Friday, March 2, 2012

Flashback Friday: Barnabas Jones and The Temple of Rock

This weeks edition of Flashback Friday is a 2 for 1 bonus. For those of you who have been with me from the start, you know that I am using the brief skit at the end of Servant's Jungle Music as my jumping off point. Stanley and Livingston continue.
L: I say, How is your old colleague Barnabas?
S: Oh you know Barnabas, Never Say Die type, I left him in Egypt studying Petraglyphs.
L: Jolly Good. Jolly Good.
Now we'll get to the blatantly obvious reference shortly, but most listeners miss one. Barnabas.

Barnabas was a pioneer in Christian Rock and Heavy Metal from 1977-1986. The final lineup consisted of Nancy Jo Mann as lead vocal, Brian Belew on Guitar, Gary Mann doing double duty on Keyboard and Bass, and Kris Klingensmith on Drums. In their short life they released five albums. Along with Rez they were pioneers in Metal amd Female Fronted Rock. Despite having one of their albums titled Feel The Fire (1984), they fizzled under the withering anti-rock attack of Jimmy Swaggart and the like. I guess if you can't take the heat... Now I have never been a Rockstar (unless you count my dreams), but If you can't handle a televangelist who likes Southern Gospel, your strength is small. Other bands had no problem dishing it right back at them.

Staying Power counts for a lot in terms of public perception. It's sort of like the arguments over inventions. In the end it doesn't matter who invented an item, all that matters is who obtained the patent. It's the same thing in Music. Since REZ stayed around, they are credited with being the "Fathers of Christian Metal". However, based on their sound alone, Barnabas was the true Heavy Metal band. I was able to find a few audio clips on youtube, and these guys were not afraid of instrumental jam sessions. This is Breathless Wonderment from Feel The Fire. It's almost 7 minutes long, but about half of that is instrumental.

Now, on to the main act. Get out your biblical Greek to English dictionaries kids. The night beat is all about Rock, and in biblical Greek Rock is spelled PETRA.

Petra is one of those special bands, the ones that prove that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Let's go into detail on some of those parts. Over 35 years active (plus a 5 year retirement), a career spanning 5 decades, and over 23 albums. No other band can even claim to be "Father of Christian Rock" with any credibility. Ask anybody in or out of the industry and they will have had some experience with Petra, sometimes as the first Christian Rock album they bought "as a kid".
During that 35 year career the band experienced 11 Official Lineup Changes that included 3 Lead Vocal Changes, 4 Drummers, 5 Bass Players, 6 Keyboardists, and 4 Changes of Lead Guitar. It would be enough to make a lesser band wonder if they were cut out for the big time, but Petra just played on. Most critics only concentrate on "The Frontman" (lead vocals). This divides Petra into three "eras".

The Hartman Era (1972-1979)

Founder and Lead Guitarist Bob Hartman also handled the frontman duties in the early years, during which they had their self-titled debut in 1974 and their sophomore release Come and Join Us (1977). During this period the band had a pop/rockabilly sound which by today's standards is quite dated and some would say amateur. You can't help but smile hearing a song like Lucas McGraw or admire the "rebellious" spunk of a comeback song like God Gave Rock and Roll to You. After seven years of doing double duty the band acquired a Lead Singer and Hartman settled into lead guitar duties until retiring in 1995. He would again return to lead guitar from 2003 and 2005 and again as Classic Petra returned in 2010 until the present. That decision in 1979 ushered in.

The Volz Era (1979-1986, 2010+)

Greg Xavier Volz (Greg X. Volz to fans) is a self taught musician with an eight octave voice. Prior to his time with Petra he toured with Janis Joplin and was one of the founders of the Jesus Music group e Band. He led Petra for the next six albums, beginning with Washes Whiter Than in 1979. Beginning with Never Say Die (1981), but definitely in the three album set of More Power To Ya (1982), Not of This World (1983) and Beat The System (1985), the band moved from pop/rock to arena rock and super stardom. During the early years of this period the band was the opening act for Servant. Most notable of the lineup changes during this time was the addition of Louie Weaver on the Drums (1981-2003 and 2010 on) who came over to the band as Fireworks was breaking up (they will be covered in the next Flashback Friday). Some Petra fans, this blogger included, see him as "The Voice" of Petra.

I have included the Official Music Video for Beat the System. Enjoy the music and remember, this was three decades ago, so a concept video then may not be much of a concept today.

The Schlitt Era (1986-2005)

John Schlitt came to the band after their Live Album Captured in Time and Space (1986). Formerly the lead singer of Head East, he is the longest serving, if not the most loved lead singer of Petra. He took Petra into Industry domination during a period that included fourteen albums. His first album with the band was Back to the Street (1986) and the last was entitled Farewell (2005).

I am going to try to give you a video of each modern era. This is

Classic Petra (2010+)

After a hiatus of five years boredom set in, even among rockers in their late 50's. Petra reinvented itself once again, as they had done many times in the past, and re branded themselves Classic Petra. Their lineup this time is the one that existed from 1984 to 1986: Greg X. Volz (Vocals), Bob Hartman (Guitars), Mark Kelly (Bass Guitar), John Lawry (Keyboard), and Louie Weaver (Drums).

This is a live video from their concert in the UK. One of their most Iconic Songs. All Over Me.

That does it for this edition of Flashback Friday. Tune In Next Week. There Will be Fireworks. Until then, I am Awaiting Your Reply.