Never Say Dinosaur (Star Song, 1996)
Taste and See (Audio Adrenaline) (also AA) Louie's Solo (Kevin Smith/Passafist)
Judas' Kiss (The Walter Eugenes) Road to Zion (Sixpence None The Richer)
Not Of This World (Galactic Cowboys) Pied Piper (The Stand)
Yahweh Love (Sarah Jahn) Wake Up (Grammatrain)
I Can Be Friends With You (MxPx) The Coloring Song (Caprill And My Sister's Garden)
Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows (Jars of Clay) All The King's Horses (Plankeye)

Executive Producer: Darrell A. Harris
Co-Executive Producers: Lynn Nichols, Dave Perkins

Let's get this straight right from the start... Never Say Dinosaur is not an album for the die-hard Petra fan. In fact, from what I've seen, the more of a Petra fan you are, the more you're likely to hate this album! The songs just aren't Petra. They don't sound like the originals at all, and to be totally honest, a few of them almost sound like mockeries of the original songs. Just recently I've read several people's takes on the album on the Web (links at the bottom of this document), and it looks like everybody likes and hates different parts for different reasons. The first time I listened to it, I have to admit thatI didn't care for it. I have such high hopes for these tribute album things, since I like I Predict A Clone (covers of Steve Taylor songs) and One Way (covers of Larry Norman songs) so much... and I've just recently been listening to an album of secular alternative bands' renditions of theme songs from cartoon TV shows from when I was a kid. All three of those albums are superb; I love the old material, and I love the new renditions just as much. For some reason, though, Never Say Dinosaur takes a little getting used to.

The songs are all from the pre-Word catalog... one from Petra, two from Washes Whiter Than, two from Never Say Die, three from More Power To Ya, two from Not Of This World, one from This Means War! and one derived from the drum solo on Captured in Tome & Space. There are a few songs that I really like, some I could really do without, some that missed the point, some that made the point better than the original... and one that just makes me scratch my head. But let's go through these song by song, shall we?

"Taste and See", recorded by Audio Adrenaline

My favorite Audio Adrenaline songs are always, without fail, covers of other people's stuff. They have a song on the Larry Norman tribute ("Righteous Rocker #3") that explodes with energy, and their Bloom cover of "Free Ride" is terrific. This one is great too... they gave the songa 90's edge and managed to keep some of that sort of quasi-70's funkiness in there as well. I liked this one on first listen. It's kind of an oddball song... is this anyone's favorite Petra song? It could be that the reason this one is so easy to like is that the original is rather forgettable.

"Judas' Kiss", recorded by The Walter Eugenes

In the other reviews I've read, this song was compared several times to U2. That never occurred to me until I read those reviews (although I hear it now), because to me it just sounds like the Walter Eugenes. You could easily lift this song from Dinosaur and slap it on the Eugenes' Beautiful album, and nobody would know the difference. That seems to be the case on several of the songs on this album, which indicates to me that the producers did their best to let the bands keep their signature sound for this album... a good thing for the individual bands, and in a sense for the listener, because you get a good idea of what they sound like from their contributions, but perhaps a bad thing for the album, because there is really very little that the songs have in common except that they were once recorded by Petra. At any rate, this is a good song if you like the Eugenes (which I do), and I suppose it's a good one if you like U2 also (which I do <G>). It easily matches the emotional intensity of the original, though it takes the song in a slightly different direction.

"Not of This World", recorded by Galactic Cowboys

And since we're discussing taking songs in different directions... this one really is out there. Petra's original recording of this song was very Eagles-ish, acoustic picked guitar and sort of spacey, unearthly vocals. The Cowboys instead start things off with a driving, loud, crunchy guitar introduction, then they slow things down a little during the verses and choruses, going back to the opening riffs between vocals. The first time I heard this song I was almost offended, but the more I listen to it, the more it strikes me as a very valid interpretation. Petra's version is almost meditative, as though someone was sitting at home with a Bible in his lap thinking about something he just read in the scriptures. The Cowboys' version is more like someone going through the anxieties of daily life... driving in traffic, fighting crowds at the mall or store, dealing with problems at work or at home... but taking time out in the middle of all of those things to contemplate his or her eternal destiny. The urgency of the vocals says to me, this is hard, but it's not a permanent part of me; there's something bigger and wonderful out there. I like it more and more every listen.

"Yahweh Love", recorded by Sarah Jahn

Who is this Sarah Jahn person, anyway? I suppose every compilation album is required by law to contain a couple of artists that nobody has ever heard of, and hers is the one name on the album that I've never heard before. She came up with a nice rendition of the song, updated but still with the same basic feel of the original (which is a favorite of mine from that album, despite its slight musical oddness). I enjoy her version, but one thing bugs me about it... It's a picky little thing that most people probably wouldn't even notice, but I do every single time. She changed the lyrics at the end of the verse! The chorus of the Petra version goes:
Yahweh love, Yahweh love, Yahweh love,
Yahweh love, Yahweh love, Yahweh.

Sarah's version goes:

Yahweh love, Yahweh love, Yahweh love,
Yahweh love, Yahweh, Yahweh love.

I told you it was a picky little thing, but it really bugs me. If you know the song you might understand... part of the appeal of the chorus is the way it plays with downbeats and upbeats and where the measures start, and to my ears changing that one little thing compromises that a little. Other than that, though, it's a nice arrangement.

"I Can Be Friends With You", recorded by MxPx

This is another oddball little song, but unfortunately it doesn't enjoy the same benefits from that anonymity that the Audio A recording does. This recording seems to me to not only completely miss the point of the lyrics (in fact, the arrangement doesn't seem to have any point at all, except possibly playing loud and fast), but even worse, to almost mock the band that they are supposedly paying tribute to! From my point of view, this is one of the worst songs on this album. I like loud and fast as much as anybody (heck, I'm a big One Bad Pig fan!), but this is just too much for no reason. In fact, this song alone is enough to convince me that I'm not really interested in hearing anything else from MxPx.

"Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows", recorded by Jars of Clay

I can't think of a better Petra song for Jars to have covered than this one (I guess they could have done "Not of This World" too). They gave it their typical Jars sound, which is what makes every song on their much-loved and much-hyped first (and only so far) album sound just like the ones before and after it. It's a nice enough arrangement, but it really doesn't speak with as much conviction as the original, and I really think that if the guys in Jars are so terrific they could come up with something that sounds a little different. Heck, even Hootie and the Blowfish finally recorded a song that sounds different from their other releases (the one from the Friends soundtrack)... maybe it's time for Jars to do the same.

"Louie's Solo", recorded by Kevin Smith and Passafist


I didn't care for this one that much the very first time I heard it. It's not even a Petra song; it's a song that takes vague inspiration from a couple of samples from Louie Weaver's drum solo on the live album. Apparently it is supposed to be some sort of tribute to Louie's longevity with the band maybe, but it turned out to be more of a sort of retelling of the myths of Ulysses, and really guys... Dave, Lynn... it doesn't make very much sense. It really strikes me as something thrown together for a tribute album by someone who doesn't care that much for the band they're tributizing. It also strikes me as a case of very creative people writing something with very little clear purpose in mind besides writing a song... any old song. A Petra fan I know hates the whole album except for this one song... I just think the song is plain old weird.

(there was a Q&A about this song in CCM Magazine in Sept '96...)

"Road to Zion", recorded by Sixpence None The Richer

Really, I can't say I think Sixpence did that much with this song. It's a pretty enough arrangement, but it's really not a departure from Petra's recording. If you're not going to give a song your own spin, why cover it? That said, again it's a nice take on a terrific tune.

"Pied Piper", recorded by The Stand

The liner notes for this song read:
A few songs were thrown our way to choose from, but the urgency of Hartman's lyrics in "Pied Piper" thrown together with a song we wrote a while back was so smooth... in the same artistic vein as The Stand. The mesh is the mess. Enjoy.

Well, if they were trying to sound "thrown together", they succeeded admirably. They didn't come anywhere close to matching the "urgency" of the lyrics... instead they have more of a "Theme Song from TV's Friends" thing going. They changed almost everything... the chord sequences, the chorus, everything. "Smooth" is not the word I would use to describe this recording... but "mess" comes pretty close. This is beyond a shadow of a doubt one of the worst songs on Dinosaur, missing the point of the song entirely.

"Wake Up", recorded by Grammatrain

What a strange song to pick out... it's the first song on Petra's first album. Most people can't even stomach Petra's first album; it's sort of the early 70s' version of hard rock, almost a hippie thing. It's not the sound we're accustomed to hearing when we want to listen to some rock music. People who like the album, though, really seem to love it. I do, and I think Grammatrain did a terrific job of updating it for the 90s. It sounds like it was born here. ;->

"The Coloring Song", recorded by Caprill (Champion) and My Sister's Garden

This is one of the songs on this album that you really have to distance yourself mentally from the original in order to appreciate. It's a wonderful, melodic version of the song... very nice. They even put a token flute line in there (if you know the Petra version you know what I'm referring to <G>). They really made the song their own, which to me is the whole point ofa "tribute album"... as much to showcase bands as to showcase songs.

"All The King's Horses", recorded by Plank Eye

Last but not least, a rarity... a cover of a song that actually seems to capture the mood of the material better than the original recording. This song is about the second coming of Christ, told from the account in the Book of Revelation. Petra's version is pop rock, emphasize "pop" and throw "rock" in there just because; Plank Eye has put the seriousness of the occasion back into the song with a very intense (if rather understated for them) ararngement, moody and somewhat brooding. This one is really one of my favorites on Dinosaur.

The verdict? This will never be one of my favorite albums. By no means does it measure up to the Steve Taylor and Larry Norman tributes I mentioned, or even the secular CD with the theme from Scooby Doo on it. <G> And again, it's not an album for a Petra fan. It is, however,a good album for a fan of alternative music. And for someone who is able to keep a fresh open mind and put the Petra arrangements of the same songs out of his mind long enough to really experience the songs again for the first time, this album has its rewards.

More reviews of this album:

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