Saturday, March 29, 2014

#89 FRESH SURRENDER by The Archers (1977)

FRESH SURRENDER by The Archers (1977)
Light Records (LSB-5707)

Fresh Surrender…every Christian teenaged boy’s favorite album cover in the 1970s! More about that a little later on.

I’ve always felt a bit of a connection to The Archers. Like them, I grew up the son of an Assemblies of God pastor. Like them, we were immersed in gospel music as kids and ended up winning awards in Teen Talent – a national Assemblies of God program that encouraged young people to develop their musical gifts and hopefully use those gifts for ministry purposes. [Tim and Steve Archer ended up winning second place at the Teen Talent Nationals in the 60s; my brother and I won second place in the Southeast Regional competition in the late 70s. Which was not bad, considering that we were pushing the envelope by playing “contemporary” music using a Wurlitzer electric piano, Moog synthesizer, and Pearl synthesized drums.] And, like The Archers, we ended up forming a family band and played in churches, schools and concert halls all over the United States and even a couple of cities in Canada. But that’s where the similarities end.

The Archer Brothers

The Archers played Explo ’72, toured Europe and South Africa, won Dove and Grammy awards, and played at the White House. More importantly, they breathed hope and excitement into the lives of many churched teenagers by demonstrating that the message of the Gospel and polished, commercial pop music could be completely compatible! 

In a radio interview, Tim Archer told Full Circle’s Jerry Bryant, “We were preacher’s kids; we were very active in my father’s church. We grew up singing in contests and in the services and outreaches to our community.”

“See, we were raised in church, so the music that we were familiar with was church music,” Steve Archer recalls. “And up until that point our parents had taken us maybe to some southern gospel quartet concerts, and our oldest brother, Gary Archer was actually in a quartet in college, and when he came out of college he traveled in a southern gospel quartet.” By the mid-60s, they were traveling and singing with their older brother Gary, calling themselves The Archer Brothers. After the near-win at their denomination’s Teen Talent nationals, they added electric guitars and drums, moving more toward a pop/rock sound. When Gary moved into artist management, Tim & Steve added some additional players and changed the group’s name to, simply, The Archers.

The Archers looking groovy in the early 70s

They played lots of churches and festivals in the early 70s, delivering a new sound previously unheard in many evangelical church settings. “Larry Norman was an influence on us, as was Andrae Crouch,” Steve recalls. “And it was at that time that those influences like Andrae and Larry – people that were already out there, I think Barry McGuire was probably out there at that time, too – but we were like, you know what? The kind of music that we want to do would be for our friends, kids that were in Jr. High School or High School, and so we began to do a form of what we now call Jesus Music, where it had kind of a rock ‘n roll or pop feel to it. So we were in church with drums and electric bass and electric guitars, jamming for Jesus! And there were a few people that it kind of set their hair back, you know. They weren’t sure how to appreciate that! So, even for us, coming out of church, it was difficult to take that music into the church, but the Lord opened the doors and we were able to do it.”

Did He ever.

As I already mentioned, The Archers were awarded a slot at Explo ’72 in Dallas, a historic Woodstock-like gathering of “Jesus people” from all over America and beyond. This put them in front of a quarter million people and got them noticed by Andrae Crouch and Ralph Carmichael (who was the label head at Light Records), relationships that would prove to be fruitful down the road a bit.

Much of The Archers’ popularity during this early period was the result of covers of popular Jesus Music songs like Andrae’s It Won’t Be Long and Jesus Is the Answer, as well as Little Flowers and Keep Singin’ That Love Song by Danny Lee (of Danny Lee & the Children of Truth). After a move to Light Records, The Archers recorded a song called It Wouldn’t Be Enough. It became a signature song for them and ended up being covered and recorded by many other artists.

In 1976, long-time group members Billy Masters and Nancye Short departed, creating an opening for little sister Janice Archer. Janice assumed the role of female lead for the group and dramatically changed the look and sound of The Archers. With a pleasing voice, Farrah Fawcett hair, and a million dollar smile, Janice was instantly popular and became somewhat of a "celebrity crush" for many Christian male teenagers across America. Her presence also positioned them as truly a family group. This new direction would define The Archers for the rest of their career.

With baby sister Janice in tow, Tim and Steve entered the studio to record what would become the group’s best selling album to date. Fresh Surrender was arranged by Elvis Presley TCB Band alumnus Larry Muhoberac and boasted a 'who’s who' of top session players. The list of elite studio musicians who contributed to Fresh Surrender included Steely Dan alumnus Ben Benay, as well as Dean Parks, Lee Ritenour, Wilton Felder, David Hungate, Mike Baird, and Jim Keltner. One reviewer remarked, “The top-flight talent shows as the production was through the roof for the time and actually still sounds sonically superior today.”

The album’s front cover featured a close-up photo of the three Archer siblings sporting about as much hair as you’re likely to ever see on a record cover. The back cover photo caught the trio in a playful mood and did nothing to discourage Janice’s many admirers.

Standout tracks include the title track and I’m Gonna Rise. Ballads Make Me an Instrument, You Know the Future and Give Him Praise were favorites of many listeners. Every Breath I Take and I Need You had a decidedly 70s feel. A teenaged Janice was given only one solo – Change, which was penned by her predecessor – and acquitted herself admirably. As usual, Steve stole the show vocally and proved to be a master of “blue-eyed funk” on his own compositions Sanctified Life and Water Into Wine.

Fresh Surrender claimed an astounding seven airplay hits for The Archers. The album and its title track would be nominated for a Dove Award.

The Archers would release several more albums together. They won a Grammy Award and performed on the Grammy Awards telecast twice. They were the first CCM group to perform at Universal City Amphitheatre in Los Angeles and even had their own television program for a while on the TBN network. In a review of a greatest hits compilation, Billboard magazine praised the group’s versatility.

Janice Archer married into another Christian music family, the Cruse Family, and Steve transitioned into a successful solo career. But the brothers & sister combo reunited in the early 90s for one more album, before disbanding for good in 1994. At a concert at Canyon Hills Assembly of God church in Bakersfield, CA, older brother Gary Archer was in the audience and was invited to come on stage and sing with Tim and Steve. In a brief revival of The Archer Brothers, the three men sang a couple of songs together for old times’ sake.

A recent photo of Steve, Janice & Tim

In more recent times, The Archers participated in The Beginnings Concert & DVD project, which featured many foundational Jesus Music artists in a reunion event. Tim Archer has survived a bout with cancer and recently recorded again with brother Steve. They released a brand new version of He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother in 2014.

Not long ago, Steve Archer was asked which Archers record was his favorite (of the ones that included his sister Janice). His answer: “I would have to say Fresh Surrender, and I know that it was her first, but there was a tenderness about her voice. And you know, she was only 17 years old at the time. I’m six years older than her; Tim’s 9 years older than her. So we’re the older big brothers. But there was just a tenderness about her, but also a real strength. And she didn’t hurt the look of our group at all – she was a beautiful young lady! But that record, the freshness of the look of our group, the fact that it was our first family venture, and just the songs that she did. That’s my favorite.”

Well put, Steve. It’s a favorite for a lot of us, too.

Fun fact: Kelly Willard was actually a member of The Archers’ touring band, playing piano and singing backing vocals for the group in 1975.

Monday, March 17, 2014

#90 HEAVENLY LOVE by The Boones (1979)

HEAVENLY LOVE - The Boones (1979)
Lamb & Lion (LL-1044)
Best remembered as the group that graced the cover of the first-ever issue of Contemporary Christian Music (later known as CMM) in 1978, The Boones were more than just pretty faces. They were a ‘sister act’ worth celebrating in the mid- to late-70s.

Of course, any discussion of this musical family has to begin with their famous father. From 1955 through 1961, Pat Boone was one of the most popular singers in America. Only Elvis and the Beatles ever had a more successful six-year period. He basically earned his fame by singing sanitized, parent-approved versions of R&B tunes. In short, he made black music safe for white American teenagers. He covered songs by Fats Domino and Little Richard, but his trademark white bucks and his reputation for milk drinking and clean living made him the teen idol that was most palatable to moms and dads. Eventually, American audiences gravitated away from the squeaky-clean Boone and toward the artists whose songs he was covering.

Pat Boone: Teen Idol

Pat Boone had always been outspoken about his Christian faith. But he wrote in an autobiography (A New Song, published by Creation House in 1970) about a deeper experience with the Lord. Sometime in the late 60s, he experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues (as described in the book of Acts). Boone became one of the country’s best known Pentecostal Christians. He ended up starring as Assemblies of God preacher David Wilkerson in the classic movie The Cross and the Switchblade (with Erik Estrada as Nicky Cruz). It seems that Boone’s involvement with charismatic Christian expression brought him into contact with the Jesus Movement that was picking up steam in Southern California in the early 70s.

Pat Boone began to record entire albums of Jesus Music cover tunes – songs like Larry Norman’s I Wish We’d All Been Ready, Love Song’s Little Country Church, Randy Matthews’ Didn’t He, and many more. Of course, these songs were performed in Boone’s decidedly un-hip style, a factor that made teenagers wary but delighted their moms and dads. In the 50s, Boone made R&B tunes safe for general audiences; and in the 70s, he made edgy Jesus Rock songs safe for conservative churchgoing parents.

But Pat Boone also deserves more credit than he’s ever received for the support he gave to young Jesus Music artists. Many stories have been told over the years of the times he furnished transportation and gave money to artists in need. It was Boone who first brought the 2nd Chapter of Acts to the attention of radio DJs by recording and distributing their single I’m So Happy in 1972. He famously fronted $3,000 to Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill so that they could establish One Way Records. And he began his own CCM label – Lamb & Lion Records – to help more CCM artists get their music to the public. Lamb & Lion was home to Dogwood, Wendell Burton, DeGarmo & Key, Dan Peek, Gary Chapman, Jerusalem, and more. It was also the label home to a female quartet that just happened to be Pat Boone’s own daughters.

Like her famous father, Debby Boone had experienced secular success. Hers was not a sustained career in mainstream music, but wow…it was huge. At age 21, she recorded a song called You Light Up My Life that occupied the #1 spot on American pop music charts for 10 straight weeks. It became the biggest pop record in 23 years and earned her a Grammy award for New Artist of the Year in 1977. Because of her Dad’s image and because she made it clear in interviews that she was singing You Light Up My Life to God and not an earthly lover, Debby Boone was often ridiculed as a lightweight or “goody two shoes” and never had another major secular hit. But she was the first CCM artist to cross into the mainstream market and deserves credit as one who paved the way for other Christian singers to experience success in the secular music world without compromising their convictions.

Sadly, there would be ample time to compromise convictions later on.

Straying far from Biblical teaching on the subject, Debby Boone revealed in 2014 that she is a supporter of "gay rights" and same-sex "marriage." As part of her rationale, she explained that "It's about continuing to tell the truth, and the truth will continue to do the work" -- apparently completely unaware of the irony of what she was saying. Sadly, if you simply hold to God's guidelines for marriage and sexuality, according to Debbie Boone you are stuck in "an old way of thinking." However, if you are accepting of sexual practices that are outside God's boundaries, then you are "coming slowly into the future and starting to get it." Understand?

But I digress.

Debby and dad all smiles after Grammy win

Both before and after You Light Up My Life, Debby recorded with her sisters Cherry, Laury and Lindy. These granddaughters of country music star Red Foley released Glass Castle as The Boone Girls in 1976. Then they changed the moniker to The Boones and released First Class in 1978. Their final album together (apart from a ‘greatest hits’ compilation) was 1979’s Heavenly Love.

With Chris Christian at the production helm, Heavenly Love featured a healthy dose of polished pop perfection. The Boone ladies were at the top of their game vocally. There is something special about the vocal harmonies of siblings (think: 2nd Chapter of Acts). Actual family members just seem to be able to produce a tighter blend, for whatever reason.

The album kicks off with the disco-influenced title track, with Debby handling the lead vocals.

He Lives features a sassy, sultry melody line on the verses and those aforementioned harmonies on the choruses.

The Hudson Brothers

Lindy sings lead on My Sisters and Brothers (in Christ); the song has a southern gospel feel and a surprise guest appearance by the Hudson Brothers (a mid-70s pop group that had their own TV variety show and, oddly enough, a Saturday morning kids show). Pretty cool, huh? A song called My Sisters and Brothers was sung by, well, sisters and brothers (see what they did there?).

My guess is that a cover of Praise the Lord was producer Chris Christian’s idea. The definitive version of that song had already been recorded by the Imperials. Its inclusion on this album just didn’t seem necessary, although Debby very capably handled the lead vocal on the track.

Speaking of the Imperials, No I’ve Never sounded a lot like something the Imps might’ve recorded during their ‘Omartian period.’ It’s reminiscent lyrically of songs like Living Without Your Love. This is another one with a disco feel; it’s Laury’s turn to provide the lead vocals. 

Kicking off Side Two is a real treat. The legendary Andrae Crouch himself joins the sisters on Because I Love Him, a Teddy Huffam-penned black gospel classic. The girls’ harmony really shines on this track. I’ve got to admit I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for this song; my brothers and I (Bachmann Brothers Band) used to do an a cappella version while on the road with our family’s evangelistic ministry back in the late 70s-early 80s. We sang that song all over the place, and it never failed to get an approving response from audiences large and small.

Debby gets another chance to shine on the Chris Christian-penned power balled You Came Softly.

No, I Can’t Stop has a bouncy, breezy feel, again showcasing the Boones’ vocal blend.

Cherry is featured on Your Love, which sounds like the type of 70s pop song that any number of mainstream acts might’ve recorded. It should be noted that, with Chris Christian producing, we again have the phenomena of several songs that could be taken as love songs either to the Lord or to an earthly lover – the choice is yours. Your Love was one such song.

I’m a sucker for classic hymns done right. And Heavenly Love closes with a gorgeous, a cappella rendition of the majestic hymn Fairest Lord Jesus, once again demonstrating the special vocal blend that only siblings can generate.

Bill Maxwell (Andrae Crouch & the Disciples, Koinonia) played drums on this record, while Hadley Hockensmith provided some of the guitar work. The cover displayed a cool, somewhat artsy photo of the four Boone ladies, involving a lamppost, a bench, and the Pacific Ocean. For my money, Heavenly Love is the best of the three albums recorded by the daughters of Pat and Shirley Boone.

These ladies have remained in the public eye over the years. Laury went on to record with her husband Harry Browning; Cherry went public with her battle with anorexia nervosa; Lindy has written a book titled Heaven Hears, about her son falling from the roof of a multi-story condo and surviving the ordeal. Debby went on to record a series of well-received CCM albums in the 80s. Today, when she’s not hawking facelifts on TV infomercials, she stays busy performing concerts in venues like casinos and Branson, Missouri dinner theatres.

Debby Boone today

Whatever you think of them, the Boone family played an important role in the development and popularity of CCM, especially in the 1970s, always pointing us toward a “heavenly love.”

Time for another album?

Fun Facts: On her 1978 You Light Up My Life album, Debby Boone also recorded a cover of the Keith Green-Randy Stonehill-Todd Fishkind classic Your Love Broke Thru.

Pat & Shirley Boone with their daughters in a recent photo

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

#91 GRAND OPENING by Andrus, Blackwood & Co. (1977)

GRAND OPENING by Andrus, Blackwood & Co. (1977)
Greentree Records (R-3467)

Ah…the smooth harmonies and polished pop sound of Andrus, Blackwood & Company.

These men first came to my attention when both of them were vital parts of a Gospel 
Music Machine known as the Imperials (from 1972 to 1976). The Imperials’ sound of the early to mid-70s relied heavily on the talents of these two gentlemen, as they traded off singing lead on most of the songs, and Terry Blackwood arranged the vocals for the group. I LOVED the Imperials of that time period and with that lineup. In fact, don’t tell anybody…but when I heard rumors as a preteen that Terry and Sherman had left the Imperials and it began to sink in that I would perhaps never get a chance to see that lineup of the group in concert…well, let’s just say that I was traumatized there for a little while. 

The rumor turned out to be true. They were gone.

Sherman Andrus (bottom, left) as a member
of Andrae Crouch & the Disciples

But let’s go back even further. These guys were part of Christian music royalty (if you will) even before they joined the Imperials. Terry Blackwood is the son of the late Doyle Blackwood, one of the founders of the most successful and historic Gospel quartet of all time, The Blackwood Brothers. After graduating from Memphis State University, Terry sang with J.D. Sumner & the Stamps Quartet. Meanwhile, Sherman Andrus had been a founding member of Andra√© Crouch & the Disciples.

Terry Blackwood was first to join the Imperials. By the time Sherman joined the group, its transitional period was well underway. They’d already been a back up vocal group for Elvis Presley in Las Vegas; now the hair grew longer while the stage clothes were more hip, matching outfits were no longer a necessity, and spiritually-aware cover tunes by both Jesus Music artists and secular artists became very prevalent on their albums and in their concerts. With Terry and Sherman on board, the Imperials themselves became a full-on bridge between the southern gospel world they left behind and the contemporary music scene they were headed toward. The fact that Sherman Andrus is a Black man was very significant in the early 1970s. Very few music groups – Christian or secular -- were racially integrated during that time period.

An early 70s Imperials photo

Just Because would be their last album with the Imperials. Terry & Sherman had already begun 
experimenting together musically while still members of the Imperials; they left an established group that was experiencing tremendous commercial success and struck out on their own in 1976.  

With the help of Karen Voegtin (vocals), Bill Egtlin (keyboards/vocals), Bob Villareal (guitar/vocals), Tim Marsh (drums) and Rocky Laughlin (bass), Andrus, Blackwood & Co. made their debut for Greentree Records in 1977. Grand Opening was a hit on the CCM radio charts.

The cover art featured an old filling station or general store-type building with the words Grand Opening on a banner stretched across the front of the store. A large color picture of Andrus & Blackwood graced the back cover. The rapture-themed I’m Gonna Rise and Never Be were popular tunes from the album. Questions was a song that most people remember; it wondered aloud in a very poignant way what we will leave behind after we’ve passed from this life.

So many questions I must ask myself today
I wonder if Jesus thinks I’ve done my share today
Will I wake up in the morning to find 
Regrets upon my mind
Will I leave a trace of Jesus somewhere

So many questions I must ask myself today
What will I leave behind 
When life has passed my way
Will people remember my name 
Or forget me all the same
Will I leave a trace of Jesus somewhere

Have I been a light in dark places / brought a smile to sad faces
Have I shown the world I really care
Have I lived my life the way He wants me to each and every day
When someone stumbled / was I there to care

Grand Opening's back cover

While not songwriters themselves, Andrus and Blackwood were good judges of great writing, as well as good judges of what Christian radio audiences wanted to hear. They recorded many songs from such established songwriting talents as Bruce Hibbard, Hadley Hockensmith, Phil Johnson, and Tim Sheppard among others.

Steve is another song from the album that made an emotional impact, It tells the story of a young boy who simply needs someone to care for him. It closes the album.

The boy's name was Steve
He wasn't quite five
And when we found him that day
He was barely alive
Just an old pair of jeans
A face filled with fear
Dirty bare feet
And eyes filled with tears
And what he said
Still rings in my ears

He said
Please, won't somebody love me?
Please, won't somebody love me?
I've been all over town 
And I still haven't found
Anybody to say
Come over to my house and play
Please, won't somebody love me?

Does it ever make you wonder
How Jesus must feel
Every time that He sees
Somebody like Steve
O you might be surprised
If you only knew 
How often the Lord feels the same way too
And how many times He's cried out to you 

Please won't somebody love Me
Please, won't somebody love Me
I've been all over town and I still haven't found

Anybody to say
Come over to my house and stay
Please, won't somebody love Me?

Blackwood & Andrus in the 80s

Polished 70s pop and radio-friendly vocal harmonies permeate this debut offering from AB&C.

Terry, Sherman & band in the 1980s

 Andrus, Blackwood & Company went on to release six albums between 1977 and 1984.  The group’s final performance came in June 1986 at a Six Flags theme park near Chicago, IL.

Today, the guys pay the bills by appearing as the "Elvis Imperials," reprising their role as Elvis Presley's backup vocal group in early 70s Las Vegas. Terry and Sherman are in the middle; '70s Imperials alum Joe Moscheo is on the right. The gentleman on the left was not a member of the Imperials in the 1970s, but he seems happy to be along for the ride.

Fun Fact: Sherman Andrus and Terry Blackwood occasionally perform in a group now called The Elvis Imperials with another former Imperials member, Joe Moscheo

Thursday, March 6, 2014

#92 PETRA by Petra (1974)

PETRA by Petra (1974)
Myrrh Records (MST-6527)
In a career that spanned more than three decades, Petra released 20 studio albums (including 3 Spanish language albums and 2 live recordings), and sold 10 million copies while being nominated for 13 Grammy Awards, winning 4. They won 10 Dove Awards. They had a song reach the #1 position on 3 Christian radio charts simultaneously. At the height of their popularity, they performed an average of 160 concerts per year. They were among the first bands to tour with extensive light shows and special effects. They were the only Christian band invited to play at the historic Farm Aid festival. They were the subject of numerous ‘greatest hits’ projects, including a tribute album that featured modern rock acts covering their favorite Petra songs. They were the first Christian band to be enshrined in the Hard Rock Caf√©. And they were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in the year 2000. Other than that, move along…nothing to see here. But seriously…

Back in 1972, no one foresaw all that lay ahead for this band of new believers and struggling musicians.

In the early 70s, guitarist Bob Hartman and bassist John DeGroff were in a band called Dove. The group disbanded when DeGroff decided to attend Bible school. Hartman soon joined him at the Christian Training Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 1972 Hartman and DeGroff formed a band with two other classmates – Greg Hough and Bill Glover. They named the band Petra, which is the Greek word for ‘rock.’

They started playing anywhere they could throughout the Midwest – churches, coffeehouses, parks – sharing the message of Christ via the medium of rock and roll. The band became regulars at a now-well-known venue called the Adam’s Apple. There, they met and played alongside other Christian musicians and performers such as Honeytree, Mike Warnke and Phil Keaggy.

Their mix of evangelism and rock music placed Petra squarely among the early pioneers of Jesus Music. But theirs was by no means a smooth road. They were opposed by parents, church leaders, bookstore owners and radio programmers who were convinced that rock and roll was “of the devil” and that trailblazing Christian rockers like Petra were simply wolves in sheep’s clothing, sent to cause their teenagers to stray from the straight and narrow.

Enter Billy Ray Hearn.

Petra had attracted the attention of Paul Craig Paino of Myrrh Records. Paino convinced the label’s founder, Billy Ray Hearn, to attend a Petra performance at the Adam’s Apple. Hearn must’ve liked what he saw and heard; he signed Petra to a Myrrh Records recording contract in 1973. Hearn was later quoted as saying, “Petra was the most radical thing around.” He produced the band’s debut album himself.

OK, let’s talk about the album. I’m just gonna say it. This record is on this list due to its historical significance. The production standards are sub-par. The vocals are, in a word, terrible. Bob Hartman probably never claimed to be a singer, but he got the job by default on this first album. John J. Thompson has called Hartman’s singing “almost comically bad.” He added, “The band needed a singer badly.” But the importance of this album on Myrrh Records, being released in 1974, warrants its inclusion on this list.

The album cover features the name PETRA carved in sand (with what appears to be nomads in the bottom right-hand corner, seen from overhead). Some have wondered if this was meant to suggest the ancient Biblical city of Petra, which was carved out of the sides of a ravine of rock. The back cover shows an illustration of the four band members, and states, “Petra is…rock – massive – with spiritual overtones.” That much was certainly true.

Petra’s self-titled debut has been described as “solid, guitar-driven, rural rock ‘n roll with loads of lengthy, rip-snortin’ leads.” The album hearkens more to southern rock bands like Lynryd Skynyrd  than the arena rock that the group eventually became known for. Elements of Yes, Allman Brothers and Cream could be heard in the tracks.

On the Word/Epic CD reissue in 1992, the track order was regrettably screwed up. This resulted in the song Parting Thought – clearly intended to be the album’s closing message – being heard in the middle of the album. In this review, we will follow the album’s original song order.

The record hits us right out of the gate with Walkin’ in the Light, a Hartman-penned tune based on I John 1:7. The joyous yet simplistic lyrics were typical of Jesus People in the early 70s:

I’m rockin’ with the Rock
Rollin’ on the road that takes me to the King
Walkin’ in the light / every day and night
Livin’ in the Spirit / really out of sight!

This song and several others on the album featured tight, Allman Brothers-type dual guitar lines.

Mountains and Valleys had an acoustic sound more akin to the gentle Jesus Music bands in Southern California.

Next up was a novelty track called Lucas McGraw. The song tells the story of a feuding, foul-mouthed, womanizer who’d gotten saved, and the change that had come over him. The track begins with some hillbillies sitting around talking, complete with sound effects of hogs and pigs. Some of the lyrics are hilarious.

Lucas McGraw, what’s come over you?
We’re beginning to think you’re touched
We heard you got religion
Ya ain’t been ‘round to see us much
Ya threw away your corncob pipe
And your jug of moonshine brew
And we hear you ain’t been doin’
All those things you used to do

Lucas McGraw, what’s come over you?
You’re shavin’ every day
You ain’t been chasin’ women
And you kissed your wife today
You went to church last Sunday
And you shook the preacher’s hand
And they say that you’ve been talkin’
‘Bout a Home beyond this land

Lucas McGraw, what’s come over you?
You never cuss no more
We hear you ain’t been feudin’ / You hung your rifle by the door
You take a bath each Sunday if you need it or not
And you go to work on Monday, even when it’s hot

Lucas McGraw was something of a cult classic. People either loved it or hated it. Musically, it was a severe departure from the rest of the album – a bluegrass tune complete with mandolins and banjos. The song ends with what sounds like a pig being shot by a gun. Pig sound effects would not be used this effectively again until Gary S. Paxton’s There Goes a Cigar Smoking a Man. (wink, wink)

Wake Up featured a funky time signature and a blistering guitar solo.

Closing side one was the standout Backslidin’ Blues. This song may have been the first full-on blues tune ever recorded on a major Christian album. The song was a concert favorite back in the day and benefitted from its inclusion on Jubilation, a 2-album various artists compilation that Myrrh Records released in 1975. The song sounds like it was recorded live in some old smoky blues bar, complete with a handful of exuberant ‘regulars’ on hand to cheer on the band. Yes, you can actually hear the clapping, hootin’ and hollerin’ while Hartman and Hough deliver some authentic blues licks and sing about the struggle a Christian can sometimes experience in his quest to stay close to the Lord.

Side two kicks off with Get Back to the Bible (three years before Chris Christian wrote and recorded a song with the same title). This one calls out Hare Krishna and the devil himself while proclaiming that “Jesus is the answer to everything you need to know.”

A&M Release - SP-5061

The second coming of Jesus was the inspiration for Gonna Fly Away. Reminiscent of the old hymn I’ll Fly Away or Servant’s Fly Away, the song contains dual guitar solos and some really funny lines:

Every day I’ve been lookin’ in the sky / Hope it’s not raining when I start to fly
I bet you think I’m strange / Just wait until I’m changed

Where you gonna be when the trumpet blows?
All that’s left of me is gonna be my clothes
I’d really like to see / you flyin’ next to me

Next up is a song that served as a good, overall statement of faith. I’m Not Ashamed has an Allman Brothers feel to it, and more “harmony guitar” technique. It had a nice psychedelic ‘70s ending, employing reverb and feedback (a la Larry Norman). 

Storm Comin’ contained more sound effects (thunder and rain) and even more dual harmony guitar parts.


Finally, Parting Thought was a simple, acoustic tune that invited the listener to once again consider the claims of Christ:

Here’s a song sung with you in mind
Maybe it will make you
Think about Him one more time
And if you can, please try to understand
Jesus is yours for the asking

Parting Thought was included on the 1974 Myrrh compilation album titled Love Peace Joy, exposing the band to a wider audience.

Overall, the band’s debut recording is pretty raw, lacking the refined production values of their future releases. The entire thing was recorded on a $1,000 budget during the span of two weeks. And yet it still brings a smile to the faces of Petra fans as they remember a simpler time, simple lyrics, atrocious vocals…and some smokin’ hot guitar work.

Hough, DeGroff & Glover still tour and record as GHF

The lineup would soon change, as would the sound. But the world had not heard the last of this band of Midwestern Jesus Rock pioneers -- to say the least.