February 28, 2000

'Double Take' is refreshing change for veteran Christian rockers Petra

by Josh Renaud
staff editor


Double Take

"Double Take" may be one of the most appropriate album titles I've ever seen. Longtime Petra fans will probably check the label again after listening to this album to make sure they were listening to the band they thought they were.

Petra has existed in one form or another since Bob Hartman founded the pioneer band in 1972 as a way to reach his generation with his message about Jesus Christ. Petra eventually became the world's best selling Christian rock band with over 6 million records sold. Needless to say, they have fans of all ages and nationalities who love Petra's variety of hard rock.

Last year, Hartman and the band members decided to try something radically different. What they have done is take 10 of Petra's most powerful and popular songs and remake them, along with crafting two new songs. The songs were completely rearranged and recorded with acoustic guitars, some sampling, and a live orchestra. The result is a unique and refreshing sound that goes far beyond a "live in the studio" retread album.

Petra took a big risk in recording "Double Take." The obvious goal of this album is to reach a new audience with their music, and the quality of this CD will probably make that possible. But how will longtime fans react to hearing toned-down versions of their favorite rock songs, even if the new arrangements are innovative?

Many songs really soar, like "Beyond Belief," which most fans probably won't recognize until it gets to the chorus. The entire song is smooth and builds with slow intensity. "Dance" features a very danceable rhythm and some interesting acoustic hooks that make the song fit its theme even better than the original. On the flip side of the coin, a couple songs, like "Beat the System," just don't work as well because the techno and battle themes of the lyrics seem out of place with the acoustic music.

Though it's being billed as an acoustic album, that description doesn't really seem to evoke the right mental image of the music on "Double Take." The songs are very rich, mostly because of the use of the orchestra behind the guitar, bass, and drums, as well as the limited use of harmonicas, some "wah-wah" electric guitar parts, and sampling. As usual, John Schlitt's lead vocals carry the songs and punch the lyrics through to the listener. In the past, Schlitt's four-octave voice could reach a little too far for the casual listener, but on "Double Take" he keeps his singing surprisingly low-key and it works well.

The biggest surprise on the album is the song "Breathe In," where Schlitt hands the vocal duties over to lead guitarist Pete Orta, who also wrote the song. Orta does an excellent job behind the microphone and pulls the listener into his world as he earnestly shares his desire to be close to God.

All in all, "Double Take" is bound to receive a mixed reaction from fans. The music is very good, but some diehard fans of Petra's hard rock will probably be disappointed by this downshift in tempo and hold out for the next album.

This article was reprinted with permission from The Current.


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