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 (1974, Myrrh)
Lineup: Bob Hartman (guitar, banjo, vocals), Greg Hough (guitar, mandolin, vocals), Bill Glover (drums), John DeGroff (bass)
This self-titled initial offering came a couple of years after the formation of the band, and as you listen to it you will quickly realize that Petra, given their total history, cannot be just put into a box of “rock band,” for their musical style has really run the gamut over the course of their history. Several of the songs on this album have a country/bluegrass feel to them. But while the style of this album might not appeal to some, this is a solid album with some good songs.
This album gets going with “Walkin’ In the Light” which carries with it a quintessential early ’70s rock sound. The lyrics are a reflection of the Jesus Movement that came on the heels of the hippie movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s: “Walkin’ in the light / every day and night / Livin’ in the Spirit / is really out of sight.” It reflects the joy and purpose of a new believer.
“Mountains and Valleys” is a ballad about how the Lord is with you even when you are in low times. “Lucas McGraw” is kind of a fun little country rock tune sung in the third person about a man who is now living a changed life because of Christ. “Wake Up” is a soft rock tune directed at those who are deceiving themselves by the life they are living. “Backslidin’ Blues” is, appropriately, a bluesy tune and written like a prayer to God, asking “What can I do to get back to You?”
“Get Back to the Bible” is a funky rock tune addressing the insufficiency of the some of the things of that era: “‘Hare Krishna’ may be fun to sing / But it ain’t gonna get you to heaven.” The way “Gonna Fly Away” is sung actually reminds me of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” but maybe that’s just me. It’s a song about the hope of what’s to come for the believer.
“I’m Not Ashamed” is about our denial of self-sufficiency and necessity to rely of Christ for our satisfaction. “Storm Comin'” is about knowing the time of the Lord’s return is near. Finally, “Parting Thought” has a Crosby, Stills, & Nash vibe to it and simply says the following: “Here’s a song sung with you in mind / Maybe it will make you think about Him one more time / And if you can, please try to understand / Jesus is yours for the asking.” Essentially, it’s an invitation.
Chances are if you are reading this you are a Petra fan, but I’m willing to guess that chances are equal that you have never heard this album. I’m not saying it will be your favorite, but it’s not bad… not bad at all. If there’s one blaring weakness I would say it is the vocals. That would change in later years. The sound is also rougher… uneven… if that makes any sense. Petra would get better, and in some cases much better, but started off very well.