49. More Power to Ya – Petra

MORE POWER TO YA

Petra

After several years of trying to break the rocky ground for those who would follow, seminal Christian rock band, Petra finally hit the big time with More Power To Ya. The first several Petra albums (Petra, Come and Join Us, Washes Whiter Than andNever Say Die) saw the band sample many different styles of rock, folk and pop music with unfortunately diverse results. More Power’s predecessor, Never Say Die, hinted at what was to follow, and despite containing Petra’s first huge radio hit (The Coloring Song), it did not match MPTY’s complete quality.

Lead singer Greg Volz, who joined the band full-time on Never Say Die, really took MPTY to a different level vocally. With Bradley Delp (Boston) style vocals, singer with power and passion in the upper register, MPTY put Petra on par with secular contemporaries Styx, Boston, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, etc. This was “Corporate Rock” at its best.

The album kicks of with Stand Up, a rock anthem that would remain a Petra favorite for the following decade. This song would also continue Petra’s lyrical obsession with the Spiritual Warfare theme, a concept that could not be missed on MPTY’s album artwork.

MPTY also includes one the longest running hit songs in Christian music history with its title track. The single became a staple on the burgeoning Christian pop radio format. Though it didn’t duplicate The Coloring Song’s unmatched feat of being the Number One song on Christian pop, inspirational and rock formats all at the same time, it may have lasted longer on regular rotation than any other Petra song. The worship-like anthem would also hint at Petra’s future of creating and recording popular worship music.

A little controversy followed the release with the obvious use of backward masking to start of the classic rock single, Judas Kiss. At the time it was quite popular to hear Christian evangelists barnstorming against rock music and the alleged use of “backward masking” by Satanic rock artists to subliminally infect the unknowing minds of the day’s youth. Every rock artists from Led Zeppelin and the Beatles to Madonna and Boy George were accused of using a process by which a message is implanted into the grooves of the record in a backwards format where the brain would supposedly reverse the message and drive the day’s youth to worship Satan.

Christian artists, especially those of the rock variety, were not immune to the accusations and more than a handful of Churches and Youth organizations held rallies and bonfires to destroy these purveyors of the Devil’s music. The list included, of course, Stryper, Resurrection Band, Petra and even Pop Princess Amy Grant and Church superstar Sandy Patti!

Petra responded to the accusations by placing a blatant backward recording as an introduction to the song Judas Kiss. When played backwards, the message stated “What are you looking for the Devil for, when you ought to be looking for the Lord!” The message was not lost on Petra and Christian Rock fans all around the country as it was believed that someone finally stood up to this ridiculous claim of televangelist and youth Pastors. And the song rocked!

The entire record was filled with rock gems, power ballads and the incredible bluesy “All Over Me.” It would be hard to find anyone who found the lyrics  MPTY to be objectionable, or even creative for that matter. So, why is it included in this list?

First, it was probably the first authentically rock album to become a huge sales success. This opened the doors for many small and independent labels to find distribution for their music and young kids and adults all over the country were seemingly overnight introduced to Christian Music that rocked.

Second, nearly every song on MPTY charted either on rock, pop or inspirational charts. The songwriting was really good on this record, this can’t be denied. We may look back now and complain the record was corporate rock and derivative, but at the time it was a breath of fresh air in a music landscape dominated by Amy Grant, Evie, Bill Gaither and Sandy Patti. The kids in Youth Groups around the country needed a band they could call their own. Rez Band just wasn’t safe enough to play at Wednesday Night Bible Study, but Petra walked that fine line of being just cool enough for the kids and safe enough for mom and dad.

Fourth, the album had exceptional production values for the time. During this time in CCM many albums were made on shoestring budgets and could not compete sonically with their secular counterparts. MPTY did not suffer from this same ailment. It could compete on many levels with whatever else was out there, and that forced the Christian Music industry to focus on not just making great music, but great albums.

Finally, the band’s popularity made it possible for other artists like DC Talk, Audio Adrenaline and the Newsboys to find an easier path onto Christian bookstore shelves and onto Christian radio playlists. MPTY was not ground breaking in regards to creativity, originality and door busting rock sounds, but it did pave a path for those that followed to reach the ultimate gate keepers to the today’s Christian Youth…the Youth Pastor.

Besides all that…it really is a good record!

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15 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by thewatchern on February 7, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    i love the detail with which you write your reviews.

    my exposure to the christian music industry was nominal… but my mother did change the course of my life when she purchased PHILLIP BAILEY’S first christian project with “I Will No Wise Cast You Out” for me one easter… i think i was like 10 years old.

    from there, i went on to like michael w. and amy of course… 2 chapter of acts… and susan ashton.

    thanks for sharing your expertise and passion with us!

    Reply

  2. Posted by notmanbig on February 8, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Though “More Power To Ya” had the first Petra song I ever heard (Judas Kiss), the first album I really knew was “Beat the System”. As I went back and amassed their other albums, “Not of this World” was my favorite. My older brother always insisted the MPTY was the better record. I finally agree with that sentiment. (Though, ironically, he now thinks that NOTW is better.) I liked NOTW for its “darker” feel, but MPTY is a more consistent record and really shows what Petra was all about. Oddly enough, my least favorite song is the title track. The first two songs rock with the best that Journey had to offer at the same time. Judas Kiss showcases Hartman’s crunching guitar sound. The whole album shows off John Slick’s unique keyboard textures. Even on the weaker Run for the Prize, Volz’s vocals really shine. Let Everything That Hath Breath provides connectivity with the prior “Never Say Die” and its praise songs. Road to Zion, though not written by the band, fits right into their catalogue and is a classic. However, my two favorite songs are Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows, great Boston-flavored rock with Keith Green-flavored lyrics that called out the church, and Disciple, which utilized under-used Mark Kelly vocals on the verses and let the listener know exactly what Petra’s agenda was. THIS is the album to listen to if one is unfamiliar with classic Petra!

    Reply

    • Posted by JMS on April 5, 2011 at 5:08 am

      >The whole album shows off John Slick’s unique keyboard textures.

      Thank you for that unsolicited vote. I still occasionally listen to those old recordings 27 years later, and am amazed at just how good we were together.

      JMS
      - Petra minister of subtle textures and weirdness. 1979-1984.

      Reply

  3. Posted by JR on March 3, 2010 at 2:30 am

    I think your description of “corporate rock” is overly dismissive of some the of excellent and challenging work that Petra did, particularly in the context of that weird “rock is evil” reactionary thing we had going on in those days. Petra was far more proggish and less “corporate” than you give them credit for. Think about songs like “Killing My Old Man” which made my grandparents have a fit (even after I explained what the lyric meant) and they also felt that songs like “Bema Seat” could not possibly be Christian if they were that loud.

    I can’t believe that there isn’t any other Petra on this list, and if you have More Power To Ya this low, I highly doubt there’s any others in the top two. Typical music critic snobbishness I think. They were so popular that you instead think it’s your mission in life to show how awful they must be.

    Reply

    • Posted by low5point on March 3, 2010 at 3:13 am

      How can anything in the Top 50 be considered low when I started with over 3,000 albums, 700 artists and multiple genres to choose from. Most have complained by Petra’s inclusion at all, not how low they appear. Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Sweet Comfort, Imperials and Carman didn’t make the list…but neither did “critic darlings” like Poor Old Lu, Starflyer 59, Prayer Chain, Undercover, Iona, Kings X and a host of others.

      And what’s with the thought corporate rock is derogatory? It’s a normative style name that has a specific understanding definition to the reader…Foreigner, Boston, Styx, REO Speedwagon…nothing derogatory about them. But Petra was corporate rock. They are what they are and served the Lord well.

      Petra’s inclusion was based on their impact and importance…CCM Magazine’s Top 100 only had More Power to Ya included in their entire Top 100 and it was at number 98…

      Reply

  4. Posted by JR on March 3, 2010 at 6:25 am

    Actually the line “…It would be hard to find anyone who found the lyrics MPTY to be objectionable, or even creative for that matter” was probably the most dismissive part of the article. (and personally, I think Not Of This World is a better album).

    I just find it hard to swallow Stryper halfway up the list and some of the other obvious stretches. Bruce Cockburn, for example, is a Christian only to a point. He’s much more of a gaia-worshiping lefty who likes to couch his social justice activism in quasi-Christian terms. (all the while actively campaigning against Christian interests). You think Bruce Cockburn’s music saved any souls? How about U2? I must’ve missed the altar call during the ZooTV tour.

    Shrug. I think your list is too broad to have any real meaning, and in some cases it’s purposefully obscure–too obscure to actually be of use to anyone. CCM Magazine’s list was worse, so at least you’ve got me there. Just think how many artists have had to record music they didn’t like (which often didn’t even fit on their album) just so they’d have something that could get airplay on Christian radio.

    Maybe I”m talking out of my old testament word for donkey.

    Reply

    • Just a thought: when you travel to a foreign country, you can learn the language in at least a rudimentary fashion, or you can speak English strictly and pray someone there will be kind enough to listen and try to figure you out. I think I’ve said previously that I’m a sentimental Petra fan but not necessarily a fan of their approach. It’s too much English being spoken at the French cafe, and even Jesus spoke in parables so the disciples could understand.

      People are saved through the belief of the sovereignty of Christ and people come to that conclusion every day in many ways. They even get there through secular music, maybe in a roundabout way, but if God made “the box” then there is no box in which He could be trapped, right? There are several Christian music artists that recognized these things and, first and foremost, poured everything they had into making great songs, touching the heart in instinctual ways and telling their stories, not to mention THE story, in service to art. That does not make art a false idol because the artists are called to offer up their best to God, so if we are called to give our best to God, then the extent of our ability to craft is fulfilling the command.

      More Power To Ya is probably Petra’s best album, but let’s not kid ourselves – it is Praise Rock. For the saved, Praise Rock is great and has its place, but as something that acts as a “still, small voice” in the ear of the unsaved, it’s big and scary and gets shut off immediately. It doesn’t draw someone in, it is there for those already drawn. Nothing wrong with that. “Judas Kiss”, “Road To Zion” and boldest and most emblematic “Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows” are ‘preaching to the converted’ and they know it! More than any other of their albums, Bob Hartman and Co. are speaking to their own.

      Now, why would Stryper be farther toward the top of the list? They’re louder, maybe they’re not the best example of “art” but they arrived in France speaking the language, if I may beat on the metaphor once again. Headbangers can be notoriously ignorant of lyrics, or else they might have an idea how dumb some of those secular metal lyrics really read. Stryper delivered their message through power, aggression, heavy riffage and, every now and then, the message got through, but it almost never got shut down from the start. Why? Because the message and the audience were speaking the same language.

      Why would Petra be at 49 and Mark Heard at 3? Foremost, this list is the writer’s subjective opinion; he has extensive dealings in the CCM world and therefore has the background to be more authoritative, but if you think Petra should be number three, or number one, then your opinion is just as valid. Get yourself a Blogspot page and be bold about it! Write your list of your top 50! The Internet is 70% porn – I think there’s plenty of room for many, many well-written lists of why Christian art is valid. There certainly is room for artists like Mark Heard, Terry Taylor, and Tonio K., people who spoke not from the mount but from the crowd, did it with conviction and creativity, and most effectively did it in a language we understood.

      The point of this very long-winded reply is not a rebuttal, it is not my way of saying “you’re wrong” or diminishing what you feel is a great achievement. I hope you would choose not to do so to the author of this particular blog either. However I am offering up all this as an encouragement to you. For decades, CCM was looked upon as artless, gutless proselytizing set to a backbeat and nothing more. This blog sets out to put that notion straight, and if you are compelled to compile your own list, get to it! This tent could stand being bigger, and if the burden is on you, go for it!

      Reply

  5. Good Petra album… First concert I ever saw was for the following tour, ‘Not Of This World.’ they opened with ‘Stand Up’ from this album….

    There are many great Petra discs this would be one of them

    Reply

  6. “They were so popular that you instead think it’s your mission in life to show how awful they must be.”

    Well – there were. And Greg Volz is a douche.

    “You think Bruce Cockburn’s music saved any souls?”

    I do, if that counts (I’m sure it doesn’t).

    Reply

  7. [...] you think about the “big names” in Christian music history, who comes to mind? Petra? The 77’s? Maybe you go back to Larry Norman, Keith Green or Steve Taylor, or more recent [...]

    Reply

  8. [...] you think about the "big names" in Christian music history, who comes to mind? Petra?The 77's? Maybe you go back to Larry Norman, Keith Green or Steve Taylor, or more recent groups [...]

    Reply

  9. Posted by JMS on April 5, 2011 at 5:16 am

    Regardless of what any pundits, fans or arm-chair critics opine, the fact is that Petra was about one thing: Christ crucified.

    The big lights, smoke machines, tour buses, CCM covers, awards, and acclaim were all ancillary; all those trappings are mere fodder for the Bema seat. And believe me or not… we all knew it.

    JMS
    - Petra minister of keyboard textures, lines, oddities and backward non-masking, 1979-1984.

    gojumpinthelake@comcast.net

    Reply

  10. Posted by JMS on April 5, 2011 at 5:21 am

    >Petra responded to the accusations by placing a blatant backward recording as an introduction to the song Judas Kiss. When played backwards, the message stated “What are you looking for the Devil for, when you ought to be looking for the Lord”.

    That was my idea, and my voice. I always hated facade and silliness, and this was just meant to be a joke.

    JMS
    Petra minister of backward non-masking, 1979-1984
    gojumpinthelake@comcast.net

    Reply

  11. Good choice! Check out these lyrics from Stand Up –
    Out of our pews and into the streets
    Making some use of our beautiful feet
    Redeeming the time for the days are evil
    This whole world’s in such upheaval
    We wrestle not with flesh and blood
    But when the enemy comes in like a flood

    Let’s be honest, a lot of Christian rock and metal lyrics aren’t very Biblical so lyrics of the calibre of this are refreshing.

    This is one of my fav. Petra LPs. Lots of melodic rockers on here esp., Stand Up, Disciple, Let Everything That Hath Breath and for me, the best track – Rose-Colored Stained Glass Windows.

    Reply

  12. Posted by tpancake on July 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Just found this site. Being a big Petra fan for nearly 30 years (since being about 11 years old), I had to scan the list to see where the big guys stood. Given the magnitude and breadth of Christian music, I’m glad to see they made the list. They deserve a place on such a list for many reasons, most of those covered in the editorial.

    Let me share a personal story. As I mentioned above, I found Petra as I was discovering Christian music as a pre-adolescent. Recently I took my nearly eleven year old son on a special trip, just him and I. We made the three plus hour trip to Cincinnati to see a couple of ballgames and talk about the transition his body and mind are going to start making into manhood over the next several years. Anyway, on the long drive home I put on Petra’s new “live” album I had just discovered (“Petra Classic”). The live album consists of a reunited cast of members from the Petra I first discovered and followed (minus JMS – so cool to see your posts above!). “Beat the System” was my first real concert. My son was really impressed with the music! He kept asking “How old are these guys?” (in their 60′s now) “No way!” he would exclaim. He downloaded the album to his iPod (an old iPhone retired by his mom).

    So, here is my son discovering Petra at the same age I did – how unbelievable is that? Mixed in with his Lincoln Brewster and Jimmy Needham is his “old man’s” music (my phrase – not his. I can’t be someone’s “old man”, yet. wow …)

    Last night, we were working on a 4H woodworking project and he put his iPod on the cradle and picked the Petra “live” album to listen to. During the time together he asked questions like “What is the Bema seat?” and made statements like “God Pleaser is one of my favorite songs”.

    Cue the heart tug and tear in the eye.

    Much can be said about all these artists that are covered in this “Top 50″ list, but one thing is true: Petra sang the word of God. And that lodged into my heart in melodies that I will always remember. Greg X. Volz’s soaring vocals (how can you say there is no God when you hear that voice – still agile even today). Bob Hartman’s amazing writing and guitar work. Weaver and Lawry and Kelly and Slick – all talented musicians, vocalists, writers and Christ followers. And now, another generation (my son) is being challenged and instilled with the word of God through the music of Petra. Honestly, there are great musicians and artists on this “50 best list” – many whom I really enjoy and have listened to for years, but too many you have to really search the undertones and implications to find God’s word. That’s okay – this doesn’t make them less artistic or less “Christian”, but next to Petra’s unashamed forwardness in boldly proclaiming Christ, there is a stark contrast.

    Thanks for including Petra on this list!

    Reply

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