177. Beat the System – Petra




For one brief moment in time Petra was the biggest thing in Christian Music. Not just Christian Rock, but all of Christian Music. Besides having the third best selling album of all time during 1984 the band also performed live in front of nearly 150,000 people, headlining tours featuring bands that just two years previous they were opening up for. At that moment in time lead vocalist Greg X Volz announced his departure.

Following two uber-successful releases in More Power To Ya and Not of This World, Petra entered the studio with producer Jonathan David Brown and emerged with something completely different. Filled with electronica, keyboards and computerized drums, the live sounding rock feel reminiscent of Styx, Foreigner and Boston was replaced by something that was actually more original than any of its predecessors.

Though dated because of the electronic enhancements and later rebuffed for some technological excesses, the album is actually filled with some of Bob Hartman’s finest songs and easily Volz strongest vocal performances. If one strips down the songs to their bare essentials there are many gems here. But the album must also be lauded for its progressive production and attempts at breaking out the previous formula. In a strange way the album is actually the “hardest” rocking album despite the programming and electronic enhancements. Hell, if it just had real drums it would be nearly perfect.

With the much more full production sound the band expanded what was “acceptable” on Christian radio. No longer would the band be forced to rewrite “The Coloring Song” just to find something palatable for CCM radio. “Hollow Eyes” made a huge impact on radio with both a more aggressive sound and less than cheery lyrical content. The worshipful Adonai was much heavier in the guitar vein than most CCM radio was accustomed to and yet it became a radio classic.

In many ways the album broke ground. The sheer popularity of the group forced radio, Christian television and other “ol’ boy” media outlets to take notice. The overwhelming commercial success of the album also made the genre not only more acceptable but caused many labels to begin searching for the “next Petra,” opening the doors for the likes of Audio Adrenaline, DC Talk and Newsboys.

  1. TMc
    February 10, 2011 at 3:14 am

    I had just graduated from college, gotten married and found my first real job when I got this. It replaced the very first Petra album as my favorite at the time. Over the years the first one became my favorite again but I still appreciate this a great deal. Never thought anyone could actually use the “garbage in garbage out” line in a rock song. Still its nice to see it here.

  2. Brian
    February 22, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Your first line is accurate. Petra was the biggest thing in Christina music. I remember working in a music (stereo) store and playing Petra. Even non-Christians would come up and ask if that was Petra.

    I went to this tour. It was very good and my favorite song was VOICE IN THE WIND. Love the addition of the bass pedal on this album. A popular local radio station (BJ 105, back in the day) played the intro of the opening track for their promos.

    The concert I went to featured Petra with Leslie Phillips as the opening act. Petra rocked the place out and the crowd ate it up.

    I was never bothered by the snyth additions because it was a tasteful album of considerable quality. I thought this was the first time Christian music could compete with secular music on a quality production level.

  3. Greenchili
    March 9, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Nice to see this make this list. This also marked the addition of John Lawry and exit of John Slick from the roster. I believe Carl Marsh also arranged all the synth stuff. Definitely a bold move for Petra. Greg had definitely reached his peak vocally just listen to the CITAS album. Shame he picked such a bad time to leave, although we did end up getting John Schlitt.

  4. June 7, 2011 at 2:49 am

    This is my favorite Petra release. Beyond Belief is a close second, but there are so many good guitar hooks and passionate vocals on this one. Adonnai still ranks as one of my favorite songs.

  5. June 16, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    This is almost like Alphaville. I have to say I don’t like this album – it was pure pop music.

  6. Grenville
    July 11, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    I think Carl Marsh programming the keyboards, bass & drums on computer was to save time and money. And I think Greg needed to leave at the time, rather than chose to, if you know what I mean.

  7. Greenchili
    November 4, 2011 at 11:38 am

    I meant he picked a bad time to leave as in.. Petra was really at their peak at that point. Not because he did it deliberately.. 🙂

  8. Greenchili
    December 20, 2011 at 11:53 am

    On a side note.. believe it or not the record company was trying to turn Audio Adrenaline into another “DC Talk/Jesus Freak” style band.. Rather than a rock band as they ended up being.

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