My favorite part? Look at the back cover, then take out the CD and look underneath!
In fact, the only time the album talks about anything other than Jesus is when it's talking about our relationship with Jesus... "Lord, send revival, start with me/For I am one of unclean lips/And my eyes have seen the King/Your glory I have glimpsed/Send revival, start with me..." "I'm here to meet with You/Come and meet with me/I'm here to find You/Reveal Yourself to me..." "I'm only happy when I'm with You/And living the life the way You showed me..." In perhaps a Petra first not one of these songs was penned by Bob Hartman; these songs are all recently-written songs by great writers from the P&W fold, some very familiar ("Better is One Day" is the only one I've sung before in church, but we've sung it about a million times!), others that are out there but may be new to many listeners ("Send Revival, Start With Me", "We Want to See Jesus Lifted High," "Jesus, Friend of Sinners", "The Noise We Make", the Ten Shekel Shirt-penned "Meet With Me"), and some that I'm pretty sure are brand new ("How Long", and the one John Schlitt seems the most proud of getting recorded before anyone else in Nashville, "Oasis.") There's even an old song wearing a snazzy new outfit: "Amazing Grace!"
But the fact that these songs are extremely centered on Jesus does not in any way indicate that the musicianship is lacking. With the exit of members Pete Orta and Lonnie Chapin, members of Petra for nearly a decade, new Petra record label Inpop requested that Petra get back to basics for this record... so new members Brice Bell and Mike Brandenstein were not used in the recording. Instead, veterans Bob Hartman, Louie Weaver, and John Schlitt were supplemented by the album's producers, founding SONICFLOOd members Jason Halbert and Dwayne Larring, on keys and additional giutars, respectively, and in an interesting surprise, former CCM hit solo artist Rick Cua on bass. You would think with all those years of rock and roll experience on the recording that it would be an amazing musician's album... you would be right! John Schlitt has said in a number of interviews that Jason and Dwayne pretty much said to each of them, "You know what you're doing... go for it!" and it shows all over, be it in John's multiple overdubs and almost doo-woppish background vocals vocals on a few songs, Louie's frenetic drumming, Rick's tasty bass touches (too bad the album seems mixed to the treble, because there are some bass parts that are just wonderful!), or Bob's guitar riffs... Bob's guitar solos will take the long-time Petra fan right back ten or fifteen years to what most Petra fans consider Petra's heyday.
The first track, "Send Revival, Start With Me," was also the first tune released to radio. It kicks off the album with some swirling keyboards, and then moves into a vibe not unlike the first track on Petra Praise 2: We Need Jesus, "Song of Moses." The song is a prayer based on II Chronicles 7:14 and Isaiah 6:5, scriptures imploring God to "heal our land" by "starting with me." In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, this song could hardly have come at a better time. After one verse and chorus of the mysterious prayerful mood, this song explodes into an anguished rock appeal for revival. Listen closely on the tail-end of the fade and you'll get a preview of the kinds of trademark Bob Hartman guitar riffs you'll hear later!
"The Noise We Make," similarly to "Show Your Power" from Petra Praise 2, is most definitely NOT a song about how loud the band can get... in contrast to that song, though, "The Noise We Make" definitely does make some noise! The song is about making some noise for Jesus, celebrating the Salvation we have through Him. If you want to know what Louie can do on percussion, this is the song for you! I'm not sure if Louie has nine arms or just recorded eighteen percussion tracks... or maybe he's just an incredible drummer! Whichever it is, he sounds great on the whole album, and this song in particular.
Apparently several bands in Nashville were considering recording "Oasis," and one listen will let you know why. It's a beautiful song that extends the Biblical analogy of the Spirit of God as water to a picture of an oasis in a desert where people can go to receive life-giving water, food, protection and peace. John's roots are showing here; his first singing gigs back when he was a kid were in doo-wops. Listen for some "aah"s here that sound almost like something out of the 50's or 60's (Hey... pass my my record of The Wonders, will ya? ;-> ) Rick Cua slipped in some cool bouncy bass on this recording; it should be fun to listen to even with the bass all the way cranked up!
"The Prodigal's Song" (Please notice the title; several sites on the Web keep getting it wrong) is a beautiful song written from the point of view of someone who, like so many of us, continually forgets to maintain his relationship with his Lord. It is not directly based on the Prodigal Son story from Scripture, although there of course is an analogy there. John has said that every time he sings it, he feels like it is about him personally; I think we could all echo that sentiment.
When I first heard the early clips of this recording of "Amazing Grace" on the Internet, I thought I was going to hate it. I couldn't figure out how what I heard had any connections to the original song. Fortunately, the entire song DOES make plenty of sense, and in its entirety I really like it! The melody has been changed, but the verses are there (actually, maybe more verses than many people are probably familiar with), with the added benefit of a new chorus, some fun rock guitars, keyboards that kind of bubble up between the lines, and my favorite part, where we're galloping along through the guitar solo (some great "classic" Bob Hartman guitar), and then all of a sudden... we're in outer space! :-)
My one-year-old really likes "Jesus, Friend of Sinners..." I think he likes to sing "Jesus! Jesus!" over and over. :-) What a great song about our Lord, Who He is, and what He has done for us: "There is a peace that calms our fears/There is a love stronger than death/There is a hope that goes beyond the grave... His name is Jesus/Friend of Sinners/Jesus, Jesus/Friend of Mine!" Listen to the beginning of this song for another real taste of what Louie can do... it kind of sounds like Goofy walking down the sidewalk, tripping on every crack as he goes. :-) The percussion is a highlight of this one, in my humble opinion, and you just can't beat the chance to belt out that chorus!
This recording of "Better is One Day" isn't anything unusual for this song,
really. That doesn't mean it's not beautiful or worshipful, and it is both
of those things. My favorite parts are the little bass riff going onto the
first chorus (Rick did a nice job on this song) and the way John covered every
vocal part that you've probably heard your church choir perform, soprano on
down, in the bridge and final chorus.
"You Satisfy," another favorite of my 1-year-old (I think maybe because of the doorbell keyboard part at the end of the chorus) and a favorite of mine also, is another mellower song; this one is a prayer telling God what our relationship wtih Him means to us. And isn't that what Worship really is... telling God what He means to us?
"We Want To See Jesus Lifted High" gets my vote for the song that sounds most like it could have been recorded on Petra Praise · The Rock Cries Out. Sure to be a concert favorite, this song sounds like a party in progress... and to me, it sums up Petra's goals in a nutshell: "We want to see Jesus lifted high/A banner that flies across this land/That all men might see the truth and know/He is the way to heaven!" In the past decade, with so many members coming and going and Petra's "sound" changing and the whole thing, some long-time Petra fans seem to have become jaded, thinking that the "real" Petra is gone for good and from now on Petra will be some sort of cookie-cutter album-making machine. The sound of this song should dispel the fear that Petra's sound is forever lost, and the message of this song should clarify that whether Petra sounds like This Means War! today or not, the goal is not the music: the goal is bringing the Gospel to a dying World.
Which brings us to "How Long." This album starts off with a prayer to "heal the land" and continues on with celebratory songs, prayers of commitment, and lots of stuff in between. "How Long" pauses to ask the Lord when all the things we desire to happen for His Kingdom are going to happen: "We have sung our songs of victory/We have prayed to You for rain/We have cried for Your compassion/To renew the land again... Lord, we know Your heart is broken/by the evil that You see/And You've stayed Your hand of judgment/for You plan to set men free/But the land is still in darkness/and we've fled from what is right/And we've failed the silent children/Who will never see the light... How long before You drench the barren land? How long before we see Your righteous hand? How long before Your name is lifted high? How long before the weeping turns to songs of joy?" The first time Cat and I listened to this album, by the end of this song we were both in tears, and even now, many weeks later, if I'm not careful the longing in my own spirit brings me to tears again when I hear it. This song expresses the question David asked over and over in the Psalms, the question each and every child of God has had in his heart throughout history: when will things be made right? When will injustice and sin be destroyed by God's power and righteousness and peace truly reign over the human race once again? This song asks that question, but it also reflects on the promises the Word of God gives us: "But I know a day is coming/When the deaf will hear His voice/When the blind will see their Saviour/And the lame will leap for joy/When the widow finds a Husband/who will always love His bride/And the orphan finds a Father/who will never leave her side/How long before Your glory lights the skies? How long before Your radiance lifts our eyes? How long before Your fragrance fills the air? How long before the earth resounds with songs of joy?" What a song to end this album with. We started with our hope for personal revival, and we ended with our hope for worldwide revival and renewal at the return of our Lord Jesus.
Revival has effected me like no Petra album has in a long time. It's an album that deserves to be heard and appreciated; it's an
album that draws me in to the Presence of God like no other Petra album has ever
done. It's new and fresh-sounding, but it sounds "like Petra." It
incorporates some of the best things from the earlier Petra Praise albums: it is
easy to sing along with like Petra Praise · The Rock Cries Out, while still sounding personal and organic like Petra Praise 2: We
Need Jesus. The musicianship is free and unhindered like
Wake-Up Call, and the sound is fresh like God Fixation and Double Take without losing sight of what fans love to hear from a
Petra album. We expect and plan to buy many copies of the album as Christmas presents this year, which is something we've never done before, even with Double Take which we really enjoyed. I hope this album goes far, not just because I love Petra and want to see them continue, but mainly because I believe that when people with hearts open to worship play this CD, they will be ushered into the presence of God.