Flashback Friday Album Review: Beat the System

Since we looked at one of Greg X. Volz’s solo albums a few weeks ago, and we’ve looked at a couple of John Schlitt-era Petra albums, why not take a look at a Volz-era Petra release?

This 1985 release would be the last studio album for Volz before embarking on a solo career (the live-album and video, Captured in Time and Space was released the following year). 25 years later, Volz gathered the rest of the 1985 lineup to record Back to the Rock under the moniker Classic Petra, and followed with a tour (with the same 1985 staging) and a live album and video.

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Beat the System was not the first Christian rock album that I heard, but it was the one that really got my attention. My brother would play the occasional Christian vinyl record or cassette tape, and what I heard was fine, but Beat The System was the album that made me want to hear more.

In fact, it was the two songs, “It is Finished,” and “Speak to the Sky” on my brother’s various artist cassette, The Power of it All, that introduced me to the group. I believe it was at a church youth function that I heard the album in its entirety. I had to have a copy, and finally got one (back in the days of Memorex).

My life changed in that moment. I had become a fan of Christian music. And the spiritual direction of my life zoomed closer to Christ.

Artistically, the heavy use of out-of-this-world synth sounds was then, amazing. In what was certainly experimental for the Christian music industry of the time, producer Jonathan David Brown programmed nearly every instrument on a synthesizer rather than having recorded the real deal (though Bob Hartman did contribute some guitar). That newfangled synth flavor, along with Volz’s standout vocals, made this album truly mesmerizing (though some back then would probably have taken that literally).

To name just a few highlights, perhaps the aforementioned “It is Finished” was a very powerful track that over time has unfortnately lost a little bit of its luster, but is certainly still one of the band’s Volz-era best. Plus the poignant “Hollow Eyes” still resonates many years later.

A few other standouts include the electronic remake of their 1977 classic, “God Gave Rock n’ Roll to You” (originally by Argent and later covered by KISS), the catchy, satirical “Witch Hunt” and the energetic album closer, “Adonai.”

Though many argue that More Power To Ya is the Volz-era masterpiece, I would have to disagree. True, one could argue that it’s programmed production might have been either too much or not as impressive as having the full bandmates play, I find it rather creative (so long as it was just one album). Also, this album’s crystal clear production and Volz’s stellar performance, songwriting and overall catchier rhythms and melodies makes this one (for me) stand out the most. I think Volz saved his best Petra performance for last.

 

4 thoughts on “Flashback Friday Album Review: Beat the System

  1. Totally agree. I have listened to this album over and over and over since I bought it in late 1985 (my first CD purchase ever) and continue to play it now. When I saw this tour in Birmingham I was forever hooked!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Shaun

    Many do not know but Beat the System was essentially recorded on a Fairlight CMI computer synthesizer. All the music was sequenced on it and there are no real drums or bass on this album, its all from the synth. Bob Hartman did some guitar overdubs and Greg Volz sang, but other than that, the album was created on a computer.

    Like

    1. Edward Hutchinson

      I have 2500 songs on a playlist ranging from the 70’s to 2000 sometime. 2 songs sit at the top of my rotation and have been played the most. Carman’s The Champion and Petra’s It Is Finished. Still, to this day, one of THE best Christian rock songs ever created.

      Like

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