Petra - 1988 On Fire!


ALBUM: On Fire!
LABEL: Star Song
SERIAL: SSD 8106 (CD), SSR 8106 (vinyl)
YEAR: 1988


LINEUP: Bob Hartman - guitars * John Lawry - keyboards, computer programming * Louie Weaver - drums * John Schlitt - vocals * Ronny Cates - bass

Guests: John Andrew Schreiner - keyboards, programming * Tim Heintz - programming * John Elefante, Bob Carlisle, John Schlitt, John Lawry, and Rikki Michelle - background vocals on 'Homeless Few'

TRACK LISTING: 01 All Fired Up * 02 Hit You Where You Live * 03 Mine Field * 04 First Love * 05 Defector * 06 Counsel Of The Holy * 07 Someone's Gonna Praise His Name * 08 Open Book * 09 Stand In The Gap * 10 Homeless Few



The mid-late 80's period for Christian rockers Petra has proved to be their most endearing among fans.

It coincided with the arrival of former Head East vocalist John Schlitt, who first appeared on the band's 1986 album 'Back To The Street'.

No doubt influenced by what other bands were doing in the CCM genre, Petra moved away from the Jesus Rock territory that pervaded them while Greg X Volz was their lead singer, and moving headlong into the melodic mainstream that they would occupy right up until 1995.

The triumvirate of 'This Means War', 'On Fire' and 'Beyond Belief' are to me their greatest albums.. others might say differently, but it happens to coincide with the introduction of producers Dino and John Elefante who would amplify their melodic traits to another level.

'On Fire!' would also see the arrival of new bassist Ronny Cates (taking over from Mark Kelly), and this line-up of Petra would remain intact for the next seven years and oversee six albums. For this review we look at the 'On Fire!' album.

The Songs

'On Fire!' in Christian terms is supposed to be about stoking the fire of Gods love in your heart, and the message obviously got out to young Christians all around the world.

Interesting that the WikiPedia page for this album talks about spiritual warfare, whereas on another page reference they talk about spiritual renewal and revival (as in stoking the fire). Both of them can't be right.

I prefer to go with the latter, as the lyrical themes would suggest that was what the band intended. Musically it's as hard hitting as it can be in this genre.

The awesome arena rock opening of 'All Fired Up' does indeed 'fire up' musical precedings with a blast. Considering this album is aimed at the young Christian.

The lyrics for both 'Hit You Where You Live' and 'Mine Field' advise the listener to beware of the trappings of life, and to walk in the light (or fire).

Petra deliver an expansive ballad with 'First Love', with rich vocal choruses amid the symphonic arrangement.

Bob Hartman really sets his guitar alight on 'Defector', a booming arena rocker, it's followed by the convincing 'Counsel Of The Holy' and 'Open Book, both mid-paced power ballads. The latter sounding like a Mastedon composition.

But it's the other ballad on the album, the closing 'Homeless Few' which strikes home, a beautiful tune which looks at the plight of the homeless in the USA.

In Summary

A great album, of course with bands such as this and content such as this, if you aren't inclined to their message then it might not carry all the way.

Musically though, 'On Fire!' can't be faulted, and shows Petra as one of the principle flagbearers for Christian melodic rock.

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