Petra Praise 2: We Need Jesus
By: Tony LaFianza
For more than two decades, Petra has been respectably representing Christian music in the world marketplace. The group has done a fine job of keeping up with rock music's trends. As a result, Petra is one of the most popular and recognizable Christian rock bands on the planet, having released twenty-two albums (two of which went gold) and garnered three Grammy and nine Dove awards! As I write this, Petra is on the road again celebrating twenty-five years of ministry.
Bob Hartman, although retired from touring, is fully involved in the new album, Petra Praise 2: We Need Jesus. The title track comes from another, older power-praise recording put out by the Elefante Brothers who, once again, handle the production duties on this Petra project. This follow up to the earlier Petra praise album, The Rock Cries Out, continues the Petra formula of good, tasteful rock arrangements. The record has twelve songs of praise and worship but is unmistakably a Petra album. Most of these songs you've heard or sung on Sunday mornings with your own congregation; now you can worship (at high volume!) on Monday through Saturday, too. To that end, the album package includes both words and guitar chords, making it easy for the living room praise team to worship with these songs as well as the staff worship leader in your local meeting places. Hartman has written three new songs included here: "Be of Good Cheer," a driving rock tune featuring his grungy guitar work. There is also a smoother pop song, "The Holiest Name," which, like most of this album, is full of hard strumming acoustic guitars and electric guitar stylings over the rhythm section's steady backbeat. "Lovely Lord" by Mr. Hartman is a beautiful love song to our Lord with some nice mandolin and a backing angelic choir arrangement.
"Song of Moses" opens the record with the bass lines of new member Lonnie Chapin and Louie Weaver's drums, then quickly changes to become a floating guitar ballad with a strumming mandolin carrying me into high praise. The song reminds us of the majesty of our great and marvelous Lord, and his complete worthiness of our worship! Next up is "Lord, I Lift Your Name On High," sung in churches every Sunday of every week around the country, but not quite like this I would venture to say. Petra takes this familiar tune and turns it into a funky southern rock anthem.
The record continues to alternate slower ballads with faster rock anthems. One of the vocal highlights is the choral arrangement of "Let Our Voices Rise Like Incense," where the singers pray for their voices to rise like incense and be a sweet perfume in the Lord's temple. Climaxing with the title song, "We Need Jesus," the band has picked a nice selection of praise and worship here and have made the music appealing to young and not-so-young Petra fans.
Hartman, a guitar hero for many a young rock fan, is front and center still driving this band with his pumping guitars. I also like this rhythm section; Lonnie seems very talented and Louie is a very busy hard-hitting drummer, just how I like 'em. As for the other two new members of the band--Kevin Brandow on keyboards and Pete Orta, the new guitarist--you will have to check them out at the concert because neither one is here on the album. John Schlitt's rock and roll tenor is in fine form; he can belt it out with the power Petra goes for and can then softly caress my ear drums with kinder, gentler tunes. John gets to share the mike on the last song, and title track, of We Need Jesus, with John Elefante, who sang with popular rock band Kansas, and Lou Gramm, who was the voice on all those Foreigner radio hits. Lou Gramm's vocal could have been punched up a little more in the mix but, in general, the song is well produced, as is the entire record.
This record has somehow found its place in my cd player for weeks now. I bought the cd not expecting to like it as much as I do. However, and die-hard Petra fans may disagree with me, I don't think this is a blue-ribbon Petra record. It is a skilled, uplifting, toe-tapping, sometimes head-banging praise album. But a praise album is not going to move Petra to another level musically, and does not here. We look for music from a band like Petra to be a bit more clever, and we hope to see it next time out.