Few bands have impacted the history of Christian music like the 70's rock band Petra has. It's been 30 years since the band has released their self-titled debut, and it's been an incredible run. In 2003, following a few worship records, the band answered the call of longtime fans crying out for a return to their glory days of rock n' roll with their release of Jekyll & Hyde.
In 2001, Petra released Revival, a modern worship record that departed from the typical sounds Petra had become known for, forming what was a fresh and relevant album. But it left a question on many diehard fans' minds: "Can these guys still rock?" Jekyll & Hyde responds with a resounding "Yes." With the departure of original drummer Louie Weaver (and the controversy surrounding him apparently being kicked out of the band), the only remaining members are founder Bob Hartman and lead vocalist John Schlitt (who replaced original vocalist Greg X. Volz in the 80's). Now on Peter Furler's (of the Newsboys) own label Inpop Records, it isn't a wonder to see just how involved members of the Newsboys got on this record. The album was produced by Furler, programming was accomplished by Jeff Frankenstein, and background vocals were leant by Phil Joel and Furler as well. The Aussies indeed add to the record, but it does seem a little odd when some of the background vocals are obvious as Joel and Furler (particularly on "All About Who You Know").
The album opens strong with the title track, leading in with a subtle guitar followed by a ferocious riff and pounding drums. Petra maintains a hint of arena rock flavor in their newfound modern rock sound, but it works. Bordering on metal at times, Jekyll & Hyde ultimately still feels like a Petra record, due to Hartman's familiar songwriting and Schlitt's characteristic vocals. While the album isn't particularly innovative, it's a powerful rock effort. The only drawback to the record is it's mere half-an-hour running time.
Petra's 1992 record Unseen Power was the first CD I owned (Garfield, Am I Cool Or What? doesn't count), and while I grew out of Petra's music for the most part, there's something about Jekyll & Hyde that's a delight to hear from time to time. It possesses a retro feel with a modern edge that makes it still relevant for the new millenium.
So while the youth of today may not embrace Jekyll & Hyde like they might a new record from the Newsboys, Petra's new record is a valiant effort and one that shouldn't be ignored by longtime fans or anyone who enjoys classic rock.- Review date: 05/30/04, written by John DiBiase
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