Sleeping Giant” stood out to me back then. This album got a lot of play in my 1985 Honda Accord, The Bassmobile.

Album Information

  • Released: November 9, 1993 (This is the information I found, but I know I had the album before that October 1993 concert.)
  • Album Length: 42:36
  • Label: Dayspring / Word
  • Producer: Brown Bannister
  • The Band: John Schlitt (lead vocals), Bob Hartman (guitar), John Lawry (keyboards), Ronny Cates (bass), Louie Weaver (drums)
  • Backing Vocals: Michael Black, Nanette Britt, Bob Carlisle, Vicki Carrico, Chris Eddy, Tom Funderburk, Ron Hemby, Robert White Johnson, Gordon Kennedy, Joe Pizzulo, Jimmie Lee Sloas, Judson Spence, Dale Thompson
  • Recording:
    • Brown Bannister (producer)
    • Lynn Keesecker (A&R Direction)
    • Jeff Balding (engineer at The Power Station, New York City; The Dugout, Nashville; Ocean Way Recording, Hollywood, CA; mixing at Sixteenth Avenue Sound, Nashville)
    • Steve Bishir (additional engineer)
    • Rory Romano (assistant engineer)
    • Wayne Mehl (assistant engineer)
    • Martin Woodlee (assistant engineer)
    • Jeff Demorris (mix assistant)
    • Pete Martinez (mix assistant)
    • Greg Parker (mix assistant)
    • Doug Sax (mastering at The Mastering Lab, Hollywood, CA)
    • Traci Sterline (production coordinator)
    • Diana Barnes (art direction)
    • Gabrielle Raumberger (design)
    • Michael Llewellyn (photography)
    • Dylan Tran (typography)


1. “Midnight Oil” (3:17) – Petra starts this album in a great way: driving guitar and pounding drums. In fact, the drums are fast and constant, perhaps more so than almost any song in the Petra catalog. This is a fun rocker based on Matthew 25. John Schlitt’s voice on point, challenging the believer to be ready for the turn of Christ as he sings, “You better check your oil.” Hartman’s guitar is working and I love the way John Lawry’s keyboard complements everything in this song. I love these lyrics of hope: “We watch for the midnight hour, the day we cease our toil. When the trumpet sounds and the bridegroom comes.” Great way to start the album.

2. “Good News” (4:29) – Petra sought to make different choices in the recording and production of Unseen Power, but this song is big time proof that it’s actually this album that is so different. That’s not to say it’s bad. This song has actually grown a bit on me in recent days as I’ve continued to listen to this album. There’s raw guitar. There’s what I think is harmonica!?! I really like how the verses start a little slower and then kick into gear in the second half. Lyrically this song is about proclaiming the gospel: “Good news – you can read all about it. Good news – speak the word, never doubt it. Good news- ’cause we can’t live without it. I got good news on a long-standing offer. Life you can never lose.” And I particularly like this: “The world needs to hear good news of the love of God’s Son. Every life can be changed by the hearing of what He’s done.” My one qualm with this song is a rather weird ending, with Lawry’s keyboard in an almost oriental sounding staggered rhythm.

3. “Strong Convictions” (3:53) – The mixing and production is off a bit to me in this one, particularly the drums. Lyrically, however, I love the message of this song and it might be the strongest on the album. It’s about standing firm in the truth in a postmodern age. As Schlitt sings, “Secular and sacred blur without even raising a flag. When so many masters call is it the tail or the dog that will wag? With some among us weak at the knees and many others who do as they please, there still remains a witness.” Bob Hartman has never been shy about challenging the convictional strength of the church in his writing, and those words are no exception. I love the words of the bridge, which end in a statement of purpose: “Pressure makes the perfect diamond, measure of the saints refining. Don’t ever want to stray. I really want to stay steadfast and immovable in Him.”

4. “He’s Been In My Shoes” (4:22) – The first ballad of the album, it’s a different kind of Petra ballad. Starting with a little guitar, it then settles in with no drums and just a bit of Hartman behind Schlitt’s voice. Based on Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15, this one is about a Savior who has been where we’ve been and understands what we go through on a minute by minute basis. The glorious truth of the incarnation and Jesus being our Savior who has endured life on this earth, yet without sin, is a comfort to all who entrust themselves to Him. The second verse stands out: “The union of God in a man is a mystery that I can’t understand. And now with my suffering known I’m reminded that I’m never alone. Who has been tried and been tempted this way? Jesus who now hears me pray. 

5. “Praying Man” (4:25) – John Lawry wrote the words to this one, with Jim Cooper collaborating with him on the music. Understandably, it’s also the best use of Lawry on the album. I love the keyboard intro with Weaver joining in. The lyrics are based on James 5:16, and I just love it. Always have. When I first bought the album in 1993 this is the song that stood out, this is the one I most wanted to hear in concert, and almost thirty years later it’s still the standout track on this album to me. Schlitt comes in with “Noah saw the coming of the flood” and then the background vocals come in, “He built an ark on dry land.” The backing vocals on this song are different from practically ever other Petra song and I really like it. The chorus is catchy and made for a concert, but I particularly like the bridge: “Prayer is alive and well today. (It’s a matter of dedication) Prayer works when you take the time to pray. (It’s a matter of true devotion).” Great song!

6. “Underneath the Blood” (3:30) – Music by Ronny Cates on this one. It’s the hardest song on the album. The message is one of the power of the cross, the reality of cleansing one receives when he or she is covered by what Jesus has done in the place of all who will ever believe. The words of Hartman’s chorus are simple and to the point: “Underneath the blood, through the cleansing flood, guilt is left behind, never brought to mind. I’m an innocent man! Underneath the blood!” I love the rock in this album, but it’s also a bit weird. The voice distortion in the bridge was an odd choice, and takes away from the final product in my opinion. Still, a good, raw rocker.

7. “Sleeping Giant” (5:28) – For the second straight album we don’t get a traditional title track with the same name of the album, but we do get a song that is clearly that track when they sing, “Can you hear the alarm echo down the hall? The sleeping giant gets a wake-up call!” This song is a call to the church to be unified, alert, and bold for Christ. I’ve always liked this song, particularly the guitar through the verses. I do question the choices during the instrumental portion, where it almost sounds as if they’re breaking into “Marks of the Cross,” which comes later in the album. It’s not bad, but it feels off. That said, this has always been one of my favorites on the album.

8. “Believer In Deed” (4:06) – Petra had often in its past closed albums with ballads, including the last several albums: “In the Likeness of You,” “Prayer,” “We Exalt Thee,” “Homeless Few.” But Petra had never closed an album with three consecutive ballads. This is the first of those, and it comes from the heart of someone thinking about how he will be remembered, and he wants to be remembered as faithful. The song begins with Schlitt singing by himself, then progresses into a kind of slow march through the first verse, until we get to the chorus: “He was a believer in deed. He had a heart of a different breed. He made his mark and he lived by his creed. A true believer. A believer in deed.” It’s a challenging thing to live up to that chorus, but that’s nothing on the second verse: “Am I living everything I say? Am I pointing others to the way? Will I leave this world a better place? Will Jesus say he knew me? Is Jesus living through me? Did I maintain my authenticity? A man of honor and integrity? Remembering me, I hope that they will truly see.” The last verse includes good stuff about wanting our posterity to remember us as believers in deed. This is a song that has grown on me. Lord, help me live up to it.

9. “Marks of the Cross” (4:35) – This is a song about the minority who realize “there’s no crown ’til we suffer a cross.” It’s about what a life lived for Christ looks like. “Praying, caring, loving, sharing. These are the marks of the cross. Giving, bearing, feeling, daring to lay down your life on the line, forgetting what you leave behind, and willing to suffer the loss of the marks of the cross.” Musically this one is understated. Weaver is hitting the cymbal just a bit. Hartman’s guitar is background at most. Cates’s bass is audible and is really the instrument keeping the rhythm in this one. I like the message, but this one is just kind of there for me.

10. “Just Reach Out” (4:28) – If you are just a casual Petra fan or Christian music fan and remember one song from this album it’s probably this one, as it got the most radio play for sure. It was one of two songs on the album, “Midnight Oil” being the other, that got a music video. My youth ministers played this one a few times. I’m not crazy about the music in this one, but that’s not to say it’s bad. It’s just that nothing stands out, expect for the odd wind down and wind back up at the end. Schlitt’s voice is made for this song, though. I’ll say that. And lyrically, it’s got some really good stuff. “Sometimes the night seems to go on for days” is a great line, and later there’s one even better: “You say you’ve walked 10,000 steps away, but don’t you know that it’s only one step back?” I’m fine with this song finishing the album, though I wish it wasn’t a third straight ballad. 

Ranking the Albums

  1. Unseen Power
  2. This Means War! 
  3. On Fire!
  4. Beyond Belief
  5. More Power To Ya
  6. Never Say Die 
  7. Come and Join Us
  8. Not Of This World
  9. Back to the Street
  10. Captured In Time And Space
  11. Wake-Up Call – I suppose it’s time for a reminder that just because an album is ranked on the lower end of this list doesn’t mean I don’t love it and doesn’t mean it isn’t good. But look at the albums above this one on this list and see what this album had to try to measure up to. I sure would’ve loved to see Petra stay with the Elefantes, as I think lyrically this album is strong, but some of the musical and production choices baffle me. This album sort of felt like the end of an era at the time and it turned out to be so. Still, there is a lot to love here. “Praying Man” remains my favorite from this album. “Believer in Deed” and “Just Reach Out” are solid ballads. “Midnight Oil” and “Sleeping Giant” are solid rockers. This is still Petra, so yeah, it’s great.
  12. Beat The System
  13. Petra
  14. Washes Whiter Than
  15. Petra Praise – The Rock Cries Out

The #Petra50

  1. “He Came, He Saw, He Conquered” – from This Means War! (1)
  2. “Creed” – from Beyond Belief (2) 
  3. “More Power To Ya” – from More Power To Ya (3)
  4. “Dance” – from Unseen Power (4)
  5. “Adonai” – from Beat The System (5)
  6. “Whole World” – from Back to the Street (6)
  7. “Grave Robber” – from Not Of This World (7)
  8. “Hit You Where You Live” – from On Fire! (8)
  9. “Chameleon” from Never Say Die (9)
  10. “Love” – from Beyond Belief (10)
  11. “Road to Zion” – from More Power To Ya (11)
  12. “Godpleaser” – from Captured In Time And Space (12)
  13. “Not Of This World” – from Not Of This World (13)
  14. “This Means War” – from This Means War! (14)
  15. “Come and Join Us” – from Come and Join Us (15)
  16. “All Fired Up” – from On Fire! (16)
  17. “The Praise Medley [“Let Everything That Hath Breath” / “Without You We Could Do Nothing” / “Praise Ye The Lord” / “Hallelujah Chorus”] – from Captured In Time And Space (17)
  18. “Sight Unseen” – from Unseen Power (18)
  19. “Angel of Light” – from Never Say Die (19)
  20. “Praying Man” – from Wake-Up Call – The keyboard intro with Weaver’s drums mixed in is just perfect. The lyrical content is biblical, encouraging, and challenging. The back and forth between Schlitt and the backing vocals is different and just tremendous. I don’t understand why this isn’t remembered as an all-timer.
  21. “Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows” – from More Power To Ya (20)
  22. “Hollow Eyes” – from Beat The System (21)
  23. “Beyond Belief” – from Beyond Belief (22)
  24. “Don’t Let Your Heart Be Hardened” – from This Means War! (23)
  25. “Destiny” – from Unseen Power (24)
  26. “Stand in the Gap” – from On Fire! (25) 
  27. “Hey World” – from Unseen Power (26)
  28. “Fool’s Gold” – from Back to the Street (27)
  29. “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” – from Come and Join Us (28)
  30. “It Is Finished” – from Beat The System (29)
  31. “Woman Don’t You Know” – from Come and Join Us (30) 
  32. “Where Can I Go” – from Come and Join Us (31)
  33. “Not By Sight” – from Not Of This World (32)
  34. “Clean” – from Captured In Time And Space (33)
  35. “King’s Ransom” – from Back to the Street (34)
  36. “First Love” – from On Fire! (35) 
  37. “You Are My Rock” – from This Means War! (36)
  38. “Counsel of the Holy” – from On Fire! (37)
  39. “Midnight Oil” – from Wake-Up Call – As stated above, a solid rocker to open up this album. I love the driving guitar and pounding drums.
  40. “Beat The System” – from Captured In Time And Space (38)
  41. “For Annie” – from Never Say Die (39)
  42. “Magic Mirror” – from Washes Whiter Than (40) 
  43. “The Coloring Song” – from Never Say Die (41)
  44. “Bema Seat” – from Not Of This World (42) 
  45. “Back to the Street” – from Back to the Street (43)
  46. “Get On Your Knees and Fight Like A Man” – from This Means War! (44)
  47. “Somebody’s Gonna Praise His Name” – from On Fire! (45)
  48. “I Am On The Rock” – from Beyond Belief (46)
  49. “Hand On My Heart” – from Unseen Power (47)
  50. “Just Reach Out” – from Wake-Up Call – Obviously, this one is not likely to survive on this list but it deserves mention here. While it might not measure up musically, I love the lyrics.–––––––––––––Falling off…
  51. “Who’s On the Lord’s Side?” – from Unseen Power (48)
  52. “Magic Words”- from Washes Whiter Than (49)
  53. “Why Should the Father Bother?” – from Washes Whiter Than (50)

Parting Thought

This album was not without its flaws, but who am I kidding? I still love it. You can listen to it here.

Bob Hartman wrote about this album that it ended up being just another part of the process. Part of that process would end up being the departure of John Lawry, who left during the tour and was replaced by Jim Cooper. But the bigger departure would be that of Bob Hartman himself, not from the band, but from the road. Quite frankly, Wake-Up Call marks the end of the band’s second golden era. Petra had plenty of good music left in them, but it would never be the same. But rather than lament that I didn’t get more of what I’d gotten the past few years, though, I am thankful that from this fivesome game me some of the most beloved music of my life. Schlitt, Hartman, Cates, Lawry, and Weaver truly were special together. Alas, as I would graduate high school the June after this album was released, it was time for the band to graduate, in a sense, as well. Thank you, Petra.

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