Petra at 50: No Doubt (1995)


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 sixteenth studio album, and seventeenth overall, 1995’s No Doubt.

The Backstory

Petra came into the recording of No Doubt facing more uncertainty about the future than perhaps any time since the very early 80s. Arguably, not even the departure of Greg X. Volz and addition of new front man John Schlitt was as much of a shock to the system as the departure of John Lawry during the Wake-Up Call tour, followed by the announcement that, while remaining a part of the band, Bob Hartman would no longer be touring. Wake-Up Call had done well with the people who vote for things, winning another Grammy and another Dove Award. And though it catch on as much as previous albums in a rapidly changing musical environment, Petra fans still enjoyed it very much. Still, Hartman viewed Wake-Up Call as a transitional step (agreed), and things I’ve read and heard from other band members indicate he wasn’t alone in feeling Wake-Up Call was not Petra at their best. 

When it came time for the next album Petra danced with the ones who had brung them. John and Dino Elefante opened a studio in Nashville and the band went back to the duo who had produced their albums from 1986–1992. Hartman was still on board, writing songs and playing on the album. David Lichens, who John Schlitt met while playing a solo date, would join the group on tour and was included in promotional materials. Jim Cooper, who had worked with Lawry while was Petra’s keyboardist, came on during the Wake-Up Call tour and would remain for No Doubt. The question became what would Petra sound like in an era in which the arena rock sound was now being eschewed for grunge and hip/hop? Was their still room for Christian rock?

Adding even more intrigue to the release of the new album was that it came just a few months after the release of Shake, John Schlitt’s solo debut, featuring “Wake the Dead.” You can listen to that here.

Album Overview

Bob Hartman has written that the one album break between Petra and the Elefante brothers was good for both parties, but it was good to be back together. This album feels more familiar and coherent after the Wake-Up Call album which, while I love, is very uneven and featured some downright odd production choices. That’s not the say No Doubt is the same old, same old Petra. No Doubt is different in its own right. Some have alluded to a grunge feel. After all, it was 1995. I don’t know if I’d say there’s a grunge sound, but there’s something different going on here. The drums are mixed lower on several songs, but there remains plenty of rock. A couple of the tunes on this one go places as far as rock is concerned that Petra had never gone before, and it works. The songwriting is just fantastic, and I’d say this is Ronny Cates’s best work on bass.

No Doubt was nominated for Best Gospel Rock Album at the Grammys, but didn’t win it for the first time in a while. It did, however, earn Petra another Dove Award.

Check out this fifteen minute “Electronic Press Kit” that was made to promote the album:

My Origin Story

I actually lived on my church campus in 1995 when this album came out, in a small apartment that was part of our “College and Career Center.” I was excited to get this when it came out and remember really liking it. “Enter In” hit me right from the start. Over the years I played this one, but not as much as the older stuff, and so the album kind of stayed in my mind as middle of the road at best. I will say my opinion of songs other than the leadoff track has changed upon several listenings the past couple of weeks, and that has had an impact on my opinion of this album as a whole.

Album Information

  • Released: August 26, 1995
  • Album Length: 47:47
  • Label: Word, Epic
  • Producers: John Elefante and Dino Elefante
  • The Band: John Schlitt (lead vocals, background vocals); Jim Cooper (keyboards, background vocals); Bob Hartman (lead guitars – in recording); David Lichens (lead guitars – tour); Ronny Cates (bass, background vocals); Louie Weaver (drums)
  • Additional Musicians: John Elefante (keyboards, strings); Tom Howard (string arrangements, conductor); The Nashville String Machine (strings); Chris Rodriguez (background vocals); Micah Wilshire (background vocals)
  • Recording:
    • John Elefante and Dino Elefante (producers, engineers at The Sound Kitchen, Franklin, TN)
    • Bob Hartman (executive producer)
    • Lynn Keesecker and Bubba Smith (A&R direction)
    • David Murphy (string recording at Great Circle Sound, Nashville, TN)
    • Steve Marcantonio (mixing – 1-4, 6, 7, 9)
    • Terry Christian (mixing – 5, 8, 10, 11)
    • Hank Williams (mastering at MasterMix, Nashville, TN)
    • P.J. Marx (guitar technician)
    • Chuck Nelson and Lyndie Wenner (art direction)
    • Chris Ferrara (design)
    • Ben Pearson (photography)


1. “Enter In” (5:00) – Let me just go ahead and say it: This is the most underrated Petra song of all time, and when I try to figure out my rankings below it will be among the top tier of all time Petra songs. I love practically everything about it. Bob Hartman’s Southern-ish guitar, Jim Cooper’s understated but just about perfect keyboards. Louie Weaver’s drums could have perhaps been mixed in a just more, but it’s not a negative. And Ronny Cates on bass is just doing work and setting the tone for what is probably his best album. I haven’t been John Schlitt yet, but he too is setting the tone in this song for what could arguably be his peak on vocals. This song let you know that, while things were definitely changing, this was still very much Petra. I haven’t even mentioned the lyrics yet, which are my favorite part, and basically an explanation of Hebrews 10. The first verse speaks to the once a year sacrifice by the High Priest on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement – how he would “step inside the inner veil to make the people free.” Things changed when Jesus came: “When He spoke and bowed His head, He who saved the world was dead. Then the earth began to shake, heaven’s wall began to break, opening the Holy Place. The temple veil is torn in two. The way is clear for me and you…” and then it breaks into the chorus. “We can enter in, enter in, into Heaven’s Holy place. We can enter in, enter in. Boldly by His blood we can approach His throne of grace. We can enter in a new and living Way. By our faith He will receive us when we pray. Enter in.” What Jesus has accomplished for us is all over this song, and forgive me for continuing to just quote lyrics here, but consider the second verse: “Now without a second look we forget what all it took to be seen as innocent by His Holy eyes. Never thinking foolishly there is something He won’t see, for our lack of righteousness there is no disguise. He won’t look the other way. Someone’s life will have to pay. Once for all it has been done, taken out upon His Son. He remembers it no more. Now for us He is the Door, opened up forevermore.” I just love it.


2. “Think Twice” (4:19) – Now this is a song that has grown on me while doing my listenings to prepare for this post. The bass is heard right from the start. Hartman’s guitar sounds steely. But then what’s that I hear? Strings? Yes, Petra employed the Nashville String Machine for this song, and they really added depth to the musicianship. Based on 2 Timothy 2:22, in which Paul commands Timothy to “flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart,” Hartman’s lyrics address the Christian who is facing temptation and seeking to justify himself in potentially giving in. He writes, “You could think of ways of defending your deeds, justify the way that you wanted to be. Wait just a minute! Wait just a minute!” I’m also a big fan of the bridge: “Face to face with sin, you better think again! You better think again! Take another look for a second time, and give a second thought to where you draw the line!” Really good rock song.

3. “Heart of a Hero” (4:10) – Brian Wooten of White Heart contributed the words for this one, which brings to mind “Praying Man” with how it recounts Old Testament figures. Weaver is playing a sort of shuffle on drums to lead off alongside Hartman’s riff. The first verse focuses on David versus Goliath, the second on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in Daniel 3, though they aren’t named. The point? “It takes the heart of a hero to stand for what’s right. It take the heart of a hero to lay down your life.” I especially like the instrumentals in this one. They are among the best of any Petra song. Ronny Cates is jamming on the bass and Hartman is doing some things rarely heard from Petra. It all works. 

4. “More Than A Thousand Words” (4:58) – The first ballad of the album is a bit ironic, as the lyrics are about how words are insufficient to give back to God what He has given those He is saving through what Jesus has done. Hartman writes, “If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then it won’t help me at all. Only words are never gonna say what I feel for You today.” This is also one of those rare songs in which the choruses differ. The first says, “More than a thousand words won’t say more than my life will not repay. More than a thousand things I do won’t make it up to You. And the second, “More than a thousand words won’t tell how You forgave me when I fell. More than a thousand words won’t do to say I love You.” The lyrics express how until we see Jesus face to face it’ll take a lot more than words to show how thankful we are for His love and forgiveness. 

5. “No Doubt” (4:54) – The title track got, by far, the most radio airplay from this album. But while I thought it was fine when it came out in 1995, it didn’t blow my socks off. I wonder if that is because I was 19 and stupid and hadn’t lived life yet, because at age 46 I think this is great songwriting. Come to think of it, this song could’ve done me a lot of good in 1995 had I actually listened and thought about the words. And what words! “No doubt it’ll be alright. With God it’ll work together for good. No doubt in the end it will be understood. No doubt it’ll all work out. With faith He can move any mountain for us. No doubt in the power of Jesus. And after all is done we find out all we really need to have is no doubt.” And I just love the bridge in this one as well: “There will be winters in the seasons of our soul with a cold and bitter wind that chills our lives. But our faith can be building a fire that will warm us till springtime arrives.” Beautiful. I really don’t have a lot to say about the instruments here. They are all fine. The music is light. The drums don’t kick in until the first solo. Really, though, from the perspective of the band, Schlitt’s vocals are the star. You can feel this song in his voice. 

6. “Right Place” (3:38) – In which Petra turns it up to 11. Seriously, this is a rocker in which it feels like everyone is playing at 1.5x. Drums to start, Hartman quickly joins on guitar, and then Cates is playing like he’d been locked up for a while. This song really grooves. The song is, in tone, about as different as it gets from the preceding title track, but lyrically it’s a great companion piece. The lyrics are about how when you are down and out, desperate, feeling like there is no hope, you turn to God and it’s then “you’re in the right place.” I love these lyrics: “No one has a rescue plan waiting in the wings. Now’s the time to call His name. He can do all things. When your self-reliance fails you still have a prayer. You will have to trust His grace. This may be the fastest-paced rocker in their catalog.

7. “Two Are Better Than One” (3:43) – They bring it down a notch, and how could they not after the last song, with what is a more “regular paced” rocker based on Ecclesiastes 4:9–10. It’s essentially a song about friendship in faith. The first verse is about friendship when one about the availability of one friend to the other when one of them is struggling. The second is there to “pray till [they] win the fight.” The next verse is about friendship when one of the friends is about to fall into sin: “When I start to cross the line, you just seem to read my mind. And then you bust me, then turn around and trust me. Come to the rescue, I’ll do the same for you.” This song personally reminds me of “Run For Cover” from Back to the Street. That song is about the need to be under authority (i.e. pastors, the local church) and not be a “lone ranger” as a Christian. This song echoes that sentiment by saying, “I don’t want to go solo. It’s always better with two. I just want someone to lift me up, to pray and help me get through.” 

8. “Sincerely Yours” (4:16) – Next Petra brings a ballad of testimony and offering, a song from someone who has “felt the emptiness” without God’s tenderness. Thus, he has come to a place where he can sing, “Here is all I have to give. I offer up this life I live. I am sincerely Yours.” Hartman turns a phrase we normally add at the end of a letter or email and uses it to express how our hearts should be toward God. Instrumentally, nothing really stands out about the song except that it’s more keyboard-driven that most other songs on the album. Then again, this song is not about showing off musically, but expressing a heart that has been where the prodigal has been but now, “with senses clear,” wants to be with the Father.

9. “Think On These Things” (4:24) – The band gets back to a mild-paced rocker with this tune based on Philippians 4:8. It’s an aspirational song about the battle for the mind. When our the thoughts from our sinful hearts start us down one road, “I want to think the other way.” Once again the bridge is my favorite part of the lyrics: “Whatever things are honest. Whatever things are just. Whatever things are lovely. I will put my trust in the things that never cease to keep my heart in perfect peace.” The music of the song keeps a regular pace with Weaver keeping time and Cates adding depth. Ultimately the listener is exhorted to win the battle of the mind by thinking of the things God says to.

10. “For All You’re Worth” (4:14) – Written by Jim Cooper, this is essentially a song about the value of life, seeing as Jesus gave His life for life. The song starts quietly with keyboards in the background the Schlitt singing softly, then the band joins in with “By this time” in unison and the rest of the instruments kick in. Throughout the lyrics the listener is encouraged to live a godly life (“Even gold still needs refining, burning off impurities”) because Jesus gave His godly life for ours (“He invested all that He had”). I love the chorus and particularly John Schlitt’s voice in the “He died” part. It goes, “Hold on to life for all you’re worth. You know He died for all you’re worth. He loves you, you have the greatest value. He gave His life for all, for all you’re worth.” A great reminder of what each of us means to God.

11. “We Hold Our Hearts Out to You” (4:11) – I’ve always liked this ballad, which is really just a song of worship, again with a focus on us offering ourselves to God. The lyrics are from the heart of a man who feels the weight of repeatedly failing to live the kind of life God desires and commands of His children, a life commiserate with the sacrifice of Christ. Schlitt sings, “Sometimes we forget what it is that brings us here. Sometimes we forget what it means to be sincere. And there are times we are bothered when we don’t seem to feel. Then we all focus on the One who makes things real. We look around and we feel strong. We feel Your presence then we know that this is where we belong.” And this, “And when we hold out all our lost and shattered dreams You will be binding every heart with broken seam. With a warm and loving hand, You understand. This ballad isn’t flashy, but it’s beautiful.

Ranking the Albums

  1. Unseen Power
  2. This Means War! 
  3. On Fire!
  4. Beyond Belief
  5. More Power To Ya
  6. No Doubt – Honestly, after listening to it several times over the last couple of weeks and really drinking it in, this album finds a higher ranking than I originally expected. There are five really standout tracks in “Enter In,” “Think Twice,” “Heart of a Hero,” “No Doubt,” and “Right Place.” That’s five out of the first six songs that can go toe to toe with any series of songs on any Petra album. Like the album after it in these rankings, Never Say Die, it’s the back half of the album that holds it back from breaking through to elite Petra album territory. Lyrically this is one of the very best albums Petra ever did, but the last few songs don’t really stand out musically. Still, this is a great album, a significantly underrated album, and it showed that Petra could be just fine moving forward.
  7. Never Say Die 
  8. Come and Join Us
  9. Not Of This World
  10. Back to the Street
  11. Captured In Time And Space
  12. Wake-Up Call 
  13. Beat The System
  14. Petra
  15. Washes Whiter Than
  16. Petra Praise – The Rock Cries Out

The #Petra50

  1. “He Came, He Saw, He Conquered” – from This Means War! (1)
  2. “Enter In” – from No Doubt  – Yes, it’s that good. Hebrews 10 in the form of a rock song, illustrating beautiful truth: that because of what Jesus has done the temple veil is torn in two and we can enter into the Holy Place. 
  3. “Creed” – from Beyond Belief (2) 
  4. “More Power To Ya” – from More Power To Ya (3)
  5. “Dance” – from Unseen Power (4)
  6. “Adonai” – from Beat The System (5)
  7. “Whole World” – from Back to the Street (6)
  8. “Grave Robber” – from Not Of This World (7)
  9. “Hit You Where You Live” – from On Fire! (8)
  10. “Chameleon” from Never Say Die (9)
  11. “Love” – from Beyond Belief (10)
  12. “Road to Zion” – from More Power To Ya (11)
  13. “Godpleaser” – from Captured In Time And Space (12)
  14. “Not Of This World” – from Not Of This World (13)
  15. “This Means War” – from This Means War! (14)
  16. “Come and Join Us” – from Come and Join Us (15)
  17. “All Fired Up” – from On Fire! (16)
  18. “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)
  19. “Sight Unseen” – from Unseen Power (18)
  20. “Angel of Light” – from Never Say Die (19)
  21. “Praying Man” – from Wake-Up Call (20)
  22. “No Doubt” – from No Doubt – A beautiful ballad that is encouraging while at the same time articulating how badly we need faith, and what God will do with that faith.
  23. “Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows” – from More Power To Ya (21)
  24. “Hollow Eyes” – from Beat The System (22)
  25. “Beyond Belief” – from Beyond Belief (23)
  26. “Don’t Let Your Heart Be Hardened” – from This Means War! (24)
  27. “Destiny” – from Unseen Power (25)
  28. “Stand in the Gap” – from On Fire! (26) 
  29. “Hey World” – from Unseen Power (27)
  30. “Heart of a Hero” – from No Doubt – Great song, citing biblical examples, of what it takes to stand up for what’s right. 
  31. “Fool’s Gold” – from Back to the Street (28)
  32. “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” – from Come and Join Us (29)
  33. “It Is Finished” – from Beat The System (30)
  34. “Woman Don’t You Know” – from Come and Join Us (31) 
  35. “Where Can I Go” – from Come and Join Us (32)
  36. “Not By Sight” – from Not Of This World (33)
  37. “Clean” – from Captured In Time And Space (34)
  38. “King’s Ransom” – from Back to the Street (35)
  39. “First Love” – from On Fire! (36) 
  40. “You Are My Rock” – from This Means War! (37)
  41. “Counsel of the Holy” – from On Fire! (38)
  42. “Midnight Oil” – from Wake-Up Call (39)
  43. “Beat The System” – from Captured In Time And Space (40)
  44. “For Annie” – from Never Say Die (41)
  45. “Magic Mirror” – from Washes Whiter Than (42) 
  46. “The Coloring Song” – from Never Say Die (43)
  47. “Bema Seat” – from Not Of This World (44) 
  48. “Back to the Street” – from Back to the Street (45)
  49. “Get On Your Knees and Fight Like A Man” – from This Means War! (46)
  50. “Somebody’s Gonna Praise His Name” – from On Fire! (47)

Barely missing getting into this list, and I do mean barely, are “Think Twice” and “Right Place.”


Dropping off…

  • “I Am On The Rock” – from Beyond Belief (48)
  • “Hand On My Heart” – from Unseen Power (49)
  • “Just Reach Out” – from Wake-Up Call (50)

Parting Thought

I’m so thankful for this little project, because I don’t know that I could say this before, but I really love this album now. You can here it all here. After an uneven album in Wake-Up Call and going back to the Elefantes to produce, there are a thousand ways this album could have gone sideways. On the contrary, this might be Bob Hartman’s best album lyrically from start to finish. The non-Hartman songs didn’t detract, but added to the value of the album. I noted that the last few songs didn’t stand out musically. I think if there’s a negative to No Doubt it’s Petra being uncertain of what their sound needed to be in a musical environment that was shying away from real rock. Indeed, Petra was no longer proving to be the juggernaut of CCM they had been in previous years. It was definitely a time of change. I’ll write more about the changes between this album and the next in the next write-up, but when it comes to this album, there’s no doubt about its greatness.

2 thoughts on “Petra at 50: No Doubt (1995)

  1. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on these albums. I stumbled on your website after randomly listening to the No Doubt and Jekyll & Hyde albums today after not having listened to them for a few years. Listening to them again I was thinking, man, some of these songs are so good. So after that it was great to find your website and your reminiscing on on No Doubt. Couldn’t agree more on your 5 favourite songs from it, particularly Think Twice, I’ve loved that one for years. I’m looking forward now to reading through your other reviews. Thanks again. All the best from here in Scotland, Colin.

    1. Colin,

      Great to hear from you in Scotland. Thank you so much for stumbling on to my page and thank you even more for the kind comments. I have loved going through these albums again. Petra are very much part of the soundtrack of my life. I’m hoping to put the finishing touches on my Jekyll & Hyde post in the next two to three days.

      Thanks again,

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