Introductory Note: In appreciation of Petra’s fortieth year in music and ministry, I am ranking their albums from least best to greatest. You can read my opening post here.
Revival (2001, InPop Records)
Lineup: John Schlitt (lead vocals), Bob Hartman (guitars), Louie Weaver (drums)
I’ve got to be honest. When I heard that Petra was about to release a third praise and worship album, the second in five years, with only one full album of original tunes in between, I was disappointed. It seemed like the lack of inspiration I felt was behind Double Take was still there.
Ultimately, I was not disappointed when the album came out. Bob Hartman was fully back, so to speak, along with John Schlitt and Louie Weaver to put out an album that sounds really great. There is a little more rock to this album than the past couple of efforts, which was a welcome change. Still, there are a couple of drawbacks to this one: By 2001 the CCM industry had been bombarded, supersaturated… with “modern worship” albums. Petra had really pioneered this in 1989 in Petra Praise, followed it up in 1997 with Praise 2, but in the intervening years many others had released albums with praise songs. By the time Revival was announced and came out my feeling was, “Great! Another praise and worship CD” (and yes I am being sarcastic).
In my humble opinion, the lyrical quality of a few of the songs doesn’t hold up to the standard we are used to with Petra. Case in point: ”The Noise We Make.” One of my pet peeves in the modern genre of praise and worship music is how the audience of the lyrics seems to change from line to line. This is the case here when we hear,
This is the noise we make with our voice and with our hands
We’ve come to celebrate all across this land
[First off, it seems like this is being sung to other people who have also gathered to "celebrate.]
The joy that’s in our hearts makes us want to dance for you
Join as the angels sing and worship as they do
[The first line of this second grouping seems to be directed to God, but then in one fell swoop it's right back to speaking to the many people who have gathered.]
It is just – to me – lyrical laziness, a far too common problem in contemporary music of this type, but not something long time Petra fans are used to hearing from their music… Ok. Enough complaining. Let me tell you what I really like about Revival, because there is, indeed, much to like.
“Send Revival” stands out to me as one of the best songs Petra has ever done not written by Bob Hartman. I know that’s a small percentage to select from, but still, there it is. I particularly enjoy the chorus, which is straight from Isaiah 6: “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.” This speaks to the core of the reaction every believer should have, throughout their lives, to the continuing revelation of the glory of God. Plus, it’s a great reminder that while we all might want revival, we must remember that to be revived you have to have been alive in the first place. True revival starts with believers. It must start with you, with me.
Among the other songs that stand out, “Oasis” is lyrically strong, an anthem of the provision God provides to those who are with Him. “Satisfy” is also a good one, and it might as well have been the title of the album because many of the songs carry the theme of satisfaction that is only found in Christ. “How Long” closes the album as a song of hope. I’m not crazy about the second verse lyrically because I’m not sure you can say that the Lord’s heart is still breaking. After all, it is finished. However, the first and third verses, as well as the rest of the lyrics, speak to the hopeful certainty of a day when God will make all things right (there are echoes of Isaiah 35 here).
Overall, although in this time in Petra’s history I would have preferred an album not of the “modern worship” genre, Revival is a fine album and is underrated in the Petra discography. It didn’t sell well and wasn’t particularly well-received by critics (go figure?), but ultimately this album succeeds at what Petra has always tried to do, give the glory to God and plant the seeds for Revival.