Friday, May 25, 2012


John Schlitt was born on February 3, 1950 in Lincoln, Illinois.  From 1974 to 1980 he sang with the mainstream rock band Head East.  Their hits included 'Never Been Any Reason' and 'Since You Been Gone'.  Following his conversion to Christianity he was Petra's lead singer from 1986 until their retirement in 2005.  Their songs such as 'He Came, He Saw, He Conquered', 'Hit You Where You Live', 'I am on the Rock', and 'Jekyll and Hyde' have had a profound effect on my spiritual walk over the years.  Schlitt has now released four solo albums: SHAKE (1995), UNFIT FOR SWINE (1996), THE GRAFTING (2008), and THE GREATER CAUSE (2012).  THE GREATER CAUSE (4K Records) is a largely fan funded project that sees Schlitt return to his rock roots.  It was produced by his son-in-law Dan Needham, who has writing credits on all eleven tracks.  Dan has worked with the likes of Michael W. Smith, Chris Tomlin, and Peter Cetera.  Of this album that has a very cool cover, Schlitt says: "The message is-and always has been-to encourage the listener to grasp the reality that we are on the winning team.  The enemy is escalating his tactics, using every possible means he can to keep people away from the truth-the truth that they are made in the image of God and are designed for a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ." 

Ephesians 6:19-20 says: "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains.  Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."  The CD begins with a full on rock number 'Live it Loud' written by Chris Rodriguez, Dan Needham, Scott Faircloff and John Schlitt.  Rodriguez, who has played guitar for Michael W. Smith, plays guitars on this track that has guest rap vocals by Needham.  The chorus urges us to make a positive difference for Christ in the world: "Watch the world, spinning round/What's your legacy?/Live it loud/Like a fire, deep inside/That won't be contained/Live it loud (2X)."  'Take Me Home' is a tasty rocker with an intro guitar solo by industry vet Jerry McPherson.  It draws on the very familiar Parable of the Prodigal Son for lyrical inspiration:  "There's a time when you realize/There must be something better than this hollow life/Sometimes the grass it isn't greener on the other side.../Take me home-I've been away so long/Take me home-I can see I was wrong."  'Love Won't Leave Me Alone' was written by Ed Cash and Dan Needham.  Cash has worked with the likes of Sara Groves and Steven Curtis Chapman.  The song has Peter King on synth and mellotron.  It reminds me of classic rock by Def Leppard and contains these words of a man on a spiritual journey: "I follow, You lead/To the mountain from the valley/Don't leave me where I am/Got my eyes on the Promised Land/Wherever I go, whatever I see/I need You there surrounding me/From the cradle to the grave."

2 Chronicles 7:14 reads: "If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and will turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."  'One of these Days' is a modern rock gem that sounds like what Petra might have sounded like if they were still putting out new music.  The song finds Tony Lucido on bass and asks some pertinent questions: "When will truth be the truth again?/When will  hope not fade away?/When will change ever come to an end?/I wonder if today/Is one of these days?.../How long 'til we stand and fight?/'Til the hunger grows and the pain is right?"  'Faith and Freedom' is one of two back to back songs penned by Ian Eskelin and Dan Needham.  Eskelin fronts the band All Star United.  He has also worked with the likes of Francesca Battistelli and Point of Grace.  'Faith and Freedom' is contagious and patriotic like Miley Cyrus' 'Wake up America'.  It begins with these lyrics: "I'm an American/Red, White, and Blue/And I'm a citizen/Of this world and of heaven/Some things were meant to be together."  The song also encourages Christians not to be passive about their faith: "We gotta rise up/We gotta stay strong/To save our way of life."  Hebrews 13:6 says: "So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?'"  'End of Fear' is a quieter song with Needham on keys, percussion, drums and backing vocals.  It is a song that declares that the Lord is aware of everything that goes on on on our planet and is ultimately in control: "When I turn on my TV/The whole world's falling apart/I'm reading today's headlines/It's like taking a walk in the dark.../But now I walk in freedom/Trusting who You are/You make the biggest of the biggest problems/Suddenly seem small."

Next up are the first two radio singles.  'Where I Wanna Be' is a beautiful ballad that stands out, with Joeie Canaday on bass.  The chorus conveys a hope for reconciliation in relationships: "If love could set the world on fire/What would it burn away?/What would remain?/Would it build a bridge between us?/If love would rain for forty days/Would it wash away the pain/Of bitter days and all the lies that came between us?/And conquer all the fears in me?/That's where I wanna be."  2 Corinthians 4:4 reads: "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."  'Hope that Saves the World' written by Needham and Schliltt, is a pounding rock number with Jerry McPherson on guitars.  The song points to God as the only one who can cure us of our spiritual blindness: "We're incomplete/Blinded with our eyes wide open/Why can't we see/You're the hope/That we need?/You lit the stars/You spun the earth/You gave us life/So tell me why can't we see?/You're the hope that saves the world.../We're incomplete/Always searching for the greater cause."  'Run' is a simmering rock number with Tim Acres on the B3.  This track urges us to make a concious decision to leave our troubled past behind and pursue God and the things of God: "All the pain/That you've known/No more shame/Let it go/Run, you can run/To the light at the end of the way/Run, will you run/Run from the things that remind you/Things that will bind you?/You've got to leave it behind."

John married his wife Dorla on August 28, 1971.  They have four children.  'The Gift (Dorla's Song)' is a soft, romantic ballad with Matt Butler on cello: "I could thank You for so many things/The life I've lived, the things I've seen/But if I had to choose I'd throw it all away/'Cause the greatest gift/You've given me/Is standing right in front of me/She's the answer to every prayer/I've ever prayed.../She is such a gift, Lord, thank You for the gift."  This is one of the better love songs I've heard in a while.  1 Corinthians 1:18 says: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."  The album ends with the inspirational 'The Cross Remains' which has been used by Jay Sekulow's American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).  These words from the song are a good summary of the message of John's musical ministry throughout the years: "Through the smoke/Through the tears/Through so many years/The cross remains/When the darkness turns to light/When the flames begin to die/The cross remains, the cross remains/Though there's tension in the air/Sometimes more than we can bear/Through it all the cross remains."

John shares these words from his heart: "In these days filled with uncertainty and insecurity-both economically and politically-we as Christians need to remind each other who Christ is and who we are in Him.  We need to use common sense in this world and awaken to the fact that Jesus is Lord, no matter what those around us may say or do.  This is my goal with THE GREATER CAUSE."  It is encouraging to see John Schlitt still going strong after all this time.  In an industry where there are so many new artists appearing on the scene, Schlitt is a shining example of relevant ministry and fine quality entertainment.  THE GREATER CAUSE will please fans of Petra's albums WAKE-UP CALL (1993) and JEKYLL AND HYDE (2003).  Schlitt's voice is stronger than ever.  This is truly how Christian rock music should sound!  I'm rating THE GREATER CAUSE 93% and recommending it to one and all.  For more info visit Check him out on itunes as well!