Petra at 50: Petra Praise – The Rock Cries Out (1989)


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 eleventh studio album and twelfth overall, 1989’s Petra Praise – The Rock Cries Out.

The Backstory

Petra was in the ascendancy in 1989, and that is saying something considering they’d made a decade’s worth of great albums. During the early years of Petra and well into the 1980s, many pastors, churches, and people within had been highly critical of Petra and bands like them, believing rock and roll was “the devil’s music.” However, as the 80s wore on some of the youth pastors who had been more amenable to Petra in the early days became senior pastors. They were more open to the idea of Petra, or outright fans themselves, and churches began warming up to the idea of Petra. It helped that Petra began touring with apologist and evangelist Josh McDowell during his “Why Wait?” campaign, geared at teaching teens to wait until marriage to have sex. This gave Petra more credibility with churches, so the band  began asking youth pastors what they could do to help them. They gave the members of Petra the idea of taking praise and worship songs and making them sound more current so that youth would enjoy them. Petra took that ball and rolled with it, and Petra Praise – The Rock Cries Out was the result.

Petra at 50: On Fire! (1988)


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 tenth studio album and eleventh overall, 1988’s On Fire! 

The Backstory

To this day there are Greg X. Volz Petra fans and John Schlitt Petra fans, but if there were any remaining doubts the latter could fit in after the former’s departure after Back to the Street, they should have been obliterated after This Means War! With producers John and Dino Elefante Petra found its post-Volz sound and ran with it. That album produced some of Petra’s best songs, the tour was a great success, and Schlitt’s voice was all the way back. Thus, Petra decided to run it back for their next album. The Elefante brothers were back. The spiritual warfare theme which permeated This Means War! would again be prevalent. The only change would be to the lineup of the band. Bass guitarist Mark Kelly, having been with Petra since Never Say Die, departed. That opened the door for 22-year-old Ronny Cates to join up. It would be the last lineup change for seven years. Schlitt/Hartman/Lawry/Cates/Weaver, what some have called the “dream lineup,” would remain together until 1994, producing six albums together – the most stable lineup in Petra history.

Petra at 50: This Means War! (1987)


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 ninth studio album and tenth overall, 1987’s This Means War! 

The Backstory

John Schlitt joined the band as lead vocalist in early 1986, in time to fill some of Petra’s international dates on the back end of the Beat The System tour. Later that year, with John and Dino Elefante as their new producers, Petra recorded Back to the Street. Schlitt had come in late to that process, with most of the music already having been recorded before he hit the studio to do the vocals. This Means War!, then, would be the first album with Schlitt fully involved. His voice was ready to rock and so was the rest of the band, setting the stage for the first in a run of albums that would redefine Petra as we knew it, and the Christian music industry.

Album Overview

Where do you start when trying to provide an overview of this one? For many of my generation, this is the start of Petra’s golden age, or at least a second golden age. They took the sound they were developing in Back to the Street and amplified it. Bob Hartman calls this “a great turning point for the group because it firmly established the new sound.” He’s right. This is their most rocking album to date, and album that start with a bang and doesn’t let up. You do get two high quality ballads mixed in, but it’s the rock that stands out. That stands to reason with the in your face theme of spiritual warfare from the first drums of the title track all the way to the end. John Schlitt’s voice, if anything was missing from the last album, is all the way back and then some for this one. The Elefante brothers find a near perfect way to mix this one together. For good reason, This Means War! is remembered by many as the start of Petra’s peak.

My Origin Story

I don’t remember when exactly I first owned this album, but I can say it was in the early 90s. My first exposure to anything on this album came in November 1989 when Petra came to my church and did a concert. I’ll talk more about that later on in this series, but I specifically remember “He Came, He Saw, He Conquered” was the second song they performed. When I bought the Petrafied compilation I quickly loved “This Means War!” and “Don’t Let Your Heart Be Hardened.” It wasn’t long after that I had the whole thing.

Album Information

  • Released: 1987
  • Recorded: Pakaderm Studio; Los Alamitos, CA
  • Album Length: 40:12
  • Label: StarSong
  • The Band: Bob Hartman (lead guitars, additional programming, arrangements); John Schlitt (lead vocals, background vocals); John Lawry (keyboards, computer programming, background vocals); Mark Kelly (bass guitar, background vocals); Louie Weaver (drums, additional programming)
  • Producers: John Elefante and Dino Elefante
  • Additional Musicians:
    • John Elefante (additional programming, background vocals, arrangements)
    • Tim Heintz (additional programming)
    • Dino Elefante (arrangements)
    • Tom Hrbacek and Los Alamitos High School Marching Drummers (percussion on “This Means War”)
  • Recording:
    • John Elefante (producer, engineer, mixing at Pakaderm Studio)
    • Dino Elefante (producer, engineer, mixing)
    • Mike Mireau (engineer)
    • Steve Hall (mastering at Future Disc, Los Angeles, CA)
    • Dave Rogers (art direction, design)
    • Chris Hopkins (illustration)


1.  “This Means War” (3:30) – The Los Alamitos High School marching band helps start this one off with drums that resonate in my mind whenever I think of this song. Right away it’s heavy, and with every pounding drum beat you can feel the militaristic, spiritual warfare theme that will carry throughout the album. Lawry’s keyboards also start with a pounding beat, and remain prevalent throughout the song. When the keyboards come in, so does John Schlitt, with lyrics directed at none other than the devil himself, Satan: “Son of the morning – highest of all, you had so much going till you took the fall. Had a place in the glory but you wanted it all, impossible odds but you had the gall. It seemed so unlikely that you would rebel, such a worthy opponent that you knew so well. But you went down fighting when you heard the bell
Took a third down from heaven when you went to hell.” Then the guitar ramps up for the chorus, in which Schlitt’s screams out, “THIS MEANS WAR!” My favorite line comes when he sings, “The Victor is sure and the victory secure, but till judgment we all must endure. This means war!” The first song of this album announces there is a war going on, and it will continue, but Jesus has already won it and that will not change. Just fantastic. Add it a great instrumental from Lawry, the last chorus, then another great finish with Lawry and Weaver’s drums bringing it home. This is one of the most iconic songs in Petra’s history for good reason.

2. “He Came, He Saw, He Conquered” (4:10) – Hartman calls this one of Petra’s all-time greatest concert songs, a victory song that is one of his favorite to perform. It’s one of their greatest songs. Period. Like the song before it, it starts with drums, but instead of keyboards taking the leading role, Lawry serves a more complementary role in this song. The guitar drives this one. And whereas in “This Means War” the message is that we are at war with Satan, but Jesus has already won the victory, this song explains the basis of our victory. It’s Jesus, the cross, and the resurrection! “No one could know. No one could fathom. The way to win was only through the grave. They laid Him in His tomb. They thought they’d sealed His doom. But He rose! He rose!” Schlitt’s voice soars on this song, by the way. And I absolutely love the chorus: “He came! He saw! He conquered death and hell! He came! He saw! He is alive and well! He was! He is! And only He forgives! He died! He rose! He lives! He came! He saw! He conquered!” Those title words, on a play on the words of Julius Caesar, one of the great conquerors of history. He said, “Veni, vidi, vici!” (I came, I saw, I conquered). But for Petra the focus is on Jesus, the cross. But the good news is we get to “see the things the Lord can do.” An empty tomb to the glory of God! And just so we are reminded, “He came into this world. He saw humanity. He heard the S.O.S. He met the enemy. The enemy was conquered! The enemy was conquered!” While the war still rages, we are battling a defeated foe. To this day I post this one on social media every Resurrection Sunday. John Elefante collaborated with Hartman on the music for this one.

3. “Get On Your Knees And Fight Like A Man” (4:32) – Having sung about the war we’ve already won through Christ, and how the basis for our victory is the cross and empty tomb, this begins a series of songs which explain various weapons we have or traits we need to exhibit to fight with victory in this war. The first of those weapons is prayer, and what a title for a song. You want to be a real man? Pray. Fight in prayer. Consider the second verse: “Over your head the condition is graver. You’ve given ground you can’t retrieve. The cards are stacked and they’re not in your favor, but you’ve got an ace up your sleeve.” Then, “Get on your knees and fight like a man.” When the conflicts come, we need to remember it’s the effective prayer of a righteous man that accomplishes much (Jas 5:16, one of the verses Petra attributes in this song). This is a rocker too, albeit not as fast faced. Louie Weaver continues to do some of his best drumming in this one, and it really helps keep that war theme going. Hartman has a great solo in there as well. 

4. “I Am Available” (4:27) – To fight in this war you can’t be self-absorbed. Considering what Jesus Christ has done for those He saves, you need humility and you need to submit to God, making yourself available to Him to use. Your agenda has to become His will. Consider what Schlitt sings, “I don’t have much to offer you. I don’t have much to give. There’s so much I may never be as long as I may live. I may never be all I want to be, although I’ll always try. But if you choose me, to use me, there’s just one reason why. I am available.” This isn’t about the music so much. Lawry shines on keyboards. But it’s Schlitt who stars here as he sings about the hero of the song, Jesus. It’s easy to imagine what this song may mean to Schlitt, considering his testimony, as he sang, “My whole life was incomplete till I laid it at Your heart. So use me as You will. I am available.” It’s not about what we bring to the table. God doesn’t need anything from us. He just wants us to humble ourselves, be ready to serve Him, and He will take care of the rest.

5. “Kenaniah” (3:43) – John Lawry and Danny Kingin joined Hartman on lyrics for this one, with Lawry and Kingin doing the music. I know I had never heard of Kenaniah before I heard this song, and if I’d read about him in 1 Chronicles 15:22, 27 I didn’t remember it. He’s a minor character in the account of the ark being brought to Jerusalem, but his role was important. He was chief of the Levites and was given in song, so he instructed the Israelites in singing. In other words, he led in worship through song during this pivotal moment in the history of God’s people. The lesson? Worship is a weapon in this war, and I’d argue, it’s both an offensive and defensive weapon, helping to guard the heart of the one worshipping, keeping a right perspective of God, while always shoving it in the devil’s face, and in a world that hates God, that He, Yahweh, is Lord. This is a cool rock song. I did the backing vocals going, “Ohh! Ohhhhh!” Every instrument is doing it’s job to accompany Schlitt’s voice as he sings this mini-biography of a man in history who helped show God’s people a way to worship Him.

6. “You Are My Rock” (4:21) – Worship is a weapon, and this is another one of those praise rock songs that are such an important part of Petra’s history. This one starts off slow with Lawry, but you can tell it’s going to build. Lyrically, it’s a testimony of one struggling, “Moving through the shadows of uncertainty.” But that uncertainty fades when you realize you’re not standing alone. “You are my Rock! My fortress, my shield!” It’s a cry out to God based on Psalm 18:1–6. The weapons here? The traits we need to exhibit? Dependence. Faith. When we are in uneven times, unsure situations, we can remember that Yahweh is our solidity. He is our Rock, and He hears our cries. I love how Schlitt sings relatively softly in the first verse and bridge, then belts out, “You are my Rock!” And the band echoes him, then joins him in unison to close the chorus with another, “You are my Rock!” The drums and keyboards shine on this one, but Hartman does have a nice solo in there.

7. “The Water Is Alive” (3:48) – There is something about the sound of this song that seems unique to me, but I can’t really put my finger on it. It’s an album track and not as well known as many other Petra songs, but I’ve always dug this one. Lyrically, the song reminds the believer that in the midst of war we come into contact with thirsty hearts and souls who suffer from mirage-like delusions. They need to drink the living water, and we need to remember that. The water is alive. It is what gives us life and refreshes us. “The oasis waits for those who roam. . . [but] He lets [us] drink the living water till [we’re] satisfied.” This is another song in which the backing vocals really soar. I also like Hartman’s riffs in between verses. I never saw this one live but I think it would be fun to see.

8. “Don’t Let Your Heart Be Hardened” (3:41) – The second ballad on this album is one I’m particularly thankful for because it sends a message I often need to hear. The chorus is the very first thing you hear: “Don’t let your heart be hardened. Don’t let your love grow cold. May it always stay so childlike. May it never grow too old. Don’t let your heart be hardened. May you always know the cure. Keep it broken before Jesus. Keep it thankful, meek, and pure.” In this world filled with sin it can become so easy for even the most mature believer to become embittered with people, with the world system, and even the church (which is filled with sinners just like us). The backing vocals on this one are great. As I keep writing that I think this might be the best of Petra’s albums so far when it comes to what the backing vocals add to each song. That said, it’s another ballad in which Schlitt really stands out. 

9. “Dead Reckoning” (3:23) – Another weapon, or thing we have to do in this war, is continually put to death the deeds of the flesh. That’s from Romans 6:11 and one of the verses cited with the lyrics. “It’s a dead reckoning. Trade the old for the new. It’s a dead reckoning. Learn to die daily till the new life comes through. It’s a dead reckoning.” And we’re not alone in this fight. “There are many who trod,” Hartman reminds us in the lyrics. And ultimately, it all points back to the victory we have in Christ: “And the battle is already through.” I really did the music in this one. It’s a fast moving guitar. Louie’s drums are right there, and there’s an almost abrupt, but cool finish to this one as well. 

10. “All The King’s Horses” (4:27) – It’s appropriate the last song of this album, in which war is an in your face theme, is inspired by Revelation 19:11–21, when the victorious King Jesus returns as the rider of the white horse. The song serves as a fitting epilogue to this album which began with war in heaven: “It’s an age-old score that’s got to be settled. It’s an age-old debut that’s got to be paid. When the King breaks through in all His glory, to claim His throne and the world He made.” The chorus is a play on the old Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme, in which the title character had a great fall, and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. In contrast, the Lord will come with His holy ones. He and they, under His power and direction, will put this world back together again (in the millennial kingdom). This song not only reminds us of our victorious King, but the role we will get to play as His servants. It may not seem real now, in 2022, but “when the dust and the smoke disappears, the King will reign for a thousand years.” Schlitt’s voice is strong and all of the instruments are doing work, including Kelly’s bass line, which I haven’t mentioned enough in looking at all of these albums. Plus, a cool Hartman solo before the second to last chorus. All in all, this is one of the better (and underrated) closing tracks on a Petra album.

Ranking the Albums

  1. This Means War! – What can I say? This album is great. I’d say it’s probably known for the title track, “He Came, He Saw, He Conquered,” and the two ballads most of all, but the album is strong from start to finish, with probably the best overall “Side B” of any Petra album yet. Those first two songs are musts for any Petra fan, absolutely iconic, but from song to song it is definitely the most thematic of any Petra album (probably before and after). As stated above, there’s a reason people point to this album as the start of a golden age.
  2. More Power To Ya
  3. Never Say Die 
  4. Come and Join Us
  5. Not Of This World
  6. Back to the Street
  7. Captured In Time And Space
  8. Beat The System
  9. Petra
  10. Washes Whiter Than

The #Petra50

So having a new #1 album, the question is how the individual songs fit into the great scheme of this ultimate Petra playlist. Some of the songs are no-brainers, but I think there are good things to say about all ten of the songs on this album. In fact, I’m placing EIGHT of them in this list. Only “Kenaniah” (which I really like!) and “Dead Reckoning” aren’t making the cut. And cuts will come. There are now fifty songs in this Petra50, so starting with the next album some songs will drop off. It’s part of the fun of it, and a testimony to how great Petra has been through the years.

  1. “He Came, He Saw, He Conquered” – from This Means War! – Yes, we have a new top song on our list. I just love everything about this one. The rock. Schlitt’s soaring voice. The victorious lyrics. The clever play on Caesar. The great reminder of why we have victory in Jesus. This one will be difficult to supplant.
  2. “More Power To Ya” – from More Power To Ya (1)
  3. “Adonai” – from Beat The System (2)
  4. “Whole World” – from Back to the Street (3)
  5. “Grave Robber” – from Not Of This World (4)
  6. “Chameleon” from Never Say Die (5)
  7. “Road to Zion” – from More Power To Ya (6)
  8. “Godpleaser” – from Captured In Time And Space (7)
  9. “Not Of This World” – from Not Of This World (8)
  10. “This Means War” – from This Means War! – If it’s not the best title track up to this point (and I grudgingly resisted putting it higher), I’d argue it’s the most iconic. The pounding drums. The declaration that the Victor is sure and the victory secure. The stick-it-in-Satan’s-face lyrics. Awesome.
  11. “Come and Join Us” – from Come and Join Us (9)
  12. “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 (10)
  13. “Angel of Light” – from Never Say Die (11)
  14. “Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows” – from More Power To Ya (12)
  15. “Hollow Eyes” – from Beat The System (13)
  16. “Don’t Let Your Heart Be Hardened” – from This Means War! – I highly esteem this ballad because of the personal spiritual benefit it has been to me through the years. I know me, so I know I need to not let my love grow cold.
  17. “Fool’s Gold” – from Back to the Street (14)
  18. “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” – from Come and Join Us (15)
  19. “It Is Finished” – from Beat The System (16)
  20. “Woman Don’t You Know” – from Come and Join Us (17) 
  21. “Where Can I Go” – from Come and Join Us (18)
  22. “Not By Sight” – from Not Of This World (19)
  23. “Clean” – from Captured In Time And Space (20)
  24. “King’s Ransom” – from Back to the Street (21)
  25. “You Are My Rock” – from This Means War! – I give this praise rocker high marks. It points us to the One who is certain in a world filled with uncertainty. Plus, it rocks!
  26. “Beat The System” – from Captured In Time And Space (22)
  27. “For Annie” – from Never Say Die (23)
  28. “Magic Mirror” – from Washes Whiter Than (24) 
  29. “The Coloring Song” – from Never Say Die (25)
  30. “Bema Seat” – from Not Of This World (26) 
  31. “Back to the Street” – from Back to the Street (27)
  32. “Get On Your Knees and Fight Like A Man” – from This Means War! – If you want to fight this spiritual war like a man, follow the example of the Son of Man. Pray! Great stuff.
  33. “Magic Words”- from Washes Whiter Than (28)
  34. “Why Should the Father Bother?” – from Washes Whiter Than (29)
  35. “Walkin’ in the Light” – from Petra (30)
  36. “The Water Is Alive” – from This Means War! – An underrated album track which inspires the listener to share the good news of the life giving, life saving, living water that sustains us not just for a moment, but for eternity.
  37. “Killing My Old Man” – from Never Say Die (31)
  38. “Stand Up” – from More Power To Ya (32)
  39. “Morning Star” – from Washes Whiter Than (33)
  40. “Second Wind” – from More Power To Ya (34)
  41. “You Are I Am” – from Back to the Street (35)
  42. “I Am Available” – from This Means War! – A wonderful battle expressing our needs both for humility and for a readiness to do whatever God wants us to do.
  43. “Mary’s Song” – from Washes Whiter Than (36)
  44. “All The King’s Horses” – from This Means War! – This is a great bookend to the title track which opens the album, but the song stands on its own as a declaration of victory and a reminder of the promise that Jesus will make everything right. Plus, again, it rocks.
  45. “Blinded Eyes” – from Not Of This World (37)
  46. “I Can Be Friends With You” – from Never Say Die (38)
  47. “Get Back to the Bible” – from Petra (39)
  48. “Yahweh Love” – from Petra (40)
  49. “Lucas McGraw” – from Petra (41)
  50. “Backslidin’ Blues” – from Petra (42)

Parting Thought

This Means War! became the best Petra album to date, with iconic songs that rocked. Working with John and Dino Elefante, Petra had found another gear, and as we will see, more great things were to come. It should be noted that Mark Kelly would leave the band after this album. I’ve never seen a reason given as to why, but after being with the band for seven years, one could be forgiven for wanting off the road so much, if no other reason. He would come back to an incarnation of the band in 2010, but that’s for another day. Ultimately, This Means War! is one of the first albums think about when Petra is brought up, and it’s easy to see why. You can listen to it here. Next time, we get fired up.


Petra at 50: Back to the Street (1986)


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 eighth studio album and ninth overall, from 1986, Back to the Street. I have been looking forward to writing this one, because of all Petra’s albums this might be the most forsaken.

The Backstory

Petra had been on an unprecedented run of success for any band in the relatively brief history of Christian rock, so it probably came as a surprise to almost everyone when, during the Beat The System tour, lead vocalist Greg X. Volz decided he would be leaving the band. The reasons for his departure, to my knowledge, have never been told publicly, at least not explicitly. However, there are cookie crumbs in various interviews both Volz and others have done over the years. Bob Hartman and others were not exactly thrilled with the finished product that was Beat The System. Petra’s product had gotten away from guitar-driven rock and roll and into an increasingly electronic sound. Volz has said that he and Hartman agreed on everything except for business, so one might deduce the direction of the band going forward was perhaps the main issue. Volz departed. Jonathan David Brown, the producer of each album going back to Never Say Die, followed suit. That left Hartman, Mark Kelly, Louie Weaver, and John Lawry looking for a new production team.

Enter John and Dino Elefante.

John Elefante was fresh off departing the band Kansas, for which he was the lead vocalist and keyboardist. He had gotten into producing with the Sweet Comfort Band in 1984–85. His brother Dino had been in bands with him. And now Petra needed a change, and there they were. It was a match made in contemporary Christian music heaven, as for the better part of the next decade Petra and the Elefante brothers would work together for what many think is the golden age of the group.

Still… who was going to sing? When Volz made it known in 1985 he would be leaving the group, Hartman reached out to John Schlitt, the former lead vocalist for Head East. Schlitt had been out of the game for five years, having been basically fired from the group for an excessive drug problem. Jesus saved him out of that, though. To God be the glory! Nevertheless, Schlitt thought he was done with the rock and roll life… until Hartman called. It didn’t take him long to say yes.

Schlitt debuted as the lead vocalist during some shows in Australia. His voice was rusty and he lost his voice during more than one concert. But things would get better. Schlitt turned out to be perfect for the role. He was not Volz, but he didn’t have to be. Petra would change with him up front, but it just worked! Below is a Petra concert in Norway from this time, which is a gem because you get to hear Schlitt in Petra doing some of the Volz era hits you didn’t get to experience in later years.

Album Overview

With new producers and a new lead vocalist, this album was, as Bob Hartman has written, “bound to be drastically different from the start,” and it was. There was an intentional return to harder rock sound, in which the still very present keyboard would complement the hard driving guitar instead of overpowering it. The drums, also, are more present. Louie Weaver was back in the studio for this album, and the result is a more organic and powerful feel for the drums. The Elefante do a better job mixing them in, to be sure. As for the vocals, by the time John Schlitt was brought on most of the recording of the music for Back to the Street had already been done. He just came into the studio and put his voice to it. The result is an album which might seem uneven to some, but it’s still the beginning of a new sound for Petra that would develop over the next several albums and bring the band its greatest run of success.

Check out this video below on “The Making of Back to the Street”…

My Origin Story

I don’t remember when I got this album, but I know it was by 2001, because that’s when my library was complete up to that time. That’s probably when I got it. I know I had compilations with some of the more noteworthy songs already – “Fool’s Gold,” “Thankful Heart,” and “Whole World.” I know I’d heard “King’s Ransom” as well because a friend of mine had really liked that song and wanted me to hear it. I do wish, as with practically all of these albums, I’d gotten this one earlier.

Album Information

  • Released: 1986
  • Recorded: Pakaderm Studio, Long Beach, CA
  • Album Length: 40:51
  • Label: StarSong
  • The Band: Bob Hartman (guitar, arrangements), John Schlitt (lead vocals, backing vocals), John Lawry (keyboards, Fairlight programming, backing vocals), Mark Kelly (bass guitar, backing vocals), Louie Weaver (drums)
  • Additional Personnel: John Elefante (keyboards, backing vocals, arrangements), Dino Elefante (arrangements)
  • Producers: John Elefante and Dino Elefante
  • Recording:
    • John Elefante – producer, engineer, mixing
    • Dino Elefante – producer, engineer, mixing
    • Mike Mireau – engineer
    • Dave Rogers – art direction, cover design, concept
    • Randy Rogers – art direction, cover design, concept, illustration
    • Bill Brunt – art direction, photography
    • Scott Bonner – photography
    • Ron Keith – photography


1. Back to the Street” (4:16) – I remember my first exposure to this song being my church’s youth camp in 1989, in between my seventh and eighth grade years. The theme to the camp was “Takin’ It to the Streets,” an evangelistic theme, and after each session the guy running sound would play two songs – “Takin’ It to the Streets” by The Doobie Brothers (LOL!) and this one, “Back to the Street.” The keyboard intro to this opening track might’ve lead the listener to think he or she was going to be listening  to something similar to Petra’s last studio album, Beat The System. But then it’s John Schlitt’s distinct voice singing, “It’s so easy to lose the burden, take our eyes off the fields. Settle into apathy, and forget what the harvest yields…” And he eventually gets to “Jesus said ‘Go!'” with the band echoing “Go!” and Bob Hartman’s guitar kicks in and you know this is going to be different. Still Petra, but different. From that point the guitar is a bigger part of the song. It’s really well done. This is a really solid opening track that speaks to the mission of the church: “Jesus said ‘Go into all the world. Make disciples of all men.’ We gotta go to the byways, compel them to come in!”  The message at the end of the second verse resonates: “It’s so easy to save your own life, resting on what you’ve done. But Jesus would leave the ninety nine to try to save the one.” Are you burdened to go back to the street?

2. “You Are I Am” (3:11) – We go from an evangelistic call to arms to what is practically a praise rock song. In fact, this would later be included on the Power Praise compilation album, leading off the medley track. You can really hear how the drums are mixed in better in this album on this song, but what really stands out to me are the backing vocals. You hear this on the first track, and throughout this album as well, but the Elefantes really did a superb job of utilizing backing vocals on this album, with John Elefante actually pitching in on that. A great improvement over the past couple of albums. Lyrically, this song is a praise song, referencing God telling Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” in Exodus 3:14, and arguably also Jesus’ I AM statements in the Gospel of John. Everywhere and in every situation, from eternity past through eternity future, God is God: “From the top of the mountains to the bottom of the sea (You are I AM! You are I AM!). From beginning of time through eternity (You are I AM! You are I AM!). From burning bush to Gethsemane, from the Red Sea shores to the Galilee (You are I AM! You are I AM!).” A solid rock song pointing to the transcendent ever-presence of Yahweh.

3. “Shakin’ the House” (4:28) – There’s a slow start to this one, but you can kind of tell it’s not going to be a ballad. Sure enough, the rock kicks in. John Lawry joined Bob Hartman on the lyrics for this one, and Lawry collaborated with John Elefante on the music. 

I have often preached about how, as believers, we are either in one of life’s storms, coming out of one of life’s storms, or about to be in another one of life’s storms. This song is essentially how we deal with that when it comes: “There’s a rumble in the distance, a trembling in the air. It’s uncertain in direction. Does it come from here or there? It’s approaching by the minute. Does it lead you to despair? Feel it shakin’ your foundation when you haven’t got a prayer. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken from within. Better have your house in order when the shakin’ begins.” The believer is exhorted to examine his foundation to determine whether it stands on rock or sand. 

Musically, the song is fine, but not great. However, I love the message.

4. “King’s Ransom” (4:18) – My first exposure to this song was at my friend Johnny’s house. He played this song because he liked it and I hadn’t heard it. I immediately liked it too. It’s Matthew 20:28 in rock ballad form: “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” 

It’s the cross, is it not? And there’s even a biblical reference from the Song of Solomon: “The Rose of Sharon wore a crown of thorns that day. The carpet had a nail right through His hand. The Master of the earth became a servant of no worth and paid a King’s ransom for my soul.” The song is theologically rich, including clearly naming Jesus, the One on that cross, as the “Creator of the earth, Name above all names.” A rock solid Petra rock ballad. Period.

5. “Whole World” (4:50) – When I bought the Petrafied compilation album right after it came out, I was thrilled to be able to hear Petra songs I’d never heard before. Until then my library was very limited to On Fire!Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out, and maybe one or two more. I don’t even know if I had Beyond Belief yet, because from what I’ve read it was 1991 when Petrafied came out, and I think I may have actually bought that first!

Anyway, this song, “Whole World,” is the song that jumped out at me more than any other. “Hollow Eyes” was right there, but this one was my jam. I’ve always been a sucker for good intros, whether it be to a movie, a sports broadcast, or a rock song. This one got me. The keyboards going, then the drums with a little bass line, then the guitar, and finally, John Schlitt’s voice. Good stuff.

And the lyrics! What a reminder that God is in control! The first verse describes our world right now: “Hearts are falling left and right. Children fear this planet’s plight. Fatalistic fears abound and take their toll without a sound. But through the vague uncertainty comes a bold assurity. This world is under sovereignty, divinely ordered destiny. He holds this world together with the Word of His power, safe within His hands ’til its own appointed hour.” Then the chorus: “And He’s still got the whole world in His hands tonight! And only He knows where the sparrow lands tonight! And nothing in this world can stop His plans tonight! ‘Cause He’s still got the whole world in His hands.”

At this point I might as well give you the lyrics to the second verse, because they too are so timely: “Humanistic lies lament. The holocaust is imminent. Doomsday prophets in the news predicting who will light the fuse.” Then the kicker… “The fate of His creation isn’t subject to a man. The final consummation is according to His plan.” Schlitt’s voice soars on this song like no other on the album. The keyboards are on point. This song might be Louie Weaver’s best work on drums up to this point. Mark Kelly’s bass, especially on the bridge, is great. And Hartman is right there with the guitar. 

I love this song and believe it to be criminally underrated, among the most underrated, in Petra’s lengthy history. Hartman knew, and I’m sure still does know, how to write lyrics. 

6. “Another Crossroad” (3:50) – This song is for the believer who comes to one of those very common moments of uncertainty, indecision, and/or turbulence. When you don’t know which way to go you have to order your steps by the word of God. Indeed, one of the Scripture references attached to this song is Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” The believer needs the resolve in this song: “I don’t want to be wrong. I want to do what’s right. I know that you can lead me through the maze when I acknowledge you in all my ways.” Musically the song doesn’t blow me away, but it’s solid and the lyrics send a message of which we all need to be reminded.

7. “Run for Cover” (3:15) – This is the second consecutive song that doesn’t really move me musically, but its message is a needed one, and one that is so rare in contemporary Christian music I cannot immediately think of another song that tackles the subject. In fact, this has been a song I’ve often skipped over, and thus the lyrics have never penetrated me like they have in writing this very post. The Scripture reference is 1 Peter 5:5, which says, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

The song is about being under the right authority. We all need godly leadership to listen to. As a Christian you are not meant to be “a lone ranger running through the night with no one to tell you if you’re wrong or right.” So “Run for cover!” That cover is provided by godly, Bible believing, Bible teaching elders whom God has provided. “The arm of flesh will always fail” out on its own. If you are a Christian, make sure you are not forsaking the assembling of believers. Make sure you are not depriving yourself of God’s blessing of a faithful local church. Petra agrees.

8. “Fool’s Gold” (4:48) – I came to know and love this song, with music by the Elefantes, on the Petraphonics compilation. I loved the play on words Hartman utilized in writing the lyrics. When you think of fool’s gold you think of something that is relatively worthless. It fools you into thinking it’s gold but it’s not. But Hartman takes that and plugs in 1 Corinthians 1:21–25 to communicate, in a world that is truly foolish but considers the message of the cross foolish, the fool’s gold is what is truly valuable. 

Fool’s gold – it’s waiting in a crown. Fool’s gold – in a city coming down. I’ll leave the gold I can’t afford for the higher prize I’m pressing toward. I’ll preach the foolish cross of Christ and wait for my reward, fool’s gold.” And then the climax to this ballad comes with a reference to the scene in Revelation 21, “When the crowns of gold all lay before His feet, then the worthy Lamb of God is the treasure we will keep. Some may call me foolish, some may call me odd, but I’d rather be a fool in the eyes of me than a fool in the eyes of God. Beautiful. May we all be found fools to the world if it means the prize of Christ.

Check out this video of Petra performing “Fool’s Gold” live in 2020…

9. “Altar Ego” (4:43) – This song might have the most cutting lyrics of any Petra song ever. One might think that honor might be reserved for a song like “Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows,” but “Altar Ego” might be even more direct in its warning to the church. Notice the spelling of the world Altar, by the way. Be careful how you worship.

Whereas Jesus tells his disciples when they fast to make sure they keep themselves up so that people can’t tell they’re fasting, the lyrics of this song says, “I can tell by the look on your face it’s another day of fasting. I can tell by the length of the shadow that your face is casting. And you look both ways before you pray just to see who’s watching you today.” Ouch. The chorus doesn’t let up: “It’s just your altar ego, and it’s so hard to know. Beneath the piety and hidden vanity begins to show.” Ultimately the song points the listener to turn around and face the One who knows his heart.

Hartman continues to bring the heat with the lyrics to the songs on this album, but musically this one doesn’t grab you the way other songs do. That’s not John and Dino Elefante did a bad job. It just doesn’t measure up to some of Petra’s other ones. Still, listen to the lyrics.

10. “Thankful Heart” (3:17) – Perhaps the best known song from this album is the last one, which is kind of unique for a Petra album. This song didn’t blow up the charts but it did get radio play, and was included on the Petraphonics compilation. My friend Bryan and I used to joke that some of the lyrics in this one came from the Department of Redundancy Department: “I have a thankful heart that You have given me and it can only come from You.” Now, I realize that isn’t a truly redundant statement, but it’s not Hartman’s best lyric in my humble opinion. Maybe we should give Dino Elefante have that, since he co-wrote it, with John Elefante arranging it. The song is very nicely crafted, and beautifully sung by Schlitt. John Lawry’s keyboards also stand out in this closing track.

Ranking the Albums

  1. More Power To Ya
  2. Never Say Die 
  3. Come and Join Us
  4. Not Of This World
  5. Back to the Street – There is no one more surprised by this ranking than me. This album doesn’t get the love of the Greg X. Volz albums which preceded it, and definitely not the love of the next few John Schlitt albums, but this album holds up big time. In fact, I had a hard time not putting it above Not Of This World. That album has more enduring hits to be sure, but don’t sleep on Back to the Street. It has underrated from start to finish.
  6. Captured In Time And Space
  7. Beat The System
  8. Petra
  9. Washes Whiter Than

The #Petra50

How do the songs of Back to the Street measure up against the best of Petra thus far? Well, I’m going to go ahead and eliminate a few songs from consideration. “Shakin’ the House” doesn’t make the cut, and “Another Crossroad” along with it. For as much as I LOVE the challenging lyrics of “Run For Cover” and “Altar Ego” they don’t grab me enough to justify inclusion in this list. I’m also going to go ahead and disqualify “Thankful Heart,” which may surprise you. But this is my list and I don’t believe it would make the final cut anyway. So let’s see where this leaves the five remaining songs.

  1. “More Power To Ya” – from More Power To Ya (1)
  2. “Adonai” – from Beat The System (2)
  3. “Whole World” – from Back to the Street – Haters are gonna hate at this ranking, but I love this song. It’s in contention for their most underrated song ever (I have one other contender in mind). It’s tight and I love the lyrics which speak to the sovereignty of God in the midst of a chaotic world. A great rock take on “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”
  4. “Grave Robber” – from Not Of This World (3)
  5. “Chameleon” from Never Say Die (4)
  6. “Road to Zion” – from More Power To Ya (5)
  7. “Godpleaser” – from Captured In Time And Space (6)
  8. “Not Of This World” – from Not Of This World (7)
  9. “Come and Join Us” – from Come and Join Us (8)
  10. “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 (9)
  11. “Angel of Light” – from Never Say Die (10)
  12. “Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows” – from More Power To Ya (11)
  13. “Hollow Eyes” – from Beat The System (12)
  14. “Fool’s Gold” – from Back to the Street – I just love Bob Hartman’s guitar in this one, but I love the juxtaposition between being a fool in the eyes of man and a fool in the eyes of God. 
  15. “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” – from Come and Join Us (13)
  16. “It Is Finished” – from Beat The System (14)
  17. “Woman Don’t You Know” – from Come and Join Us (15) 
  18. “Where Can I Go” – from Come and Join Us (16)
  19. “Not By Sight” – from Not Of This World (17)
  20. “Clean” – from Captured In Time And Space (18)
  21. “King’s Ransom” – from Back to the Street – A great ballad speaking to Jesus becoming a servant of no worth because of how valuable we are to Him.
  22. “Beat The System” – from Captured In Time And Space (19)
  23. “For Annie” – from Never Say Die (20)
  24. “Magic Mirror” – from Washes Whiter Than (21) 
  25. “The Coloring Song” – from Never Say Die (22)
  26. “Bema Seat” – from Not Of This World (23) 
  27. “Back to the Street” – from Back to the Street – Great opening track with a call to evangelistic arms.
  28. “Magic Words”- from Washes Whiter Than (24)
  29. “Why Should the Father Bother?” – from Washes Whiter Than (25)
  30. “Walkin’ in the Light” – from Petra (26)
  31. “Killing My Old Man” – from Never Say Die (27)
  32. “Stand Up” – from More Power To Ya (28)
  33. “Morning Star” – from Washes Whiter Than (29)
  34. “Second Wind” – from More Power To Ya (30)
  35. “You Are I Am” – from Back to the Street – A great praise rocker that speaks to the ever-presence and eternality of Yahweh.
  36. “Mary’s Song” – from Washes Whiter Than (31)
  37. “Blinded Eyes” – from Not Of This World (32)
  38. “I Can Be Friends With You” – from Never Say Die (33)
  39. “Get Back to the Bible” – from Petra (34)
  40. “Yahweh Love” – from Petra (35)
  41. “Lucas McGraw” – from Petra (36)
  42. “Backslidin’ Blues” – from Petra (37)

Parting Thought

If some of those rankings above surprise you, I encourage you to give Back to the Street another listen here. It might be the most forgotten and forsaken album in the entire Petra catalog. For Greg X. Volz fans it’s not one of his, and for John Schlitt fans many start with This Means War!, which is the next album I’ll be tackling. It gets relegated as a “transition” album, with the idea that Bob Hartman wrote a lot of these songs with Volz in mind, and that Schlitt’s voice wasn’t where it needed to be. All of that may indeed be true. It was a transition for sure, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still great. I read somewhere (can’t remember where) that Hartman believes this album was a great representation of the talents of the game. I certainly concur. Upon listening to this album several times over the past week or so, I sure do appreciate this album a lot more than I did. After Beat the System it was definitely fresh air for me.

Mark Kelly said of Back to the Street, “This was a band album. Beat the System was a producer’s album … I didn’t play a lick on the last one, and Louie [Weaver] didn’t play a lick of drums. Not only did each member play his respective instrument on each cut this time, but we were allowed input even at the mixing stage — in total contrast to Beat the System — and that was really exciting. There was so much more a sense of unity like, ‘Hey, we’re all in this together.'”

It shows. If you love Back to the Street already, then more power to ya! But if you are like many Petra fans and kind of look at this album sideways, I strongly encourage you to give it a fair and fresh hearing. Even more than that, though, listen to the lyrics. Compare them with Scripture. Then, respond to the Lord faithfully. Isn’t that the whole point?

Petra at 50: Captured in Time and Space (1986)


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 eighth album, and first live album, Captured in Time and Space, recorded in November 1985 and released in 1986.

The Backstory

Petra had been on a roll with More Power To Ya in 1982 and Not Of This World in 1983. They went from being an opening act on the periphery of contemporary Christian music, with a couple of radio hits, to being the big Grammy nominated act on successful tours. Beat The System, recorded in late 1984 and released in January 1985, only continued the momentum. Behind the scenes, however, things were not quite as rosy as they seemed.

As was mentioned in the last post, lead singer Greg X. Volz and producer Jonathan David Brown would depart the band. In fact, to the best of my understanding in looking at the history, John Schlitt was already on board to put up the mantle. More will be said about that in the next post, but for the time being, one big piece of business remained. The Beat The System tour was wrapping up with three dates on November 21–23, 1985, in Knoxville, TN, Greenville, SC, and Columbia, SC, respectively. Those concerts would be recorded and a special album and video would be released: Captured In Time And Space.

Album Overview

If you read my post on Beat The System, you know I feel the album has some great songs, but production of the album diminished it several ways. While I think it’s a positive that Petra and Jonathan David Brown were moving on from one another, Brown was still on board for production of this live endeavor. To his and the band’s credit, Captured In Time And Space gets right much of what Beat The System got wrong. In fact, almost everything from that album which is included on this live album sounds better than the original.

Perhaps the enduring legacy of this album is that, coming out in 1986 after Volz had left the band, it serves as a bridge between two eras, and an album which serves as an introduction to a later generation of Petra fans (like me) of what Petra did in the “early years.” This album is a fantastic representation of this era of Petra, and I only have one giant nit to pick, but I’ll get to that below.

My Origin Story

How I came about owning this one is a bit muddy in my memory. To the best of my recollection, a friend of mine had this one before I did and I made a copy from his. I’m pretty sure I owned this one before owning a copy of Beat The System, but I can’t say for sure. I can say with certainty that I had it by 2001, when my Petra library was completed.

Album Information

  • Released: 1986
  • Recorded: November 21, 1985 (Knoxville, TN – Knoxville Civic Auditorium), November 22, 1985 (Greenville, SC – Greenville Municipal Auditorium), November 23, 1985 (Columbia, SC – Township Auditorium)
  • Album Length: 62:55
  • Label: StarSong, A&M
  • The Band: Bob Hartman (electric, acoustic, and synthesized guitars, backing vocals); Greg X. Volz (lead vocals); John Lawry (keyboards, backing vocals); Mark Kelly (bass guitar, keyboard bass, backing vocals); Louie Weaver (acoustic and electronic drums)
  • Producer: Jonathan David Brown
  • Special CD Editor: Tim Norris
  • Recording: 
    • Remote recording facilities: Reelsound Recording Co. (Austin, TX)
    • Assistant Engineers and Setup Crew: Malcolm Harper, Mason Harlow, and Gordon Garrison
    • Re-recording: Fireside Studios (Nashville, TN) 
    • Re-mixing: Mama Jo’s Recording Studio (North Hollywood, CA)
    • Assisting: Todd Van Etten
    • Editing: Rivendell Recorders (Pasadena, TX, with thanks to Chuck Sugar, Bret Hurst, and Steve Dady)


Before I get into the individual tracks, it should be obvious that covering this album is different than any album before it and most after it, because practically all of the songs have been covered already, so for most of these there isn’t much to say. Also, I will approach the tracks as they appeared on the original vinyl, inasmuch as medleys will be covered as a whole and not as individual tracks.

  1. “Beat The System” (4:23) – This one starts with somebody announcing the band, followed by a keyboard intro, then a sharp change into the intro to this song similar to that of the album, with the telephone tones and all. When the music starts you can immediately hear the difference in the drums and guitar. The drums are deeper, the guitar louder. Mark Kelly’s bass is also coming through better than on the original album. I like practically everything about this version of the song better than the original.

2. “Computer Brains” (3:42) – Everything I said about the previous song applies here as well. You might get bored reading this, but it just sounds so much richer than the original. Unfortunately, you do get some of those “garbage in, garbage out” sound effects in this version as well, but overall it’s far superior. The ending has that similar computer crashing effect.

3. “Clean” (3:02) – I mentioned in my review of BTS that this was the first song on that album that really sounded like Petra, so you can imagine given that statement and what I’ve said regarding the two previous tracks what I have to say about this one. Hartman’s guitar is better here, but the drums are especially superior to the original here. Just a great song.

4. “Grave Robber” (4:22) – This is the first non-Beat The System song. Great song on the album, great song on this concert album. I like how Volz holds out the note on “dies” at the end of the first chorus. A great live version of this classic song.

5. “Speak to the Sky” (4:29) – This song sounds much better on this live album. I pointed out in my review of the original that the song was just kind of there on the album, and that the music was uneven. I really don’t care for the intro to the original. It sound much better with a guitar here.

6. “Hollow Eyes” (4:00) – John Lawry gives personal testimony of being abandoned as an orphan in Japan and then being adopted by missionaries to enter this song. It’s worth noting that this concert happens now after “We Are The World” and after Farm Aid, the latter of which Lawry references. This may be the song that sounds closest to the original, but in this case that’s not a bad thing. I do appreciate the deep bell like sounds from the keyboard at the end, as if to communicate that the time is now for believers to help those who need help, because time might be running out for them. 

7. “The Rock Medley” [“Stand Up” / “Not By Sight” / “Judas’ Kiss”] (6:17) – Petra is well known for doing something many musical acts have done and will always do; namely, playing some shortened up crowd pleasing older hits in the form of a medley. This is the first of three such medleys in this concert. Each song included in this medley is great and sounds good. “Not By Sight” stands out to me here. 

8. “The Mellow Medley” [“The Coloring Song” / “Road to Zion” / “More Power To Ya”] (4:39) – Petra brings it down here with what is, as far as radio charts are concerned, their biggest hit, “The Coloring Song.” Then, after one verse and chorus of “Road,” it’s “More Power To Ya.” The latter of the three stands out in this medley.

9. “John’s Solo” [“Jesus Loves You” / “The Race”] (3:42) – When Petra fans think about this album, they often start with this section. As the mellow medley fades out John Lawry’s keyboard gets going. After a bit he stops, then we hear human voices coming out of his keyboard until we clearly hear “Jesus loves you.” He continues making music with the voices until finally we hear those words clearly again and drawn out. Then he breaks into another solo known as “The Race.” It is a very entertaining listen.

10. “Bob’s Solo” (2:34) – As Lawry conclude Bob Hartman’s guitar slowly picks up. What we get is two-and-a-half minutes of the master just enjoying his craft. Awesome guitar solo.

11. “Louie’s Solo (2:13) – Hartman concludes with Weaver’s drums joining in. Then, we hear Volz say, “Let’s get into it,” and Weaver’s drums take over. After about a minute of banging, he changes into a rhythm and you begin to hear some electric drums joining in. 

12. “God Gave Rock and Roll To You” (2:01) – In the recording of the album it sounds like there’s a bit of a cut here as Lawry’s keyboard starts and Petra does a shortened form of their Beat The System version of this hit. I will say that I like the live version better than the album version, but still not better than the Come and Join Us rendition.

13. “The Praise Medley” [“Let Everything That Hath Breath” / “Without Him We Could Do Nothing” / “Praise Ye the Lord” / “Hallelujah Chorus”] (8:23) – The album is getting to its apex now. Whereas the other two medleys are good, I think this one is superb. While the listener doesn’t get any of the songs in their completed forms, they just belong together and flow wonderfully. The first three songs, two from Never Say Die, and the first from More Power To Ya, are all written by Volz, if you recall, they are his praise rock trilogy. The band never sounds better on this album than during this medley, including the vocals during “Praise Ye the Lord.” Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how that third song transitions. Hartman’s guitar picks up and Volz belts out, “And He shall reign forever and ever!” The “Hallelujah Chorus” is a wonderful capper.

14. “Godpleaser” (5:06) – The conclusion of “Hallelujah” fades into “Visions (Doxology)” from the Not Of This World album. Then, it’s “Godpleaser.” As I wrote the first time I covered this song, I really like it as one of my personal favorites, but I wasn’t in love with the production of the 1983 version. This one is definitely superior, with a bit more rock to it. The drums are louder and Hartman’s guitar comes through much clearer. The song always feels as if it has a bit more pace. It just works better than the original, in my humble opinion.

15. “It Is Finished” (4:05) – After an interlude in which Volz invites attendees to pray to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior, is there any other way this concert would end? 

Ranking the Albums

  1. More Power To Ya
  2. Never Say Die 
  3. Come and Join Us
  4. Not Of This World
  5. Captured In Time And Space – It’s hard to know where to rank a live album compared to studio albums. Live albums have the advantage of having more songs, playing the hits not only from the current tour but also from previous albums. This album certainly has that going for it. For that reason I set the bar pretty high for putting a live album ahead of studio albums. This one has several songs which sound better performed live than their studio album versions. I’d say most of the Beat The System songs and “Godpleaser” fall into that category. For that reason I place CITAS right here.
  6. Beat The System
  7. Petra
  8. Washes Whiter Than

The #Petra50

So how do songs from the live album, which have previously been introduced, get spots on this list. Well, since this is purely subjective I get to make the rules and occasionally bend them. If I include a song from a previous album, the original song will drop off the list. For example, I clearly liked the live version of “Beat The System” better than the album version, so the live version stays and the original goes. This is also a way songs can move up the list. For example, the original “Beat The System” was ranked 20 in the last post. Do I like the live version better than songs before it? What about the medleys? Well, see below. Let’s just say some songs may move up with some help from the medleys. Also, I chose not to include any of the solos, though I love them.

  1. “More Power To Ya” – from More Power To Ya (1)
  2. “Adonai” – from Beat The System (2)
  3. “Grave Robber” – from Not Of This World (3)
  4. “Chameleon” from Never Say Die (4)
  5. “Road to Zion” – from More Power To Ya (5)
  6. “Godpleaser” – from Captured In Time And Space (17 – original version) – A personal favorite, and this live version is superior to the original.
  7. “Not Of This World” – from Not Of This World (6)
  8. “Come and Join Us” – from Come and Join Us (7)
  9. “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 – I heaped adulation upon this medley above. By including it in the list the first three songs in the medley are taken out. That moves some songs below up in the list.
  10. “Angel of Light” – from Never Say Die (8)
  11. “Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows” – from More Power To Ya (9)
  12. “Hollow Eyes” – from Beat The System (10)
  13. “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” – from Come and Join Us (11)
  14. “It Is Finished” – from Beat The System (12)
  15. “Woman Don’t You Know” – from Come and Join Us (15) 
  16. “Where Can I Go” – from Come and Join Us (16)
  17. “Not By Sight” – from Not Of This World (18)
  18. “Clean” – from Captured In Time And Space (19 – original version) – As stated above, the original version is good, but this one is better.
  19. “Beat The System” – from Captured In Time And Space (20 – original version) – See “Clean.”
  20. “For Annie” – from Never Say Die (21)
  21. “Magic Mirror” – from Washes Whiter Than (23) 
  22. “The Coloring Song” – from Never Say Die (24)
  23. “Bema Seat” – from Not Of This World (25) 
  24. “Magic Words”- from Washes Whiter Than (26)
  25. “Why Should the Father Bother?” – from Washes Whiter Than (27)
  26. “Walkin’ in the Light” – from Petra (28)
  27. “Killing My Old Man” – from Never Say Die (29)
  28. “Stand Up” – from More Power To Ya (30)
  29. “Morning Star” – from Washes Whiter Than (31)
  30. “Second Wind” – from More Power To Ya (32)
  31. “Mary’s Song” – from Washes Whiter Than (33)
  32. “Blinded Eyes” – from Not Of This World (34)
  33. “I Can Be Friends With You” – from Never Say Die (35)
  34. “Get Back to the Bible” – from Petra (36)
  35. “Yahweh Love” – from Petra (37)
  36. “Lucas McGraw” – from Petra (38)
  37. “Backslidin’ Blues” – from Petra (39)

Parting Thought

Most Petra fans who are a little bit older than me consider the Greg X. Volz era the band’s high water mark. It’s not hard to see why. He performed on Come and Join Us, was practically a member for Washes Whiter Than, and then was lead vocalist for Never Say DieMore Power To YaNot Of This World, and Beat The System – and of course, Captured In Time And Space. You’d be hard-pressed to find a four or five album run that great from any musical artist period, much less Christian pop/rock. Of course, Petra would have another great in them, but we’ll get that soon.

Volz left Petra and would not really be associated with the band against for the next two decades. But what a way to go out! Captured In Time And Space is a great live album, a great representation of what it was like to see the band live. I never saw this version of Petra, but several aspects of the show are familiar to me, and the music is just great. You can check it out here.

I do have one big nitpick with this album. WHERE IS ADONAI? Bob Hartman writes about how “Adonai” is a song which added professionalism to their concerts? Well, where was it? I would have loved that addition to this concert and album.

Big changes were already afoot with Petra. I’ll talk more about them in the next post, in which I’ll take a look at Back to the Street.

Petra at 50: Beat The System (1985)


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 seventh album, 1985’s Beat The System.

The Backstory

Petra was riding high in 1984 after three albums in three years which had brought them to unprecedented heights, not only as a band, but in the short history of Christian rock music. Not Of This World was the third and most recent of those albums. It had given fans some of the band’s most enduring and beloved songs, and had garnered Petra its first Grammy nomination. Change was afoot, however, because keyboardist John Slick left the band after three albums, this after NOTW had featured more keyboards than any album before it. Nevertheless, the band would press on. John Lawry would join Petra as the new man behind the keys, but not until late in the production of the next album, the one we now look at, Beat The System.

Album Overview

Producer Jonathan David Brown and drummer Louie Weaver weren’t exactly the best of friends going back to the recording of More Power To Ya, and as a result Brown had sidelined Weaver during the recording of Not Of This World, bringing Keith Edwards in instead. For Beat The System, Brown decided he didn’t want another round of confrontation, so he eschewed both Mark Kelly’s bass and Weaver’s drums in favor of a Fairlight synthesizer. Brown would bring in Lawry late in the game to add overlays to the title track and “Adonai,” but aside from that it was just Greg X. Volz’s voice and Bob Hartman’s guitar.

The result is what is, to me, one of the most conflicting albums in Petra’s history. I will elaborate more below in the track-by-track, but as can be deduced from what’s above, this album is synth heavy, really at the expense of every other aspect of the band. Brown opened up the computerized toolbox, to the point the drums (understandably so) sometimes feel robotic and Hartman’s guitar is often an afterthought. That said, Hartman’s songwriting is fantastic here, and this album did get Petra isn’t second consecutive Grammy nomination, so the result is an album you have to have, in which I love several of the songs without loving some of the production of those songs.

My Origin Story

Left to right (top): Louie Weaver, Greg X. Volz, John Lawry; (bottom): Bob Hartman, Mark Kelly

Like most of the albums up to this point, I didn’t own Beat The System until 2001. I may have heard one or two of the songs when I saw Petra in concert for the first time in 1989, probably “It Is Finished.” But by then most of their setlist was from Schiltt albums. “Hollow Eyes,” though, stood out to me on the Petrafied compilation, but it was the only song from this album to make it onto that compilation or Petraphonics, which I also owned. Aside from those and “God Gave Rock and Roll to You,” then, much of this album remained unfamiliar to me until I got Captured In Time And Space later on.

Album Information

  • Released: 1985
  • Recorded: 1984, Mama Jo’s Recording Studio, North Hollywood, CA
  • Album Length: 41:15
  • The Band: Bob Hartman (lead guitars, backing vocals); Greg X. Volz (lead vocals, vocal arrangements); John Lawry (keyboards, additional synthesizer programming, synth solo – 1, 3, 10, backing vocals); Mark Kelly (bass guitar, synth bass, backing vocals); Louie Weaver (drums, percussion)
  • Additional Musicians: Carl Marsh (Fairlight programming – keyboards, bass, drums, other); Rhett Lawrence (Fairlight programming); Jonathan David Brown (arrangements, vocal arrangements)
  • Producer: Jonathan David Brown (producer, recording at Mama Jo’s Recording Studios, North Hollywood, CA, additional recording at The Bennett House, Franklin, TN)
  • Recording: 
    • Todd Van Etten (recording assistant)
    • J.T. Cantwell (recording assistant)
    • Don Cobb (recording assistant)
    • Steve Hall (mastering at Future Disc Systems, Hollywood, CA)
    • Robert Peak Jr. (cover concept, photography)
    • Lori Cooper (graphic design)
    • David Hix (electronic photo retouching)


  1. “Beat The System” (4:22) – Hartman describes the system in this song as the status quo, “the well-traveled wide path that leads to destruction.” The track begins with some computer generated sounds alongside the sound of telephone tones of B-E-A-T-T-H-E-S-Y-S-T-E-M. Greg X. Volz comes in after a brief instrumental intro, “Caught in the undertow, being swept downstream. Going against the flow seems like such a dream. Trying to hold your ground when you start to slide, pressure to compromise comes from every side.” Followed by the “Wise up, rise up.” The chorus includes a citation from Romans 8 about the believer being more than a conquerer. There is much to like about this opening track. Lyrically, it’s right on target. Musically, it’s one of the better songs on the album, showing off the good of the Fairlight synthesizer; however, it’s not as good as it could be. It’s hard to know where to praise the computer or John Lawry, but there is some nice work in there. I would’ve liked to have heard Hartman’s guitar mixed in better. The drums, electronic as they are, feel a bit lacking.

2. “Computer Brains” (4:01) – Here’s another song where the lyrics are right on point. If we put garbage into our brains we shouldn’t be surprised when the inevitable comes the pass: we get garbage out… of our mouths, our actions, etc. Ultimately, though, the key is Christ, and Hartman writes, “You can clear all your memory and be transformed when you find the key. Think on the things that will bring you peace, confusing data soon will cease.” The music of the song sounds artificial, and I suppose that fits in this particular song because of the title, the theme, and the lyrics. It just seems gimmicky to me, the little voices saying “garbage in” and “garbage out.” The slowed down voices at the end, as if a computer is crashing. It just doesn’t feel like Petra.

3. “Clean” (3:01) – But this is more like it. In fact, I’d argue this is the closest thing on this album to Petra sounding like the Petra of the past three albums. Not coincidentally, it’s also the first song Hartman’s guitar plays a more familiar role. You’re still getting plenty of synth/keyboard, but it’s not at the expense of the guitar as much as on other songs. Plus, the lyrics to this song are solid. The song is about a Christian who still stumbles, but remembers that in the sight of God the Father he is “clean before my Lord” because the blood of the spotless Lamb has made him “blameless in His sight.” I love the third verse: “I’ve missed the mark, I can’t deny it. I don’t condone or justify it. But I’ve done nothing that His blood can’t wash away when I take it to the cross and start to pray.” Really good rock song here.

4. “It Is Finished” (3:52) – One of Petra’s most enduring songs, and a staple of their concerts even in the John Schlitt era. I love it, but I could love it even more with some production changes. The drums in a pounding rhythm is good, but they would be better if they were deeper and more natural. I think Hartman’s guitar work in the verses is stellar, but would have preferred them mixed in a little louder. I also think the song would’ve been better served with the guitar providing much of what the synthesizer programming added. And at this point you are probably asking, “Does he really like this song?” I do. And, of course, the lyrics are great… it’s the scene of the crucifixion in rock form. It’s a great song to end their concerts with, and of course they often did. 

5. “Voice in the Wind” (4:30) – This rock song is at a bit of a slower pace. It’s about the Holy Spirit, and how we don’t know when or where He will blow. His work is a bit of a mystery. I dig the chorus: “There’s a voice in the wind that calls your name. If you listen you’ll never be the same. There’s a voice in the wind that points the way, gently beckons to follow and obey.” Hartman appeals the sovereign nature of the Spirit’s call, man’s responsibility to respond, the Spirit’s guidance, and man’s need to obey. Good stuff. Musically this song is driven with an organ sound, even though I don’t think the Hammond B-3 was brought out for this album. Overall, this is an often overlooked song. If it makes any sense, I think this song is somehow underrated but at the same time doesn’t leave a huge impression.

6. “God Gave Rock and Roll To You” (3:54) – I’m not sure why Petra felt the need to re-do this song, which first appeared on Come and Join Us. Jonathan David Brown recalls Darrell Harris or Wayne Donowho, who ran StarSong Records, suggesting it. Vocally this song is superior to the original with Greg X. Volz singing lead, but not so much that it makes this re-do better than the original. I prefer the guitars and drums of the original, as well as the more communal feel of the vocals, to this version which, again, is just too keyboard driven.

7. “Witch Hunt” (4:34) – I greatly appreciate the point and the spirit of this song. Too often Christians seem more focused on burning others for their evils, or perceived evils, than on our true mission: proclaiming the gospel. We often forget our “saber,” the word of God, along the way. It’s a piercing message, and a needed one. That said, this is among my least favorite Petra songs ever. It’s a production mess just to be honest. That’s not to say the band didn’t play well, but nothing really stands out positively. This was another example, I feel, of Jonathan David Brown getting a little carried away with the growing arsenal of electronic gadgets to add to Petra’s songs. The sampled voices from “The Wizard of Oz” are a goofy distraction from what is are serious lyrics, and I can completely do without the unnecessary fade out and fade back in. I’ll just stop here by saying I often skip this song.

8. “Hollow Eyes” (4:03) – When I bought the Petrafied compilation I didn’t have the older albums and wasn’t familiar with some of the songs, especially if I hadn’t sung them in youth choir. This one stood out. It’s one or two I played the most (the other is coming later). You might remember that in the mid-1980s much attention was rightly being drawn to drought conditions and hunger crises in third world nations, particularly Ethiopia and Africa. Around the time this album was about to be released, a group of celebrities led by Bob Geldof, called Band Aid, released “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” A few months later, an even greater collection of celebrities dubbed USA For Africa released “We Are The World,” which was a smash hit. The first Farm Aid would take place on my ninth birthday.

In the midst of all that, Petra recorded and released “Hollow Eyes.” It was the band’s attempt to address this problem, and it did so in a better and far more biblical way. This song is really the only “ballad” on the album, which sets it apart from the rest of the songs. The instruments are almost understated compared to much of the rest of the album, which only serves to make you pay attention to Greg X. Volz’s words all the more. I really love the lyrics and vocals, including the backing harmonies. It’s the bridge that makes this song great: “The least of these is hungry, the least of these is sick, the least of these needs clothing, the least of these needs drink, the least of these knows sorrow, the least of these knows grief, the least of these has suffered pain, and Jesus is His name.” Then, “Do you dare to gaze into His hollow eyes? Is He staring back at you with His hollow eyes?” This is Matthew 25 beautifully put into a musical challenge.

9. “Speak to the Sky” (4:16) – This song starts out with some sort of electronically produced sound. It’s relatively soft and often pipe-like. Then things get a little louder with Hartman’s guitar. What follows is a song which reminds the listener that, even when all your hopes seem to be sinking into the ground, you can pray. “Speak to the sky and wait for the answer. Someone will be there to take your call. Though you may be at the brink of disaster, speak to the sky and you never will fall.” This would begin a run of albums where Hartman would always include at least one song explicitly regarding prayer. The chorus is one of the more rocking portions of the album, but overall something is uneven with the music of this one. It’s a fine song, but on this album it’s just there.

10. “Adonai” (4:42) – To date this would be Petra’s best closing song on any album. The first time I remember hearing it I was 25 years old. Unbelievably, I’d been a Petra fan for 13 years and had somehow missed it. How this didn’t make it on to any compilation up to that point other than “Power Praise,” which I didn’t buy, is beyond me! I absolutely love this song. Lawry’s keyboards open in such a way you feel the song is going to be big, then Hartman’s guitar reinforces that notion. Bigger and more natural drums might’ve made this song near perfect. It’s an absolute praise rocker, and the best Petra produced to this date (and maybe ever?). Adonai is the Hebrew word for “Lord,” in case you didn’t know. The lyrics aren’t complicated, not cute. It’s straightforward worship: “Adonai, Master of the earth and sky, You alone are worthy, Adonai! Adonai, let creation testify! Let your majesty be magnified in me! Adonai, you are an endless mystery!” These are the best keyboards on the album, perhaps the best guitar. I remember delivering pizza for Domino’s in West Jefferson, NC, in 2001 just jamming to this song over and over again, sixteen years after its release. It’s just a fantastic way to close out what was, as written above, a very conflicted album. There is nothing conflicted about this song.


Ranking the Albums

  1. More Power To Ya
  2. Never Say Die 
  3. Come and Join Us
  4. Not Of This World
  5. Beat The System – This was a frustrating album to review and a difficult album to place in this list given everything I’ve written above. When Petra departed from the style of Come And Join Us to record Washes Whiter Than, I felt that while the latter album had some great songs, the style change left much to be desired. Much the same can be written about Beat The System. There are songs which reach higher and are better than anything on Washes Whiter Than, but while there was increased keyboard on Not Of This World, it went way overboard with this album. And that’s not a criticism of John Lawry by any means. I love him as a keyboardist. I love him in Petra. No, this is on the production decisions. The things which worked for Petra were eschewed for computerized goodies, and most of the time to the album’s detriment. The greatness of some of the songs place this above the first album and WWT, but I can’t put it any higher at this point.
  6. Petra
  7. Washes Whiter Than

The #Petra50

So Beat The System is not the greatest album, but it does contain some great songs. The question is how they stack up against everything that has come before it. There are a few songs that can be eliminated from consideration on this list before I get into ranking them. “Computer Brains” and “Voice in the Wind” wouldn’t make the final list. Neither would the re-do of “God Gave Rock and Roll To You.” I didn’t have much nice to say about “Witch Hunt.” “Speak To The Sky” is a decent song but not good enough to make this list. That leaves “Beat The System,” “Clean,” “It Is Finished,” “Hollow Eyes,” and “Adonai” for consideration.

  1. “More Power To Ya” (1)
  2. “Adonai” – I might harp on this later, but I cannot believe Petra didn’t include this on Captured In Time And Space. This might be the ultimate praise rocker. I even dig the keyboards. It’s almost perfect.
  3. “Grave Robber” (2)
  4. “Chameleon” (3)
  5. “Road to Zion” (4)
  6. “Not Of This World” (5)
  7. “Come and Join Us” (6)
  8. “Angel of Light” (7)
  9. “Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows” (8)
  10. “Hollow Eyes” – As you can tell by its lofty ranking, I really love this song. It is a reminder to look outward as a Christian.
  11. “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” (9)
  12. “It Is Finished” – We will see how future rankings go, but this might not be my favorite version of this song. 
  13. “Let Everything That Hath Breath” (10)
  14. “Praise Ye the Lord” (11)
  15. “Woman Don’t You Know” (12) 
  16. “Where Can I Go” (13)
  17. “Godpleaser” (14)
  18. “Not By Sight” (15)
  19. “Clean” – A solid rocker. The blend in opening from the previous track is a little off, but I love Hartman’s guitar in this one, and more importantly, the reminder it gives us about forgiveness in Christ. 
  20. “Beat The System” – The computerized and telephone tone opening is kind of cool in this one, and the message is a strong one about the victory we have in Christ over the status quo.
  21. “For Annie” (16)
  22. “Without Him We Can Do Nothing” (17)
  23. “Magic Mirror” (18) 
  24. “The Coloring Song” (19)
  25. “Bema Seat” (20) 
  26. “Magic Words” (21)
  27. “Why Should the Father Bother?” (22)
  28. “Walkin’ in the Light” (23)
  29. “Killing My Old Man” (24)
  30. “Stand Up” (25)
  31. “Morning Star” (26)
  32. “Second Wind” (27)
  33. “Mary’s Song” (28)
  34. “Blinded Eyes” (29)
  35. “I Can Be Friends With You” (30)
  36. “Get Back to the Bible” (31)
  37. “Yahweh Love” (32)
  38. “Lucas McGraw” (33)
  39. “Backslidin’ Blues” (34)

Five of the ten songs from Beat The System make the list, and all are in the top twenty, so they all have a decent song at sticking on this list to the end. We shall see. It will also be interesting to see how future versions of some of these songs affect the rankings, but I’ll get more into how I plan on dealing with that in the next post.

Parting Thought

Bob Hartman acknowledges Beat The System was “another departure stylistically,” reflecting “techno sounds that were current at the time.” You have to give Petra credit for trying to meet potential listeners where they lived, and techno-synth pop/rock was big in 1984–85. Petra members have often said they are not a band as much as a ministry. On the plus side, Hartman writes that songs such as “Clean” and “Adonai” added a professionalism to their concerts, and that many lives were touched by the tour. And the tour really was something else. Louie Weaver has written that of all the tours he’s had with Petra, this one brings back the greatest memories. Of course, part of the tour would be recorded for Petra’s first live album.

There are some truly great songs on this album, which you can listen to here. The evidence for my feelings on that are in the rankings above. Nevertheless, Beat The System falls short of legendary status, in my humble opinion, because of how unbalanced it is. Had production been different, this could have ranked at or near the top.

For what it’s worth, Bob Hartman seems to have agreed. Greg X. Volz would say much later that he and Hartman agreed on everything but business. While it doesn’t seem it was elaborated on at the time, the direction of the band heading out of this album seems to have been the impetus for Volz’s departure. Producer Jonathan David Brown went with him. You can probably deduce how I feel about Brown’s departure after reading this post. It was time.

Thankfully, Volz, Hartman, and the rest of the band would be reconciled in later years, with great results. Nevertheless, the changes Petra began making would soon begin bearing some of the band’s greatest fruit. Indeed, it could be argued that for Petra, the best was yet to come.

Still, a live album from the Beat The System tour would be recorded, with Volz on lead and Brown producing. But that’s for next time.

Petra at 50: Not Of This World (1983)


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 sixth album, 1983’s Not Of This World.

The Backstory

Before and immediately after the Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI last month, there was much speculation regarding the futures of Rams head coach Sean McVay and future Hall of Fame defensive lineman Aaron Donald. A couple of days after the win, at the parade, the aforementioned duo did not retire or resign. Instead, they said they were going to “run it back.” It’s a phrase that has become sports slang in recent years for going for a repeat as champion.

That’s essentially what Petra did with Not Of This WorldMore Power To Ya proved to be their most successful album yet. It would remain on the charts for Christian albums for well over two years. So Petra didn’t change much. Same lineup. Same producer. Same Texas studio. And much the same sound. In fact, it could be argued that no two back-to-back Petra albums sound as similar as More Power To Ya and Not Of This World. Indeed, Bob Hartman himself considers NOTW the musical equivalent of a “sequel.”

Album Overview

While the band lineup stayed the same on this album, there was a change in the way this album was recorded. Producer Jonathan David Brown, for reasons not entirely understood, sidelined Louie Weaver during the recording process and brought in Keith Edwards, who had drummed on the recording of Never Say Die and worked with Brown in the past. 

As to the album itself, there is something new in how it begins and ends. NOTW is bookended by the “Visions” instrumentals which lead into and out of “Not Of This World” and “Godpleaser,” respectively. Those are just two of the songs which are well-known from this album. “Grave Robber,” “Bema Seat,” and “Not By Sight” all made compilation albums later on and were concert staples.

My Origin Story

This is another one of those early albums I didn’t actually possess until 2001, but I was very familiar with most of the songs on the album thanks to The Petra Youth Choir Collection and compilations like Petrafied: The Best of Petra and Petraphonics. I particularly liked singing “Grave Robber” in youth choir. Another boy would often do this Western-style whistle at the beginning that made us laugh. Many of the songs would be some of my favorites well before I finally procured this album myself. When I finally did I was very glad to have it.

Album Information

  • Released: 1983
  • Recorded: August 1983
  • Album Length: 41:55
  • Label: StarSong, A&M
  • The Band: Bob Hartman (lead guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals); Greg X. Volz (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, percussion); John Slick (keyboards, backing vocals); Mark Kelly (bass, backing vocals; Louie Weaver (drums, backing vocals)
  • Producer: Jonathan David Brown (producer, recording at Rivendell Recorders, Pasadena, TX, mixing at Rivendell Recorders)
  • Recording:  
    • Dave Rogers (assistant engineer)
    • Doug Sarrett (assistant engineer)
    • Steve Hall (mastering at Future Disc Systems, Hollywood, CA)
    • Joan Tankersley (art direction)
    • Randy Rogers (illustration)
    • Lori Cooper (layout)
    • Mark Tucker (sleeve photography)
    • Vocals recorded at Gold Mine Studios, Nashville, TN


  1. “Visions (Doxology)” (2:01) – John Slick’s synthesizer is hard at work on this album, so it’s fitting that’s how the album begins. This instrumental piece gives us a hint of the “Doxology” and leads directly in to the first real song of the album. Honestly, while the piece itself is alright the album would not have suffered without it. Neither would the title track which followed. For what it’s worth, I like “Visions” better in use on the live album, Captured In Time And Space.


2. “Not Of This World” (4:52) [see it live above] – The strums of Bob Hartman’s guitars begin this song and then Greg X. Volz begins singing, “We are pilgrims in a strange land,” straight out of 1 Peter. While I have before made clear my preference for rock songs begin the albums of rock groups, the use of “Visions” mitigates that here and I really like this. “Not Of This World” has long been one of the Petra songs that meant the most to me. I recently heard someone say of this song that it reminded them they were not alone, and I get that. A faithful Christian is going to have to deal sometimes with feelings of isolation in a world which hates God, the things of God, and the people of God. But it’s very important to remember the plural pronouns “we” and “us,” which are all over this song. That said, the Christian must remember that this is not his or her home. We should not strive for the acceptance of the world because, as with the Savior, “the world will never want us here.” Nevertheless, we are envoys who must tarry, taking the gospel of Jesus to the world, knowing “our mission here can never fail.” Hartman is on his game as a songwriter here and this is a fantastic ballad.

3. “Bema Seat” (3:57) – Bring on the rock. “Bema Seat” begin with driving guitar following by the drums. This song is based upon the passage in 1 Corinthians 3 which speaks of the judgment seat at which the works of believers will be judged, and that which is not burned by the fire “wood, hay, or stubble” will be rewarded by Christ Himself. The lyric closes with one line which asks the listener whether they will be or be denied. In other words, are you sure you’ll be at this judgment? This is a solid rocker.

4. “Grave Robber” (4:20) – An argument could be made that this is Petra’s most well-known and popular ballad. It is certainly in the discussion and is just a wonderful song. Perhaps Hartman was reading a lot of 1 Corinthians at the time based on the last song and this one, because a lot of these lyrics are straight out of 1 Corinthians 15:51ff. It speaks of the return of Christ to take His own home, commonly called the rapture. The dead in Christ will be raised. This song is a great reminder that, for the Christian, the death of death is certain because Jesus is victorious, so death has no sting, no bite. This is a legendary Petra song for good reason.


5. “Blinded Eyes” (5:32) – This song begins with some rolling drums that remind me a little bit of Toto. Hartman’s guitar work is more than solid, too. What really stands out about this song instrumentally, though, is what amounts of a Mark Kelly bass solo. Lyrically, this song is about the utter inability of believers to even see the truth, much less know it, internalize it, and love it. “Blinded eyes can’t see the light when it’s glowing in the night right in front of you. Blinded eyes can’t see the truth when it’s written on the wall in plain view. Blinded eyes can’t see the Son or the work that He has done out of love for you. Blinded eyes.” This song gets overlooked a bit because of the staying power of some of the better known offerings on this album, but it’s a great album track.

6. “Not By Sight” (3:21) – This is the first of two songs (not counting the “Visions” couplet) penned by keyboardist John Slick. It starts with a Hartman riff that develops into something that sounds almost percussive. Slick’s keyboards come in big as well. Volz sings about the Christian experience of losing our bearings when storms sweep into one’s life. When those times come, the Christian must remember that we don’t live by what is temporary, but by what is true eternally. Quoting Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” Our faith is not in our surrounding, but in our Savior. We are “strengthen by His glorious might.” And I love this: “Sometimes we ain’t so sure. He sees us when we’re kneelin’. Sometimes we forget salvation ain’t a feelin’. We know that Jesus died for our justification. We grow in His image by suffering tribulations.” This is as solid a non-Hartman penned Petra rock song as there is.

7. “Lift Him Up” (3:26) – If Not Of This World had been a five or six song EP it would be in the running for the best Petra album ever, but this is the beginning of a three song section that just doesn’t do much for me. This song, in particular, is among my least favorites up to this point in Petra’s discography. I certainly get the intent of the message in the song. The world isn’t going to see Jesus in us if we keep Him out of their reach. They need to see us praising Him. And I agree with that. But the lyrics get mushy to me when the chorus contains, “It doesn’t take much theology. Just lift Him up so the world can see. . . . It doesn’t take any Bible degree. Just lift Him up so the world can see.” I do not think for one second the intent of Hartman’s lyrics here is to promote some kind of anti-intellectual Christianity or communicate that you shouldn’t dive into theology; however, I do think the lyrics can be taken that way. Hartman usually communicates more clearly is all I’m saying. The deeper the theology and the further it penetrates the heart, the higher the exaltation of Christ will be. I just don’t love the lyrics here. Musically, it’s fine but nothing special. It’s a song I will often skip.

8. “Pied Piper” (4:01) – I really like the music in this song. If the keyboard isn’t there it sounds like something you’d hear on Def Leppard’s High ‘N’ Dry or even Pyromania. As a DL fan that’s a very good thing to me. Hartman’s guitar is working it. As for the lyrics, they could be directed at Satan, but are perhaps better directed at false teachers. Taking all of the Scripture references for this song into account that seems to be the case. The message is that these false teachers are tricking people today, but ultimately they are going to have to pay the ultimate Piper. Good album track.

9. “Occupy” (3:30) – John Slick wrote this song, but honestly, it doesn’t do much for me. The lyrics continue the theme of spiritual warfare which has permeated Petra’s songs since Never Say Die and would continue going forward. Slick writes of the enemy surrounding and infiltrating the ranks, but as soldiers we must be diligent. And oh by the way, the King is going return with the armies of the Lord. This one is a slower rock song. I don’t dislike the song, it’s just kind of there for me.

10. “Godpleaser” (4:36) – My first exposure to this song was youth choir and I gravitated to it. It was one of my favorites to sing. It’s chorus is basically what I want the mission of my life to me, though I know I often fail: “Don’t wanna be a man pleaser. I want to be a Godpleaser. I wanna have the wisdom to discern the two apart. . . . I just want to do the things that please the Father’s heart.” I absolutely love the lyrics of this one. The instrumentation leaves a little to be desired. While I love this song, the Not Of This World version is not my favorite version of it. I’ll elaborate more on that in a later post. Suffice it to say, I think this song works better with a little more rock. But this one definitely gives me the feels. 

11. “Visions (Reprise)” (2:26) – The “Doxology” is clear in this reprise of the opening instrumental. I like the way “Godpleaser” fades into it. The synthesized outro is an appropriate bookend for this album.

Ranking the Albums

  1. More Power To Ya
  2. Never Say Die 
  3. Come and Join Us
  4. Not Of This World – This was, by far, the most difficult album to rank thus far. I love the title track. I love “Grave Robber.” “Bema Seat” is great. “Blinded Eyes” is underrated. “Not By Sight” is solid. The second half of the album is a bit unbalanced, though. The music of “Pied Piper” I really like. The music of “Godpleaser” is wanting, though I love the song. Also, there are some songs on this album where I question the production. The keyboards are definitely becoming more prevalent in the Petra sound at this point, but my biggest qualm is with the way the drums sound. In some songs I don’t think they are mixed in very well, and sometimes you can tell they are more electronic than real. It doesn’t make the album bad by any means, but it plays a role in this album coming in below the two that preceded it in particular. Ultimately, though, this ranking came down to the fact I’ve been listening to Come and Join Us a lot lately — so much so that I’ve considered cheating and moving it above Never Say Die. I just couldn’t put NOTW above it right now. And yet I still love this album! It says more about Come and Join Us than it does Not Of This World
  5. Petra
  6. Washes Whiter Than

The #Petra50

So you know by now that I love several of the songs on Not Of This World, but some left me wanting something more, or different. Based on what I’ve written above, the “Visions” bookends, “Lift Him Up,” and “Occupy” are definitely out. That leaves “Not Of This World,” “Bema Seat,” “Grave Robber,” “Blinded Eyes,” “Not By Sight,” and “Godpleaser.” Six songs to consider, so look below to see where they fall. As always, previous rankings are in parentheses.

  1. “More Power To Ya” (1)
  2. “Grave Robber” – One of the first songs you think of when you hear the word “Petra,” and with good reason.
  3. “Chameleon” (2)
  4. “Road to Zion” (3)
  5. “Not Of This World” – I feel like this song is recognized as great by many but is still somehow overlooked and/or underrated by most.
  6. “Come and Join Us” (4)
  7. “Angel of Light” (5)
  8. “Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows” (6)
  9. “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” (7) 
  10. “Let Everything That Hath Breath” (8)
  11. “Praise Ye the Lord” (9)
  12. “Woman Don’t You Know” (10) 
  13. “Where Can I Go” (11)
  14. “Godpleaser” – Like I said before, this song is special to me but this is not my favorite version.
  15. “Not By Sight” – One of the catchiest rock songs Petra has.
  16. “For Annie” (12)
  17. “Without Him We Can Do Nothing” (13)
  18. “Magic Mirror” (14) 
  19. “The Coloring Song” (15)
  20. “Bema Seat” – This song has grown on me through the years.
  21. “Magic Words” (16)
  22. “Why Should the Father Bother?” (17)
  23. “Walkin’ in the Light” (18)
  24. “Killing My Old Man” (19)
  25. “Stand Up” (20)
  26. “Morning Star” (21)
  27. “Second Wind” (22)
  28. “Mary’s Song” (23)
  29. “Blinded Eyes” – This one didn’t make the compilation albums (I don’t think?), but it’s an underrated gem.
  30. “I Can Be Friends With You” (24)
  31. “Get Back to the Bible” (25)
  32. “Yahweh Love” (26)
  33. “Lucas McGraw” (27)
  34. “Backslidin’ Blues” (28)

Parting Thought

Petra was rolling at this point, with evidence being six songs in a list inching ever close to that 50 mark. They built on the momentum which started with Never Say Die and really got going with More Power To YaNot Of This World would win Petra its first Grammy nomination, for Best Gospel Vocal Performance by a Duet or Group, Choir or Chorus. The tour, too, would continue breaking new ground for the band, with Hartman writing it produced some of his best memories. As for the group itself, there would be one significant change after this album, with the departure of John Slick. However, a more than suitable replacement would be found.

In the end, while More Power To Ya might be the album people default to when thinking about this era of the band, it could easily be argued that Not Of This World was the high water mark. I know it’s ranked four out of six on the album chart above, but make no mistake about it: This is a must have album. When it’s good it’s so very good. There are songs on this album mandatory for anyone who claims to be a fan of Petra. Listen to the album here. This was a worthy sequel to More Power To Ya, which begs the question: How will the sequel to Not Of This World fare? Stay tuned for what’s next: Beat The System.

Petra at 50: More Power to Ya (1982)


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 fifth album, and one of their most famous, 1982’s More Power to Ya.

The Backstory

The additions of John Slick and Mark Kelly to Bob Hartman and Greg X. Volz, and the teaming up with Jonathan David Brown as producer, brought Petra to new heights with the Never Say Die album. Louie Weaver joined the band as drummer for the tour, which saw Petra do over 150 shows in a 300 day span, touring with Servant. 

For the first time in the band’s history, then, there were no lineup changes heading into their next album, for which they took five weeks off of touring to traverse the middle of nowhere in Texas to record. Volz has spoken about dealing with several scorpions, but no one was stung. Hartman, who has written and said in interviews that this is perhaps his favorite album, felt the atmosphere contributed to the vibe of the album.

Everything was clicking for Petra as they recorded what would become one of their most beloved albums.

Album Overview

This album builds upon the style and sound we heard on Never Say Die and with good reasons. It had been their most successful album to date, the band was the same (adding Weaver), and the producer stayed the same. The band began to find themselves with Never Say Die, and as Hartman puts it, with More Power To Ya they would find their audience and their ministry. 

Ten songs made it onto this album with a balanced combination of rock and roll, ballads, and even some blues. The production is better than ever. The backing vocals are solid. You get plenty of guitars and drums, but keyboards play an increased role. The sound is a bit warmer than the previous album. Each instrument has its moment on the album. However, the aspect that stands out more than any other is the songwriting. Hartman pens all but two on this album, but there are no duds. Indeed, some of Petra’s most loved songs are on More Power To Ya.

My Origin Story

I don’t think I bought this album until 2001 when I was trying to complete my collection, but there was no rush, as I was familiar with and already had almost all of the songs on this album on CD already thanks to compilation albums. Petra Means RockPetrafiedPetraphonics and others include most of this album. Plus, More Power To Ya was heavily featured in The Petra Youth Choir Collection, which I became very familiar with at church in 1989–90.

When I finally bought the album the songs I’d missed were filled in. I got to hear the album as intended. It had been a long time coming.

Album Information

  • Released: September 21, 1982
  • Album Length: 43:25
  • Recorded: June 1982
  • Label: StarSong
  • The Band: Greg X. Volz (lead vocals); Bob Hartman (guitars); John Slick (keyboards, synthesizer programming, backing vocals, arranging); Mark Kelly (bass guitar, backing vocals, co-lead vocals with “Disciple”); Louie Weaver (drums)
  • Additional Musicians: Steve Porcaro (synthesizers, synthesizer programming)
  • Producer: Jonathan David Brown (producer, track arrangements, recording at Indian Creek Recording, Uvalde, TX, and Rivendell Recorders, Pasadena, TX, mixing at Rivendell Recorders
  • Recording:
    • Brian Tankersley (technical assistance)
    • Steve Hall (mastering at MCA/Whitney, Glendale, California)
    • Petra (track arrangements)
    • T & T Designs (art direction)
    • Lisa Williams (layout)
    • Randy Rogers (illustration)
    • Petragram (sleeve illustration)
    • Bob Thigpen (sleeve photos)


  1. “Stand Up” (3:34) – Straight away you get big guitars, followed by keyboards and drums, a change in the way they started the last couple of albums to be sure. Lyrically, the song is a call to spiritual battle, like many of Petra’s songs before and after. The Christian life is spoken of in militaristic terminology and the believer is reminded “the enemy is on every side, but still no match for the Crucified.” Thus, we are “fighting the fight that we know we will win.” This is much more the type of opening song I would expect for a rock album.

2. “Second Wind” (4:45) – Next up is a rocking track which speaks to the resiliency of those whose faith is in Jesus Christ. The line about getting a “new revelation” is theologically murky, but it shouldn’t take away from the greater point of the song; namely, when we grow weary the Lord is still there, and through His Spirit and His word He gives us the second wind we always need. I love the driving guitar in this song and upon listening to album several times in preparation for writing this I have a newfound appreciation for the pounding drums.

3. “More Power to Ya” (3:38) – Next up is the title track, and it’s here we begin to see how Hartman’s songwriting continued to improve over time. The lyrics are based upon Isaiah 40:31. I was still six years away from knowing anything about Petra when this album was released, and my first memories of this song are youth choir in 1990. The older I get the more I appreciate this song. Few songs speak better to the hard road of the Christian, and the power of Christ to see us through it. Hartman writes about this song, “If we want to renew our strength, we must spend time with Him and allow Him to minister to us through His Word.” Hartman utilizes clever word-play in the lyrics: “But good things come to them that wait, not to those who hesitate, so hurry up and wait upon the Lord.” Hurry up and wait. A simultaneous call for urgency in the Christian life coupled with patient dependence upon God, whose power and grace are the source of all good things.

4. “Judas’ Kiss” (4:44) – As legendary as the title track on this album is, it may not be the most famous track on the album. In the late 70s and early 80s the use of backmasking in rock albums was a thing. Many Christian churches and organizations, particularly those with a Fundamentalist bent, suspected the use of Satanic messages being used. Thus, rock itself was evil in the eyes of many, and as been mentioned in previous entries in this series, Petra was made a target, a boogeyman of sorts, by some Christians. Petra’s answer was the start of “Judas’ Kiss,” which begins with a backmasking of Hartman saying, “What are you looking for the devil for when you ought to be looking for the Lord?” As for the song itself, it opens when a piercing guitar riff which might be the most famous guitar riff of any Petra song. The lyrics are speaking directly to Jesus: “I wonder how it makes you feel when the prodigal won’t come home. I wonder how it makes you feel when he’d rather be on his own. . . . It must be like another thorn struck in your brow. It must be like another close friend’s broken vow. It must be like another nail right through your wrist. It must be just like, just like Judas’ kiss.” A powerful song with some memorable guitar and plodding drums that pound pound pound pound.

5. “Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows” (4:18) – This and the two songs which precede it have to be in the running for the best three track run on any Petra album ever. It’s a heart-piercing song which begins with the quiet and familiar organ playing the tune of “Showers of Blessings.” You think you are listening to a soft ballad until it gets going a little later. The lyrics are a condemnation of pain-free, nuisance-free affluent type of Christianity, which is really not Christianity at all. Hartman kicks at the goads of superficial religiosity, safe within its own walls on sleepy Sundays while the world is dying on the outside. All the while the church is walling itself off from its own mission field. He writes, “When you have so much you think you have so much to lose. You think you have no lack when you’re really destitute.” Powerful lyrics along with a forgotten and underrated guitar solo.

6. “Run for the Prize” (4:31) – Here’s another solid rocker with a nice guitar intro and better solo. Lyrically it’s about a Christian who has gotten off track, and the listener is encouraged not to look over his or her shoulder at the past and risk getting further off track. Instead, focus once more on the goal of it all: Christ. Run for the prize and stay on the straight and narrow path which leads to life. 

7. “All Over Me” (5:52) – I used to not really care for this one, but with age I have come to appreciate it more. I don’t really care for the bluesy ballad musical style, but the lyrics are a reminder of the sinless Christ whose blood was yet for those He came to save, walking the listener through evens surrounding the crucifixion. It closes with a challenge to believe it, to believe in Him.

8. “Let Everything That Hath Breath” (4:23) – Greg X. Volz wrote this one and, as with the two he penned on Never Say Die, he has a penchant for praise rock songs. This one compares favorably to “Without Him We Can Do Nothing” and is right there with “Praise Ye The Lord.” It rocks. The driving guitar. Slick’s keyboard. Lyrics saturated in Scripture. And ultimately a call to praise the one true God grounded in how He has acted for His people throughout history.

9. “Road to Zion” (3:59) – This is another ballad and it is filled with imagery pointing the listener to the way that leads to life through a pilgrim’s journey filled with ups and downs. Using water, thirst, shadows, and light, these lyrics from Mike Hudson provide for one of the most memorable songs of the Volz era. For example, “Sometimes a shadow dark and cold lays like a mist upon the road, but be encouraged by the sight. Where there’s a shadow there’s a light.” I can’t stop there, though: “Sometimes it’s good to look back down. We’ve come so far, we’ve gained such ground. But joy is not in where we’ve been. Joy is who’s waiting at the end.” It’s all about Christ. I wrote above about how the song “More Power To Ya” showed how Hartman’s already great songwriting was just getting better, but this one is right there with it. I never appreciated this one singing it in youth choir. Maybe I had to grow up and go through stuff to get it. I feel I do now. Such a great song.

10. “Disciple” (3:29) – Written by Hartman, this song is unique because bassist Mark Kelly does co-lead vocals. The lyrics reflect a Christian whose desire is to count the cost and follow Christ, because the reward is greater than what will be lost in the world. The song is aspirational. What stands out to me is how the backing vocals blend with with the co-leads. If I was doing this song I’d change something, though. I’d have the song and album end right after the a cappella section starts with “I can’t wait to see Him.”

Ranking the Albums

  1. More Power To Ya – It’s hard to deny this album the top spot up to this point in Petra’s history. All cylinders on the Greg X. Volz era of the band were clicking with this album having both great rockers and ballads.
  2. Never Say Die 
  3. Come and Join Us
  4. Petra
  5. Washes Whiter Than

The #Petra50

You can tell from what I’ve written to this point how much I like this album. So where do the individual songs fall when we consider them in the context of Petra history up to this point? Well, not every song can make the list. There are no “bad” songs on More Power To Ya, but not all of them are Petra50 worthy. So we’ll go ahead and remove “Run For the Prize,” “All Over Me” (with great hesitation), and “Disciple” from consideration.

  1. “More Power To Ya” – The title track takes the top spot.
  2. “Chameleon” (1)
  3. “Road to Zion” – Just a fantastic ballad that really exalts Christ and shows Hartman’s great songwriting.
  4. “Come and Join Us” (2)
  5. “Angel of Light” (3)
  6. “Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows” – This song is known for its lyrics, which challenge the church to not be insulated, but fulfill its mission. But go back and listen to the guitar. It’ll surprise you.
  7. “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” (4) 
  8. “Let Everything That Hath Breath” – The third of the Greg X. Volz written praise rockers, and probably the best, by a small margin.
  9. “Praise Ye the Lord” (5)
  10. “Woman Don’t You Know” (6) 
  11. “Where Can I Go” (7) 
  12. “For Annie” (8)
  13. “Without Him We Can Do Nothing” (9)
  14. “Magic Mirror” (10) 
  15. “The Coloring Song” (11)
  16. “Magic Words” (12)
  17. “Why Should the Father Bother?” (13)
  18. “Walkin’ in the Light” (14)
  19. “Killing My Old Man” (15)
  20. “Stand Up” – Very solid Track 1.
  21. “Morning Star” (16)
  22. “Second Wind” – Better than solid rocker that is better than I remembered.
  23. “Mary’s Song” (17)
  24. “I Can Be Friends With You” (18)
  25. “Get Back to the Bible” (19)
  26. “Yahweh Love” (20)
  27. “Lucas McGraw” (21)
  28. “Backslidin’ Blues” (22)

Parting Thought

It’s not hard to see why this is Bob Hartman’s favorite album, nor it is difficult to understand why this album is remembered more than any other of the Greg X. Volz era. Seven of the songs place in my rankings, with four in the top ten, two in the top three, and a new number one! “More Power To Ya” and “Road to Zion” are two of the greatest ballads in the history of contemporary Christian music, much less Petra’s catalog. Additionally, the Petra sound of the Volz era that was rounding into form with Never Say Die was fully formed here, and I would argue this is the best sounding album of this Jonathan David Brown production era. More Power To Ya would stay on the charts for well over two years, significantly raising Petra’s profile and giving them the cache to headline tours, rather than just serve as a supporting act. You can hear the album here.

Petra was taking the Christian music world by storm. Come back for the next entry when we see how Petra responded with Not Of This World.

Petra at 50: Never Say Die (1981)


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 fourth album, 1981’s Never Say Die.

The Backstory

Petra, circa 1981

With Washes Whiter Than Petra had found a record label that would support them and, eventually, a full time lead singer in Greg X. Volz. Petra also had its first real radio exposure with “Why Should the Father Bother?” All was not sunshine and rainbows, however. Distribution problems for the album meant it was out of sight and out of mind for a lot of people by the time it could be bought; thus, not many did. Perhaps this was a factor in Rob Frazier deciding to leave the band after one album. It was down to Bob Hartman and Volz, and once again there was uncertainty about Petra’s future. But then Hartman went to a Bible study and met a keyboardist named John Slick and a bassist named Mark Kelly, and it wasn’t long before he was inviting them to join Petra.

Album Overview 

Petra released three albums prior to this and each of them was a significant departure from the album that preceded it. That would not change with Never Say Die, but this would be the first album of what many know to be the Petra sound, at least of the Greg X. Volz era. This was the beginning of the first golden age for Petra that would carry the band to unprecedented success through 1985. There is definitely more rock on this album than on Washes Whiter Than, but there still remains a more pop sound on some songs as well. The songwriting continues to improve with this album, as does the production quality. Jonathan David Brown came on board as producer and would be with the band for the next four albums.

My Origin Story

Notice the camouflage in the word Petra. It was around this time Petra began wearing camouflage in concerts. The idea of spiritual warfare has long been a stable of Petra’s music.

Like Washes Whiter Than, and the next three albums to come as well, my first exposure to songs from this album came from The Petra Youth Choir Collection. We sang “The Coloring Song.” “Never Say Die” was on the album but I don’t recall it being one our choir performed. Later on I’d become acquainted with more songs from compilation albums, but finally around 2001 I got this album on CD, the double album reissue that also included WWT. The album immediately resonated with me more than its predecessor.

Album Information

  • Released: 1981
  • Album Length: 38:50
  • Label: StarSong
  • The Band: Bob Hartman (guitars); Greg X. Volz (lead and backing vocals); John Slick (keyboards, backing vocals, horn and string arrangements on “For Annie”); Mark Kelly (bass, backing vocals)
  • Guest Musicians: Keith Edwards (drums, percussion); Alex MacDougall (percussion); Joe Miller (trombone); Bob Welborn (trumpet)
  • Producer: Jonathan David Brown (at Rivendell Sound Recorders in Pasadena, TX)
  • Recording:
    • Petra (track arrangements)
    • Steve Hall (mastering at MCA/Whitney Recording Studio in Glendale, CA)
    • Randy Rogers (illustration)
    • Mary Ann Smith (layout)
    • Diane McLaughlin (sleeve photography)
    • Martinsound – Alhambra, CA (additional overdubs)
    • Whitefield Sound – Santa Ana, CA (mixing and additional overdubs)


  1. “The Coloring Song” (2:52) – I can imagine picking up this album in 1981, playing it, hearing this song, and coming to the conclusion that Never Say Die will be very similar to Washes Whiter Than. It’s a soft song to be sure, beginning with pipes. The lyrics and music are by Dave Eden, an old band-mate of Greg X. Volz in e. The song would become Petra’s biggest hit to date, and among the biggest radio hits in the band’s history, topping three Christian charts simultaneously. The lyrics paint a rainbow of the gospel, pointing the listener to the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross (“Red is the color of the blood that flowed”), the sinner’s hardness to the gospel (“Blue is the color of a heart so cold”). Gold is used in word play to point us to the love of the Son, and brown to introduce a verse about the natural course of death and life in creation and to show that God transcends that cycle in the human heart. It’s a beautiful song, and as a lead off on this album an indicator of a style similar to Washes Whiter Than.

2. “Chameleon” (5:47) – So you listen to “The Coloring Song” and you’re like, “It’s pretty.” Then Bob Hartman’s guitar blasts out the opening chords of “Chameleon” and it’s like, “Oh!” This is the song that should have led off this album, because a) I’m generally not a fan of leading off an album with a soft song (imagine going to a concert that starts with a ballad), and b) this is more indicative of the band Petra now was and was becoming. This also happens to me my favorite song on the album. Hartman wails on this song. It’s the lyrics, though, that really catch the ear for how bold, blunt, convicting, and challenging they are, calling the listener to not be a so-called Christian who blends in with his surroundings, looking like the church one minute and like the world the next. “Come out! Come out! Come out from among them!” shouts Volz, echoing the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 6. And consider the closing verse: “There is no gray, no neutral ground. There’s only black and white. And nothing in between the two to turn a wrong to right. There is no time for your charade. You’ve got to make your stand. When salt has lost its savor the world becomes so bland.” A more pressing message for the church in 2022 could not be sung. This song is great.

Check out this live medley which includes “Chameleon” and “Angel of Light”…


3. “Angel of Light” (4:21) – This song has one of the more legendary guitar riffs in the history of the band. What follows is a song that reminds us the devil doesn’t appear to us as a devil, but as… well, an angel of light. An angel of light that only brings darkness to one’s sight, telling us wrong is right, but we must not let evil take control. Hartman’s lyrics have plenty to say about the fallacious appeal of the world, but he doesn’t spare the church either. “You got the clergy working overtime to widen the narrow way. You’ve got politicians everywhere listening to what you say. You’ve got false apostles teaching lies perverting the only way. You’ve got principalities and powers waiting to obey. You’ve got philosophies and vain deceipts lying to deceive. You’ve got hate, and greed, ungodly lusts in the deadly web you weave.” And then he goes Keyser Soze fourteen years before the movie: “Somehow you’ve got so many thinking you’re not even there. One look is all it takes to get them blinded by your glare.” Great guitar solo following by increasingly prevalent keyboards as well, just before the chorus leads you out. Back-to-back great songs to let you know this album is different from its predecessor.

4. “Killing My Old Man” (3:48) – Another guitar-driven song musically, and I like how the guitar and keyboards have a kind of call and response thing going on. This is the song Hartman wrote for Come and Join Us and was rebuffed by Myrrh Records because it could be misunderstood and thus potentially controversial. It’s a shame. The style of this song probably fit that album better than this one. That’s not to say it’s not a good song, because it definitely is. Lyrically, it’s about the need for the believer to put to death the deeds of the flesh, and the need to keep alert because the old man will have you on the run and keep you in the jail if you don’t deal with it appropriately. Theologically, I appreciate Hartman’s willingness to call the old man “a terrible man” in an evangelical culture that increasingly fails to address anthropology biblically. 

5. “Without Him We Can Do Nothing” (3:30) – The lyrics in this one come from the pen of Greg X. Volz, and as you’ll see both later on in this album and on future albums, he had a penchant for writing praise rock songs. He opens up basically quoting Romans 6:1–2: “How can? How can we who are dead to sin live any longer therein?” But my favorite lyrics come when he asks, “Do you remember what He called you out of? Do you remember where you were? Let us not take advantage of his love that we forget that we have been forgiven. Without Him we can do nothing.” Another extremely solid offering from Petra here. 

6. “Never Say Die” (3:43) – This title track is a little bit slower and more poppy compared to the previous few songs, and encourages the listener to press on and not give up in the Christian walk because in Him we’ve come too far. Hartman’s pen is extolling us to remember that we are weak but He is strong and He is the One who supplies us with strength. It’s a fine message, but the song is just kind of meh to me. 

7. “I Can Be Friends With You” (4:14) – The pace of the songs continues to slow in this one, but I really like the message, pointing to the inestimable value of friendship with Christ compared to other potential relationships. We don’t need dignitaries or presidents in our contact lists, we need the One who created the world and yet still loves us and is the Friend who sticks closer than a brother. My favorite section of the lyrics goes, “When I have a problem I can always come to You. Regardless of the situation I know You know what to do. You put Your arm around and speak so tenderly and I feel better just to know You care and you took the time for me. Greater love has no man than this that a man lay his life down for his friend. But You laid down for all the world to see and You proved Your love for me.” The lyrics go on to speak about how He does this in spite of the fact we have nothing to offer Him. It’s not in the upper echelon of Petra songs but perhaps a bit underrated.

8. “For Annie” (4:26) – Hartman wrote this one after becoming more aware of the growing trend of teenage suicide, which would be a news story at various times through the next decade. Hartman would later write that he got a lot of positive response from this song. Some might find this song a bit sappy. I can see that, but this is still a good one. The song is one of Petra’s longest lyrically and is about a teenage girl who feels isolated and who’s parents didn’t have time for her. I love the last line at the end of this verse: “No one ever knew her desperation. People couldn’t hear her cry out silently. Locked inside the bathroom she grabs a jar of pills. The medicine that cures becomes the poison that kills.” That last line refers to literal medicine in the context of the song, but it can really be extrapolated to mean anything the world wants to offer as a substitute for your problems other than Jesus Christ. Annie takes her own live, but the listener is exhorted that there are other Annies all around. It’s not too late for them, so we must take the gospel to them. It’s easy to see how this song could have impacted many.

9. “Father of Lights” (3:04) – Years ago when I first endeavored to review every Petra studio album, an endeavor I did not finish, I wrote that this song was just kind of there on the album, and I still feel that way. I’m sure it’s not meant to be filler, but that’s how it comes off to me. The message is good enough. God made us His sons to light the world, but we still need more of His light. In other words, God has saved us to be the light of the world, but that light is not in and of ourselves. It comes from Christ. The song is happy and poppy, but it’s a lesser song on the album.

10. “Praise Ye the Lord” (3:19) – These lyrics are also brought to us by Volz, and again it’s a praise rock song, and a good one at that. Arguably, it was the most enduring song on this album, as it was part of praise medleys at Petra concerts forever. I love the guitar in this one, but as is the point of Petra songs, it’s not about the instrumentation. That serves as a delivery system for the message, and the message here is “Praise ye the Lord all ye nations. The Lord is reigning, you people rejoice. The word of the Lord is a two-edged sword. He’s placed it in our hands.” The lyrics are clear cut, saturated with Scripture, and magnifying the Lord. The goal? “Leaving behind the old carnal mind. Press toward the mark of the high call of God which is the fullness of Christ.” This is among the best “praise” songs on any Petra album ever. Unlike the album’s first song, it fits the style of the album, and it’s a great way to go out.

Check out Petra at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey in 1979.


Ranking the Albums

  1. Never Say Die – We have a new champion! At least for now. 
  2. Come and Join Us
  3. Petra
  4. Washes Whiter Than

The #Petra50

So where do the songs of Never Say Die rank with the previous Petra songs that are in contention to make the Petra50 playlist.

  1. “Chameleon” – Bob Hartman’s guitar to open the song, the piercing lyrics, the challenging call to “Come out from among them.” This song absolutely rocks and claims the top spot through four albums. 
  2. “Come and Join Us” (1)
  3. “Angel of Light” – This song just rocks, and I just love how it busts up the caricature of Satan as this medieval devil, rather than how the Bible describes him, as a devil who disguises himself as an… angel of light. 
  4. “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” (2) 
  5. “Praise Ye the Lord” – I meant it when I wrote above this is one of the best Petra praise songs of all time. 
  6. “Woman Don’t You Know” (3) 
  7. “Where Can I Go” (4) 
  8. “For Annie” – There’s a reason this song is memorable.
  9. “Without Him We Can Do Nothing” – One of the forgotten great songs from early Petra albums.
  10. “Magic Mirror” (5) 
  11. “The Coloring Song” – Petra’s biggest hit up to that time has to make the list. While I have my things to say about this song’s placement on this particular album, there’s no denying it’s a beautiful song. 
  12. “Magic Words” (6)
  13. “Why Should the Father Bother?” (7)
  14. “Walkin’ in the Light” (8)
  15. “Killing My Old Man” – I would love to have heard the 1977 Come and Join Us version of this, perhaps a little more raw.
  16. “Morning Star” (9)
  17. “Mary’s Song” (10)
  18. “I Can Be Friends With You” – Like I said above, underrated.
  19. “Get Back to the Bible” (11)
  20. “Yahweh Love” (12)
  21. “Lucas McGraw” (13)
  22. “Backslidin’ Blues” (14)

Eight of ten songs from this album make the cut, helping make this album the best Petra album to date. From Never Say Die, only the title track and “Father of Lights” don’t make the cut.

Parting Thought

When most people think of the Greg X. Volz era, they think of the three albums that follow this one. That’s understandable, but this one should not be overlooked at all. It’s not perfect by any means. I’ve probably mentioned how I think “The Coloring Song” is misplaced too many times (even though I should probably shut up because it was a huge radio hit) and there are a couple of songs on the back half of the album that don’t measure up to the rest. That said, it’s a drastic improvement from Washes Whiter Than. The Petra sound of the Volz era was rounding into form, and this album, which you can hear here, was a good sign of even better things to come.

P.S. You may have noticed that Petra still didn’t have a full time drummer when this album was recorded. That would soon be remedied, as a guy by the name of Louie Weaver joined Petra as their drummer for this album’s tour.

This album served to raise the bar for a band on the rise. Would they make it over that bar with their next effort? Find out when I review More Power to Ya in the next entry.

Petra at 50: Washes Whiter Than (1979)


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 third album, 1977’s Washes Whiter Than.

The Backstory

To many in the late 1970s the phrase “rock and roll” was an antonym of the word “Christian.” That wasn’t just the case for the culture at large, but also the church. Many in evangelicalism resisted the idea the faith once for all handed down to the saints could mix with rock and roll. After all, it was the “devil’s music.” Coming off of their debut album Petra and the follow-up Come and Join Us, perhaps Petra was feeling the pressure, because big time changes came to the group, and the result was an album that was a drastic departure from what Petra had been thus far.

Greg Hough and John DeGroff left the band, leaving Bob Hartman the sole remaining member. Hartman has been quoted as saying he wondered whether or not Petra should continue at this point. Thankfully, he pressed on. Rob Frazier came on board, and Greg X. Volz, who had sung on a couple of songs on Come and Join Us and sang on Washes Whiter Than, became a full-time member of the band when they began touring this album. Interestingly, Volz was also considering an offer to be the lead singer of REO Speedwagon, but chose Petra instead.

Myrrh Records also left the band, as it were, and the “new and improved” Petra signed with StarSong. This album would mark the beginning a relationship that would span almost a decade. Recording also changed, moving from a small studio in southern Illinois to Florida.

All of these changes brought about a drastic change in musical style for Washes Whiter Than. Gone were the dual guitars and in came keyboards. Hartman has written that this album was “intentionally less agressive.” The reason? Petra wanted more mainstream appeal. Would it work? More on that below.  

Album Overview

It is hard to overstate how much of a departure Washes Whiter Than is from its predecessors, especially Come and Join Us. As stated above, the dual guitars are gone. And while the guitars are still present, they are de-emphasized. There is some quality bass work on this album, though, and it’s really noticeable in a couple of the songs which seem to delve more into funk/disco than rock. With disco still being fairly prevalent in 1979 and Petra wanting more commercial exposure, that isn’t altogether surprising.

My Origin Story

My first exposure to anything was this album came in late 1989–early 1990 when my youth choir starting rehearsing songs from “The Petra Youth Choir Collection.” We would end up performing several of those songs in church services and on a trip we took down to Haines City, FL, and the Orlando area that summer. “Why Should the Father Bother?” was part of the rotation.

As for the rest of the album, I heard a few songs here and there. “Yahweh Love” was on the Petrafied compilation album. I never heard the whole album, however, until about 2001 when I stocked up on old Petra albums. Unfortunately, Washes Whiter Than was not issued by itself. I got the double album release with Never Say Die which didn’t include two of the songs on the original release. Nevertheless, upon listening to this album I didn’t hate it, but I was less than enthralled. The mellower sound just didn’t work for 24-year-old me. Thus, it didn’t make it into my regular rotation, and I only pulled it out when I felt like doing a Petra deep-dive. What, then, would 46-year-old me think of Washes Whiter Than?

Album Information

  • Released: 1979
  • Album Length: 39:25
  • Label: StarSong
  • The Band: Bob Hartman (lead guitar, rhythm guitar, background vocals, track arrangements), Rob Frazier (lead vocals, backing vocals, keyboards, guitars, track arrangements), Greg X. Volz (lead vocals, backing vocals)
  • Guest Musicians: George Atwell (keyboards, track arrangements, horn and string arrangements, conductor), Gerald Byron (guitars), Joel Balin (guitars), Chip Meyers (bass), Randy Nichols (drums, percussion), Bob Prince
  • Producer: George Atwell
  • Recording:
    • Terry Jamison (engineer)
    • Dan R. Brock (album direction)
    • Andy deGanahl (engineer at Bee Jay Recording Studios, Orlando, FL)
    • George Werth (album design, artwork)
    • Allen Zentz – (mastering at Allen Zentz Recording, Hollywood, California)
  • Songs written by Bob Hartman unless noted below.


  1. “I’m Thankful” (2:41) – Right away you can tell this album is going to be different. Instead of guitar riffs or drums to open the album, it’s a cappella. “Jesus, I’m thankful for your love. And it’s been you I’ve been thinking of. I’ve got a home in heaven above.” Then it breaks into a bit of groovy soft rock. Lyrically this opener sets the tone of the album as well, as it’s less overtly evangelistic and more geared toward those who are already Christians.

2. “Why Should the Father Bother?” (3:46) – Competing for the title of Petra’s softest song yet, along with “Ask Him In,” this is the radio hit from this album that at least gave Petra what they were going for with the style change: more exposure. This song topped three Christian radio charts. 

3. “Morning Star” (4:47) – The words and music here were from new Petra member Rob Frazier. The instrumentation, particularly the way the keyboards and guitars interact in the intro of the song, reminds me of Boston, specifically “Foreplay/Long Time.” I just wish it would rock more, like “Long Time” did. This is slower rock which builds to the chorus, also Boston-like, and that keyboard organ sound is heard throughout. Quality drum work during the choruses.

4. “Magic Mirror” (3:27) – Maybe the best song, lyrically, on the album. The chorus goes, “Magic mirror don’t let me walk away without seeing who I am. Magic mirror don’t let me see who I am and only walk away.” The idea here is that the word of God is the magic mirror, exposing to us our own imperfections and sins before the holy God whose word it is. And we dare not come to the word of God and leave without being changed by it. The bridge and final verse are great as well: “When I act too tall, you bring me down to size. And when I feel too small you show me all the lies I try to tell myself. How can I thank you for all you’ve done for me? / And now I’m watching and I see me grow in you. I know that I’ve got so much growing left to do. Please keep me in your light from morning until night. Until I finally come into the image of the Son.” 

5. “Mary’s Song” (4:00) – Words and music by Frazier again, this one goes softer than “Why Should the Father Bother?” Modern listeners would hear the words directed at Mary, the mother of Jesus, and probably be reminded of “Mary, Did You Know?” a song which is now prominent on Christmas playlists. This song is better than that, and unlike “Mary, Did You Know?” it is theologically sound. Rather than asking Mary whether she knows if her Son will do this or do that, it is meant as almost an encouragement: “Think back on that promise you received, for Him in whom the prophets long believed, now belongs to you, you’ve been chosen too. But He’s the One Who’s gonna shine. We call His name Jesus, Emmanuel. He’ll save His people from sin and hell, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” This is a good song and should be on your Christmas playlist… instead of that other one.

6. “Yahweh Love” (5:38) – The vocal intro to this song reminds me of Styx’s “Come Sail Away,” which had been released a couple of years prior. One wonders if Bob Hartman was thinking of it too. Lyrically, the song is the testimony of one rejoicing in the love of Yahweh God. It is a love which continues to move the one singing further and further away from the things left behind, even though there are always signs and voices trying to get him to fall away. Musically, the song comes across as yacht rocky. Also, I’ve got to deduct a couple of points for the unnecessary fade out and fade back in at the end of the song. 

7. “(Couldn’t Find Love) Without You” (4:19) – This is a Frazier tune, and it’s one of the two songs from this album left off the Never Say Die double-release CD by which many people, myself included, became familiar with this album. It’s worth noting the full album has been remastered and re-released by Girder Music, but you can also find it on YouTube. As for the song itself, it’s a soft, piano driven number. One particular section of lyrics stands out: “There’s no sun behind the rain. Without You there’s no reason for the pain. Without You there’s no love to help me live. ‘Cause of You I believe that love is true. Because of You I can give to others too. Because I know that You gave the best You had to give. You gave your sweet Son so I could live.” It’s a testimonial to the impact the love of God has had on one’s life. Musically, think Bread, but with a modest guitar solo toward the end.

8. “Taste and See” (3:23) – “We want the funk! Gotta have that funk!” That’s what I think about when I hear the music to the this one because you could absolutely plug in those lyrics to the George Clinton tune. It feels like Petra was influenced here by the disco movement too, which was still going strong in 1979. Greg X. Volz sounds like he was having fun with this one. At one point he lets out an “Owwww!” Lyrically the song is about how good life is in the Lord and how you need to leave your old life behind.

9. “Magic Words” (3:27) – The final Frazier tune on the album, it’s also the second song not to make the cut onto the double-album re-release. This song has a lot of the piano driving the beginning, but then Hartman breaks in with the guitar and this becomes the most rocking song of the album. Really good guitar, in fact. I’m reminded of Foreigner listening to this one. Lyrically the song is about not simply talking the talk, saying the “magic words” to be accepted, but living a life that reflects the words.

10. “Deep Love” (3:57) – This one is a ballad which expresses the need to feel the love of Christ in order to feel whole, to be strong, to know right from wrong, to remain at peace, and even be reminded that we belong to Christ. As a final song it reminds me of the feeling of the final song on Billy Joel’s seminal 1977 album The Stranger, a song called “Everybody Has a Dream.” 

Ranking the Albums

  1. Come and Join Us
  2. Petra
  3. Washes Whiter Than

The #Petra50

So after Petra’s third album, how do the songs of Washes Whiter Than stack up against those of Petra and Come and Join Us? Which songs will make the Petra50 today? And which ones will stick around as future albums get added? 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.

I’m going to go ahead and say “I’m Thankful,” “(Couldn’t Find Love) Without You,” “Taste and See,” and “Deep Love” aren’t making the cut, but that leaves six songs to consider for the Petra50 (previous rank in parentheses). So where do we stand now?

  1. “Come and Join Us” (1)
  2. “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” (2) 
  3. “Woman Don’t You Know” (3) 
  4. “Where Can I Go” (4) 
  5. “Magic Mirror”
  6. “Magic Words”
  7. “Why Should the Father Bother?”
  8. “Walkin’ in the Light” (5)
  9. “Morning Star”
  10. “Mary’s Song”
  11. “Get Back to the Bible” (6)
  12. “Yahweh Love”
  13. “Lucas McGraw” (7)
  14. “Backslidin’ Blues” (8)


It may seem odd, or maybe even hypocritical, to include six songs in my Petra50, yet slot this album as third best out of threes far. The bottom line is that, while some of these songs are good in and of themselves, Petra means rock. Not yacht rock. And I say that as someone who has SiriusXM’s Yacht Rock channel as a favorite in the summer, and on the app all year long. Petra got away from themselves with this album, something Bob Hartman himself has as much as said. So while this album has it’s good points, it just isn’t as good start to finish, and not as fun a listen, as the other two.

There is some definitely quality on this album, and typing through the track by track descriptions even now has helped me realize I like this album, song for song, more than I thought. Nevertheless, I feel like Petra was really coming into their own as a rock band on Come and Join Us. Perhaps getting dumped by Myrrh and receiving the criticism from churches jaded Bob Hartman and company a bit, but in my opinion this album, and not Come and Join Us, was the true compromise album. Hartman has acknowledged himself that the change in styles to appeal to a new audience was a mistake, and it really didn’t work. He has written that Petra failed to make many new fans while alienating some of their older fans. I get that.

All of that said, you still have to listen to it, which you can do here. Do that while you wait for the next post. This would be the end of the first era of Petra. Next up comes Never Say Die!