Tuesday, January 25, 2011


     That's right folks!  Petra is back and this time they're going as CLASSIC PETRA.  BACK TO THE ROCK (2010)  is a noteworthy release for several reasons.  It marks the first time in 24 years that Greg Volz handles all the lead vocals.  He largely helped propel the band to fame from 1981 to 1986.  It also sees the return of long-time beloved and once dismissed drummer Louie Weaver.  Other band members on this project are Mark Kelly (bass), John Lawry (keyboards), and founder Bob Hartman on guitar.  BACK TO THE ROCK is being used to re-introduce Petra to the stage again.  International dates are set to begin this Spring, and stops at this summer's Cornerstone and Kingdom Bound festivals are already planned.  This tour will give many of us John Schlitt era fans the opportunity to see the Volz fronted version of our favourite band live for the first time.
     BACK TO THE ROCK consists of ten remade Petra classics and 2 new songs.  Bob Hartman's signature rock guitar work and solos standout throughout this album.  Fans of previous projects such as WAKE UP CALL and JEKYLL AND HYDE will appreciate this.  Hartman is one of CCM's best guitarists.  Of the remakes, three of my favourites are 'Angel of Light', 'Godpleaser', and 'Adonai'.  They are full of energy and spiritual passion, as well as encouragement to live the Christian life.  'Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows' looks at the state of the church: "Another sleepy Sunday safe within the walls/Outside a dying world in desperation calls/But no one hears the cries or knows what they're about/The doors are locked within, or is it from without?"
     What of the 2 new tracks?  'Back to the Rock' is a reworking of the song 'The Rock' from Greg Volz's 2009 GOD ONLY KNOWS solo project.  It reminds us we ought build our lives upon a firm spiritual foundation so we have staying power when we face the storms of life.  'Too Big to Fail' speaks of God being all powerful: "He stretched forth the heavens and He laid the foundations of the earth/All glory and honor and praise/To the One who lives and reigns." 
     Two more CD's are planned already, with the third said to be all new material.  It truly is a blessed time to be a Pethead!  For more info visit http://www.classicpetra.com/ or http://www.thepetrazone.net/.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


     Michael W. Smith is one of the trailblazing male vocalists of Contemporary Christian Music.  Musically, his latest offering WONDER (2010, Reunion Records) will appeal more to his long time fans who have aged with him, more than to a teen audience.  There are some standout pop numbers here, but they tend to be of the lighter fare.
     Looking at the lyrics, the album could just as well have been called HOPE.  'I'll Wait for You' is about those times when God doesn't seem quite as close to us: "Now I lie awake at night/Tryin' not to think/But these are the hardest times I've ever seen/I'm still holdin' on."  'One More Time' picks up the theme: "When your destiny is out there in the distance/But the road ahead's a mine field in disguise/And you keep on moving/You just keep on moving/You will make it through this."  'Rise', a song that could just as well have been penned by Robert H. Schuller or Joel Osteen, nails home the point: "Stand upon the waves/And walk with me/Journey through the door/Come see what I can see/All the reasons we were made/Who we were meant to be/Rise, He's calling you to go."
     The other two themes on the record are a love for God, and a love for his wife Debbie.  'Take my Breath Away' finds him in awe of God: "See me, all I am/These empty hands/Are all I can give/That You would die so I'd live/Your sacrifice I can't believe/You fascinate."  'Take me Over' is a piano ballad: "With just a glimpse of Your face/All my fears melt away/Lost within Your embrace/I'm pouring out all my admiration/Jesus, Jesus/Take me over now/I surrender/Everything I have, I lay it down/All of me."
     Michael whispers 'sweet nothings' to his wife on 'Forever Yours': "Come walz with me through the twilight/And we will dance as seasons pass/We move together."  On 'You Belong to Me', he sings: "Oh girl, you are more than beautiful/How can it be that you belong to me." 
     WONDER is one of Smitty's stronger albums of late.  It is a seasoned, mature effort.  I'm giving it an 85%.

Friday, January 14, 2011


     Nick Vujicic was born without arms and legs.  What would you do in that situation?  In his book LIFE WITHOUT LIMITS (2010, Doubleday), Nick reveals his reaction and so much more.  Before I say anything else, let me say that I found this book very challenging.  It could take a lifetime putting some of the lessons into practice to master them. 
     Much like televangelist Robert H. Schuller, Nick believes you must believe in yourself.  You must believe God has a wonderful plan for your life.  You were created for a purpose.  No matter how bleak your situation may look and no matter how cruddy your circumstances may be, you can have a bright future.  This alone is a hard concept for me to grasp with my anxiety and depression issues sometimes.  I do believe it though. Nick is onto something here.  When things look hopeless or when times are particularly tough, we must keep pressing on.  One thing Nick encourages readers to do is to have an attitude of gratitude. Be thankful for the things you do have.  Eagerly anticipate and be thankful for the good that is to come in your life.  Vujicic also says a key to moving out of times of despair is to reach out and help others through their tough times. Again, easier said than done!
     Nick believes if you are going to have a fulfilling life you have to be willing to take risks as you pursue your passions and dreams.   It is also important to surround yourself with people who are supportive of you. 
     In the book, Nick shares how he moved from feeling terrible about himself, to now speaking words of inspiration in front of thousands of people. He writes candidly about facing his fears head on.  It is evident throughout the book that this Australian born 'bloke' has a great sense of humour. Nick shares how he has fun poking fun at himself.  He also shares how he has worked hard to become as independent as possible, though he still uses caregivers.  Amazingly, he writes how he feels other people have worse hands of cards than he does in life.  He talks of situations of dire poverty he has seen overseas for example.
     If you are looking for a highly inspirational book from the viewpoint of positive Christianity, this is the book for you.  If you are looking for something deep theologically, try something else.