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.
Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out (1989, StarSong Records)
Lineup: John Schlitt (lead vocals), Bob Hartman (guitars), Ronny Cates (bass), John Lawry (keyboards), Louie Weaver (drums)
This is the first album in this list containing what I believe the best lineup in Petra history. It’s also a pioneering release, as praise and worship albums in contemporary Christian music were pretty much unheard of before Petra did it… and it took almost ten years for it become trendy (by then Petra had already released a second P&W album). And while if you’ve been reading this list you know that the praise and worship genre is not my favorite, this album seems different (and is) because it’s not part of a larger movement (such as the late 90s and early 2000s when it seemed every album by every CCM artist was a “worship” album).
Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out starts with Hartman’s heavy guitar riffing and Weaver’s drums banging on “I Love the Lord,” probably the signature track from the album, with lyrics by Hartman. It’s a veritable anthem calling the listener to love the Lord in the midst a world that doesn’t, pointing to the fact that the believer’s song is a song of victory.
Next comes “King of Kings” which runs together with “Jesus, Jesus, Glorious One.” I love the way they ran these back to back, the first pointing Jesus as that King of Kings, the second with lyrics speaking of facts about Him – He’s glorious, He’s the Son of God, etc. “The Battle Belongs to the Lord” comes next with a refrain straight from Scripture. “Take Me In” is about the holiness of God. “Salvation Belongs to Our God” is pretty self-explanatory, but an important fact beautifully stated in song.
“The King Of Glory Shall Come In” is another song by Hartman, with lyrics straight out of Psalm 24. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord mighty in battle! “No Weapon Formed Against Us Shall Prosper” comes next. It’s a rocker. “I Will Celebrate /When the Spirit of the Lord” comes next and is done as if live. “I Will Sing Praise” is a straight-forward song pointing to a decision made to bring glory and honor to Jesus Christ. “Hallowed Be Thy Name” is a ballad, if that’s an appropriate description of a praise and worship song, pointing the listener to a holy God once again.
“Friends (All in the Family of God” is probably my least favorite track on the album. It speaks, obviously, to a community of those in the faith, but in my mind is kind of cheesy. “I Will Call Upon the Lord” recalls youth group praise and worship and is done in a round with a live crowd. And finally, the album concludes with the simple classic “We Exalt Thee,” reverently closing the album with a song stressing the ultimate point of life, to exalt the Exalted One, Jesus Christ.
And that’s really what this album is all about, and what sets it apart from so many praise and worship albums today that seem to be done because it’s the thing to do, because they sell, and because they tend to get decent CCM radio airplay. This is a very solid album and it holds up well after 23 years. That it is fifteenth on the list speaks to the quality of the rest of the list.