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. [Now, it should be noted that Petra’s fortieth year was in 2012, when I started this series. Better late than never in winding down to the end.]
More Power To Ya (1982, StarSong)
Lineup: Greg X Volz (lead vocals), Bob Hartman (guitars), Mark Kelly (bass), John Slick (keyboards), Louie Weaver (drums)
If there are two Petras — the first with Greg X Volz on vocals, the second with John Schlitt — then More Power To Ya is widely considered the pinnacle of the Volz era, the opener in a trio of great studio albums which vaulted Petra to the top of Christian pop/rock acts in the 1980s. You get plenty of guitar and drums on the album, of course, but the use of keyboards and modern synthesizers is elevated, creating a warmer overall sound.
The lead-off track is “Stand Up,” and you get those guitar riffs, heavy drums, and keyboards right off the bat. Lyrically, the song is (like a lot of Petra songs) a call to spiritual battle. The Christian life is spoken of in militaristic terminology and the believer is reminded “the enemy is on every side, but still no match for the Crucified.” Thus, we have victory and should stand up in the world today for Jesus, serving Him because we’ve already won in Him.
Second up is “Second Wind,” naturally, a rocking track which speaks the resiliency of those whose faith is in Christ. The line about getting a “new revelation” is theologically murky, but it shouldn’t take away from the greater point of the song — that when we grow weary the Lord is still there, and through His Spirit and His word He gives us the second wind we always need.
Next comes the title track, and there may be no better lyrics in any Petra song than in “More Power To Ya.” I was still six years away from knowing anything about Petra when this album was realized, and my first memories of this song were singing it in youth choir in 1990, then changing the lyrics to “More Power Booya!” for a stupid and cheap laugh. But few songs speak better to the hard road of the Christian, and the power of Christ to see us through it, with some clever word-play to boot.
You say you’ve been feeling weaker, weaker by the day
You say you can’t make the joy of your salvation stay
But good things come to them that wait
Not to those who hesitate
So hurry up and wait upon the Lord
Hurry up and wait. A simultaneous call for urgency in the Christian life coupled with patient dependence upon God, whose power and grace are the source of all good things. Watch and listen.
That may not be the most famous track on the album, though, because next comes “Judas’ Kiss.” In the late 1970s and early 1980s the use of backmasking was growing, particularly amongst some hard rock and heavy metal bands. Many Christian churches and organizations, particularly those of a Fundamentalist bent, suspected the use of Satanic messages being used. Thus, rock itself was evil in the eyes of many, which made Petra a target even of some Christians.
Petra’s answer was the start of “Judas’ Kiss,” which begins with a backmasking of Bob Hartman saying, “What are you looking for the devil for when you ought to be looking for the Lord?” As to the song itself, it is otherwise known for piercing guitar and lyrics which are speaking directly to the Savior, who has offered His life on the cross only to be rejected by men: “I wonder how it makes you feel when the prodigal won’t come home. I wonder how it makes you feel when he’d rather be on his own. . . . It must be like another thorn struck in your brow. It must be like another close friend’s broken vow. It must be like another nail right through your wrist. It must be just like, just like Judas’ kiss.”
The fifth track is “Rose-Colored Stained Glass Windows,” a heart-piercing ballad kicking at the goads of superficial religiosity, which is safe within its own walls on sleepy Sundays while the world is dying on the outside, all the while the church walls itself off from its own mission field. The song begins with the quiet and familiar organ playing the tune of “Showers of Blessings,” but once the song gets going it’s a condemnation of pain-free, affluent type of Christianity, which is really not Christianity at all. “When you have so much you think you have so much to lose. You think you have no lack when you’re really destitute.” Powerful stuff.
“Run for the Prize” is a song about a Christian who has gotten off track, encouraging the listener not to look over his or her shoulder at the past and risk getting further off track, but focus once more on the goal of it all: Christ. Run for the prize and stay on the straight and narrow path which leads to life.
“All Over Me” is a ballad which, honestly, I don’t care for very much musically. The lyrics, though, are a reminder of the sinless Christ whose blood was yet for those He came to save. It closes with a challenge to believe it, to believe in Him.
“Let Everything That Hath Breath” is that rare non-Hartman song. This was written by Greg X. Volz and, given that it’s on “Side B” of this album, is underrated. It’s telling that Classic Petra chose to lead their album with it, though. It’s a rocking song which calls the listener to praise the Lord.
“Road to Zion” is a ballad filled with imagery which points us on the way that leads to life. “The few that find it never die.” Using water, thirst, shadows, and light, these lyrics from Mike Hudson provide for one of the more memorable ballads of the Volz era, closing with this:
Sometimes it’s good to look back down
We’ve come so far – we’ve gained such ground
But joy is not in where we’ve been
Joy is who’s waiting at the end
“Disciple” is written by Hartman but actually features the vocals of bassist Mark Kelly. The lyrics reflect a Christian whose desire is to count the cost and follow Christ, because the reward is greater than what will be lost in the world.
Overall, More Power To Ya is the finest album of the first era of Petra. Great albums would follow before Volz would depart after the Captured In Time And Space live album, so great they really aren’t that far a drop-off from this point. But there’s a reason this album is a bit more beloved by Petra fans than some of those others. It’s just that good.
The List so far…
21. Double Take
19. Washes Whiter Than
17. Petra Praise 2: We Need Jesus
16. God Fixation
15. Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out
14. Come and Join Us
13. Never Say Die
12. No Doubt
11. Back to the Street
10. Jekyll & Hyde
9. Wake Up Call
8. Beat the System
7. Not of This World
6. Back to the Rock
5. This Means War!
4. On Fire!
3. Beyond Belief
2. More Power To Ya