John Schlitt – Shake
Word / Epic
March 14, 1995
What It Sounds Like: Rock and Contemporary Christian tunes from Petra’s leader on his first solo record.
Greg X. Volz may have been the original lead singer of Petra, but for me, the John Schlitt years have always been my go-to years, seeing as 1989’s Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out and 1990’s unmistakable Beyond Belief were my first two Petra records. I can appreciate Never Say Die and Not Of This World with the best of ’em, but John Schlitt – he’s my man. No disrespect Mr. Volz.
Shake hits all the various points for what a release from Schlitt would be expected to sound like. Let It Show shines with a tad of funkiness (and nostalgia) with nods to the 80s, while Show Me The Way has all the makings of a CCM single, and record kick-off Wake The Dead features a mid-tempo guitar chug that is straight ahead Petra rock-n-roll. It’s the lone track here that could pass in his famous band, but that’s a good thing – if these were all just Petra sound-alikes, what would be the point?
Even so, slightly more restrained tracks outnumber the true rock numbers, which if you are a Petra fan, has to feel like kind of a slight. However, the poppiest rock track that you’ve ever heard him sing, entitled Don’t Look Back, stands out. It’s pure guitar pop, and excellent guitar pop at that.
Lyrically, hey – this is mid-90s CCM for a large majority. Yes, done better than average, but some of the corniness and “straightforwardness” is unmistakable to get around. As Schlitt, a powerhouse vocalist in his own right, tears through lines like Let Jesus carry the burden / And remember His words that were spoken / Let Jesus carry the burden / Trusting in the price of the sacrifice / Shed for you, it’s hard not to shake your head, even if just a little bit. Truthful words? Yes! Words that the world needs to hear? yes! But let’s try to dress it up just a bit, eh John? But even as I write those words, I know that Schlitt is trying to write like this, because his market is the CCM industry, so do I really have room to fault him? Not at all.
I’m gonna prefer Petra records any day to Shake, but it serves its place, showing Schlitt in a semi-new light.
If you had to listen to two tracks: Wake The Dead / Don’t Look Back