Shake Reviews from Various Publications
Petra Lead Singer
That's likely to be the rumor once word gets out regarding John Schlitt's first solo recording. But no, he’s not (N-0-T, not) leaving rock's leading and most renowned group. He is firmly rooted and committed to playing the front man of the group he has been an intrinsic part of for almost a decade. Besides, who says he can't do two things at the same time?
"As long as Petra exists and they're following the path God is giving us, I will be with Petra." This from the man who has one of the most distinctive voices in music today. "It's the ministry that He put me with, and it's a ministry that I've seen change lives all over the world, and I don't see that direction changing." When the idea of a solo album kept recurring in various conversations, John decided it was time to seriously consider a side gig flying solo. When Word Records approached him about the idea, it soon became a reality. His life soon garnered another aspect - John Schlitt of Petra added a new persona... John Schlitt, solo artist. But let's not forget John Schlitt - family man.
When he struts about on stage in his flowing white shirt, belting out lyrics like "Underneath the blood/Through the cleansing flood," it's kind of hard to picture John Schlitt as Robert Young in "Father Knows Best." But there's more to this man than just the exterior layer as the lead singer of Petra. John has had his share of success both with Petra and the ‘70s mainstream group Head East. Recipient of a gold album, two Grammy Awards and multiple Dove Awards, John has proved himself as one of rock’s premier vocalists. But as with anything, fame doesn’t come without its price tag.
"I had two kids when I was still in the secular system, and I did my best to ruin that family for many years," John recounts of his days with Head East when the music and his career came before everything else, including his family and his health. Along with the trappings of fame and fortune, John got caught up in addiction to alcohol and cocaine. "The fact that I still have a healthy family with kids that still love me and my wife who still loves me – that’s a miracle in itself."
The Schlitt family includes wife of 24 years - Dorla, daughter Kari (20), and sons John Jr. (16), Christopher (11) and Krey (5). Parenting is what John calls, "an unbelievable blessing - it tends to make you young and old at the same time." John explains, "I mean you look at your 20 year old and you go 'oh my gosh, I must be really old.’ Then you look at your five year old who wants to wrestle every single second of the day; and you realize that five year old is going to want to have the same dad as the 20 year old does."
Those ‘unbelievable blessings' have given John the ability to relate to kids of all ages. His ability to relate to the family unit, coupled with his own personal battle with drugs and alcohol, afford him a responsibility that he knows he can't take lightly. "This music is a forum - it's a way of allowing me to be heard. So what am I going to say? I see so much need out there, and I've been given the opportunity to have a platform where people will listen. As I'm becoming more known and people seem to listen more, well then what am I going to say...'Hey have a great day, buy my record?' Or am I going to say 'hey gang there's hope - go for it, don't be afraid. Don't be afraid to be a Christian.’"
It's many parents prayer that their kids will grow up as strong Christians and remain in that strength, never having to battle the slime pits the enemy puts forth. Unfortunately, we live in a real fallen world. And given his past slime pits, no one knows those trappings better than John. And he wouldn’t be human if he didn’t admit he fears for his children.
"It's harder than you could ever imagine. The experimental stage of life is scary to me because I know how you can get burnt while you're 'discovering.' And I just didn't want (my kids) to go through that - I don't want anybody to go through the garbage I did 'cause I came close to ruining my life. And I don't want to see them going through that. But they will. Some will. I'm hoping some won't because of the efforts - if nothing else at least there's an option to listen to this (album). The world has their philosophies, and they blat it out in every avenue they possibly can, but we've got our philosophies, too. And at least I've been part of getting out a tool that can be used for that. I'm proud of that, and I'm hoping that as many kids as humanly possible will listen."
With a title as simple as Shake, John hopes his solo release will be a vital tool in the battle for what he feels the populous calls "the lost generation." And the best warriors for that battle, John feels, are found through that same generation, "the ones that have found the Lord, know they're saved, but maybe have been a little uncomfortable with that."
There's an intimacy that comes for John Schlitt on his own, sans the lights and explosives of a Petra production. Although he gets the chance to speak to more kids as the lead singer of Petra, John admits there are limitations within a big production. On his own, there is more time to move as the Spirit leads. That platform he referred to then gets much bigger. "I saw some things that I could do as a solo artist that I can't as a part of Petra... being able to share my heart a whole lot more. This more intimate, one on one type of situation - that's where the song 'One by One' came out - it's like saying 'we can change lives one by one, by sharing our testimony, by letting people know - that's what's cool about solo dates."
Life is good for John Schlitt. He's learning and being used of God. He feels blessed as a father and as a Christian. Two things stand out while talking to John - one is his passion for his family. "I don't claim to be the perfect parent. I'm just a parent who cares. And I try very hard. I don't know how you can be a parent without being a Christian and hope for any survival at all... it shocks me how a family can survive and not be a Christian."
The other is where God has him right now. It's a good place to be. For all of us. "I think that's what I'm going through right now - the more opportunity that comes, the more I feel that I've blown it. I'm apologizing to God all the time, it's like 'Oh God, thank you, but oh I'm sorry. I've failed a lot.' But praise God once again the fact that the blood of Jesus Christ gives us a second chance."
- CCM Magazine, March, 1995 issue
There is a voice that stands out in the world of Christian music, predominately the rock genre. That is the voice of John Schlitt, front man for Petra for almost a decade now. It just seems natural the when you think John Schlitt, you think Petra. Get ready to think again.
Schlitt has stepped out on his own – not leaving the group, but giving us an extension of himself as John Schlitt. With a voice so distinct, at first listen Shake can sound like a Petra spin off. But a second and third listen reveals a wider variety of background vocals, a children’s choir and in some cases, more of a pop feel. Three producer teams were recruited for the project: mark Heimermannn, Dann and David Huff, and Greg Nelson, in order to give the project a variety of styles. But outside of the definite adult contemporary cuts "Inside of You" and "One by One," Shake remains in a rock groove.
From the opening cuts, the rocky "Wake the Dead," uptempo favorite "Don’t Look Back," and acoustically flavored "Show Me the Way," Schlitt’s lyrics set the tone of a battle cry inspiring, encouraging and reminding us that we stand on a Rock that cannot be shaken.
Co-writing nine of the 10 tunes, Schlitt establishes himself as a singer/songwriter and indeed sets himself up as a solo artist. However, it would help to distinguish this project from that of Petra if he could lose the Petra coined screams. Prediction – Petra fans will no doubt enjoy Shake, and non-Petra fans will be intrigued.
- Melanie Friebel,
CCM Magazine, April 1995 issue
John Schlitt has been the lead singer for the past eight years for the first and most successful Christian rock band ever… need I mention any names? But, as the man would say himself, you can’t stay fixed in your comfort zone. Hence, Shake, John’s premier solo album. No, he is not leaving Petra, but how did he like working on his own project? "It was my baby," he says, "and it was super-exciting."
To say that flying solo is an ego thing for John would be to totally miss the point. He’s really just got a lot to say and his own way of saying it. It was time, he says, to get it all down on paper. So maybe he is waxing reflective, nostalgic or whatever; he is also passionate about the message of Christ. Making the album was much more than just a musical excursion. Shake promises to please veteran Christian rockers and new converts alike; with some irresistible pop thrown in, John’s just shaking a few things up for a change of pace.
- Cory Cheshire,
Release Magazine, January/February 1995 issue
John Schlitt, best known as the lead singer for Petra, has expanded his ministry to include a solo project. Inspired instrumentals. Passionate vocals. Many of the high-energy tunes on Shake encourage God’s people to boldly press on without dwelling on the past. "Wake the Dead" takes no prisoners as it calls lukewarm believers to action. Christ’s agonizing sacrifice is the focus of "The Hard Way" and "The Road to Calvary." Printed lyrics include related Scriptures for each song. A solid effort from Word.
- Parental Guidance,
Focus on the Family, April 15, 1995
A successful band can easily swallow the identity of its individual members. While there is no doubt that John Schlitt has one of the most formidable sets of lungs in rock music today, even after repeated listenings it is difficult to separate his debut solo album, Shake, from the Petra sound he helped pioneer.
Musically, Shake is '70s rock dressed in '90s production (which is first rate, thanks to session aces Mark Heimermann, Dann and David Huff and Greg Nelson.) It is commercial and adheres to standard formats. The two mandatory ballads, "Inside of You" and "Road to Calvary" break the otherwise MOR/Hard Rock style, while the only track that pushes the envelope musically is "Let It Show," which grooves to some seriously funky riffs.
Lyrically, there's no brain-straining here; Schlitt, as co-writer of nine of the ten tunes, lays it all out for the listener as he explores themes of militant evangelism ("Wake the Dead"), self-esteem ("Inside of You") and Christ's sacrifice ("Road to Calvary"), which states: "On that road/He walked for you and me/On that road, through all the pain and misery..."
Schlitt's tentative steps to establish his solo career with this album will please old fans, and maybe win a few new ones too.
- Ashley Reeder, On Being, June, 1995
A tender piano intro ushers in this lovely, hopeful song, sung by one of Christian music’s most distinctive vocalists. As the song progresses, the track gets a bit more aggressive, but remains well within what is comfortable for AC airplay. This is the kind of song that doesn’t necessarily hit you the first time you hear it, but definitely grows legs with subsequent listens. A strong choice for AC and INSP stations.
- The CCM Update, Single Reviews
"SHOW ME THE WAY"
An impressive guitar hook hits you from the beginning of the track making this a song that is immediately appealing. Schlitt shows off his vocal talent surrounded by a masterfully produced track that features well-produced piano, bass and drum tracks along with smooth harmonies. The hook continues to develop over the course of the song, a sure best bet for AC and CHR radio formats.
- CCM Update, Single Reviews