Inpop Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret


In the second half of Petra’s remarkable career as Contemporary Christian Music’s premiere rock band, they enjoyed a career renaissance of sorts with a trio of praise albums, Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out (1989), Praise 2: We Need Jesus (1997), and Revival (2001).

The first one, because of some clever marketing that complimented the excellent music, re-established John Schlitt and company with the nation’s youth group market -- critical for their ministry at the time. Praise 2 capitalized on the success that came from Petra Praise and included the title song (“We Need Jesus”) where Schlitt shared vocals with John Elefante, former Kansas lead singer, and Lou Gramm of Foreigner.

But the musical geography was changing rapidly around Petra -- traditional rock and roll bands doing praise songs was no longer new and the second project, while excellent, didn’t connect the way the first one had, even though it sold well.

Four years later, when Petra went back to the well for the third time for Revival, many saw the release as a desperation attempt to resurrect their career and maintain their status in the industry. Which is a shame, because this disc is the best of all three -- and possibly the best of the band’s repertoire.

Filled with great songs from the top praise and worship songwriters of the day (Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, John Hartley, Gary Sadler, Paul Oakley), my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Revival could have been the start of a strong third phase for Petra. Instead, it was the beginning of the end. Just one full album later (and a live farewell disc), Petra hung it up for good.

Revival is an excellent disc. I’m not sure why the band decided to toss it in just four years later. But the band had been performing steadily since 1974 and maybe their hearts just weren’t in it anymore.

Opening with Matt Redman’s atmospheric, very contemporary for the time, “Send Revival, Start With Me,” Revival declares its intentions: It’s not about us, it’s about God and we need Him to revive us.

Schlitt begins the song in his lower register, softly, as if his own strength is gone and all he can do is beg the Lord, invoking the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

By the second verse, he’s doubling himself with a second vocal track in his upper register and you can hear the revival begin as God sends strength. It’s a masterful performance and the band, with producers Jason Halbert and Dwayne Larring of SONICFLOOd, have achieved just what you want in an opener: grab the listener’s ear and force them to reconsider you.

And from there, things only get better. “The Noise We Make” builds on the strong finish of the opener and “Oasis” leads the listener back into more familiar Petra pop-rock sound of the time. It’s as strong of an opening trio as I’ve ever heard and Bob Hartman’s guitar rings throughout, urging Schlitt upward supported by the solid foundation of Louie Weaver’s percussion.

After a couple more songs, the band kicks it into high gear again with Paul Oakley’s “Jesus, Friend Of Sinners,” which declares, “There is a voice that must be heard. There is a song that must be sung. There is a Name that must be lifted high. There is a treasure more than gold. There is a King upon the throne. There is One who praise will fill the skies. His Name is Jesus, Friend of sinners.”

It is a rocking declaration of Christian faith that ends too soon, but leads into another highlight, the band’s performance of Redman’s worship classic, “Better Is One Day.”

After this career highlight of an album that opened musical doors for them to pursue, it’s hard to imagine why the band returned to the “old” Petra sound for their next, and ultimately final studio disc, the sadly mediocre Jekyll And Hyde (2003). If they had to quit, better to have gone out on something stellar like Revival.

Rating: A

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© 2008 Michael Ehret and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Inpop Records, and is used for informational purposes only.