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In the beginning, four Bible school students had a desire to share our faith in a language we knew best: rock and roll. Much to our surprise, not everyone in the church was as excited about the idea as we were. We played long solos and rocked out with songs like “Backslidin’ Blues” and “Walkin’ In The Light”. But it wasn’t long before we saw the need to “break the ice” in our concerts with something on the lighter side, and that’s just what “Lucas McGraw” did. Instead of a forgotten novelty song, it has become a worldwide favorite, even though it hasn’t mad the setlist since the earliest days. Due to style issues, it couldn’t be included in this compilation, but it is worthy of mention anyway.
Christian radio avoided Petra like a plague until about seven years after our start, when “Why Should The Father Bother?” made the playlist of a few daring radio stations. This set the stage for what was about to come a year later, when “The Coloring Song” from “Never Say Die” broke every barrier known to radio and set the stage for Petra’s rise in the 1980’s. “Praise Ye The Lord” marked the beginning of rock praise that continued throughout Petra’s career. The “Never Say Die” cover art spoke volumes to Petra’s target audience, youth, and “For Annie” struck a chord that still rings in the ears of the troubled. After those successes, “More Power To Ya” was a shoe in as a radio single and as an album. “Judas’ Kiss” and “Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows” continued to prove that a song could be a pulpit for a hard-hitting message.
By the release of “Not Of This World”, radio had completely warmed to Petra and the momentum we experienced surpassed our comprehension. The song “Graverobber”, has comforted the mourning for two decades. “Beat The System” Marked a change in musical direction with it’s techno flare in songs like the title cut but continued the trend of serious messages with “Hollow Eyes”, as well as the rock praise song “Adonai” and the ever controversial “God Gave Rock and Roll To You”.
1986 marked the departure of Greg X. Volz, and with the uncertainty of Petra’s continued success weighing heavily on our hearts, “Thakful Heart” proved we still had support at the radio level. It didn’t take radio or our fans long to warm up to John Schlitt, but CCM was about to go through a dark period with several high-profile rock haters denouncing everything with a beat. Then came “This Means War!”, which seemed to be just the right album at the right time. The message was perfectly aligned with with youth and youth pastors and marked the beginning of a second rise for Petra. The title song and “He Came,He Saw,He Conquered” became instant concert classics and attracted new listeners to Petra’s music.
By the release of “Fired Up”, Petra’s style of rock was fully established with John’s voice and our ministry direction to church youth was in full swing. The “On Fire Video Event” was a tool we were proud to offer to youth leaders and the songs “All Fired up” and “Mine Field” were prominent messages. The 1990’s marked a change in record labels and a new direction in rock praise, with “Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out”. The idea to do the album came as a result of discussions with youth pastors, and the response was overwhelming. It became Petra’s first gold album, and with it’s translation into a Spanish version, songs like “I Love The Lord” reached new audiences around the globe.
Everything came together with the release of “Beyond Belief” in 1991. All our foundational work with churches, some of the best songs we have ever recorded, and our linking with Josh McDowell and his “Why Wait?” message resulted in thousands of young people being deeply affected and committed to God. The title song “Beyond Belief”, and “Creed” remain all time favorites and “Prayer” and “Love” balanced the album with two of Petra’s best ballads. Beyond Belief went on to become Petra’s second gold album.
“Unseen Power” followed on the heels of “Beyond Belief”, producing such concert favorites as “Dance” and “Sight Unseen”, but Petra’s touring and recording scheldule was beginning to wear down the band. Although slightly forced, “Wake Up Call” produced the radio favorite “Just Reach Out”. The band was experimenting musically, which continued on the “No Doubt” album. The amazing testimonies about the song “No Doubt”, have been a constant source of blessing to the band since its release, but the album recieved mixed reviews among Petra’s fans. But with the release of “Power Praise 2” the fans were appeased by songs like “Lord I Lift Your Name On High” and “We Need Jesus”.
The band continued to struggle over the next three albums until it landed squarely where it belonged with “Jekyll and Hyde”. the song answered the question “can Petra still rock?” with emphasis and proved to be a high note to an end to an incredible run of 33 years of ministry. As I look back on this body of work, I am continually amazed at how God has done exceedingly and abundantly above all I could ask or think. I have nothing but thanksgiving to God for all the joy, excitement, and wonderful memories these 33 years have brought, and only Heaven will reveal what God has done with our meager efforts.