BeBe Winans
Live And Up Close

BeBe Winans follows up his first Motown solo album with a live album recorded at the BET Studio in Washington DC, aptly titled Live and Up Close.

CDThat's what this is, and it’s been a while since we’ve heard BeBe sound so comfortable and so much at home. The BET Studio proves to be the perfect setting for Winans, nurturing a clarity of sound and a warmth —fire even —that is so often missing from studio sets.

It’s not hard to picture the generous crowd in attendance, you can sometimes hear individual cries of delight and support as Winans wins them over again, as if they needed to be won.

The eleven-track live Gospel set is a mix of the old and the new, beginning with “Amazing Grace”. BeBe sings the song in its standard arrangement before venturing off into a chorus of “Praise Him, Praise Him”, set to the same melody.

The background ensemble that accompanies BeBe on this song and throughout —including Byron Cage, Eric Dawkins, Deborah Winans Lowe, Lynette Dupre and Margaret Bell Byars, are always supremely on vocal point.

BeBe WinansOther shining moments include a redo of “Love and Freedom” from his 2000 album of the same name. Performed live, the impact is so much greater. Tollack Olstad adds some unexpected but fitting harmonica touches.

Likewise for “I Wanna Be”, first heard on his eponymous project from 1997, and featuring prominent vocals from Margaret Bell Byars, a singer we’ve far too little of lately. The song then segues smoothly into the remake of “This Song”, also from that first solo effort.

Half-way through the album, BeBe acknowledges his heyday with sister CeCe by presenting a fifteen-minute medley of past hits. Younger sister Debra Winans Lowe sings the female lead on a string of duets that include “Heaven”, “Meantime”, “Lost Without You” and “Celebrate New Life”. There's a marvellous ad libbed scat session near the end of the cut, and Winans Lowe proves to be perfectly capable of holding her own, amidst the inevitable comparisons.

BeBe’s signature vocals are always on top, never weighed down by excess music. Laidback grooves and simmering mixes of guitar, piano and light rhythms distinguish some great new
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Winans is maybe the only one who could get away with writing a song titled “Humpty Dumpty”, and end up moving you to tears with the ministry of it all by the end. He manages to drop references to multiple nursery rhymes, and it is never corny.

The two lone studio tracks on the project serve to sandwich the live material, and are more than worthy.

“Do You Know Him” calls on the expertise of Warryn Campbell. The star producer fits the song into a gloriously organic soundscape, putting his hand to the instrumental track on the song, with guitar support from John “Jubu” Smith.

Kayla Parker and Eric Dawkins drop warm backing vocals in synch with the groove: "do, do, do, do, do you know Him." As the first radio single for this album, it is bound for severe radio spin.

The second studio cut is “Lay Them Down”, and references dropping our burdens at Jesus’ feet. Campbell works his stuff again, with Dawkins being the sole background voice to support the soft-flowing encouragement coming from BeBe.

Stephanie Mills sang with BeBe on his first solo release from Motown, laying her special pipes to the song “Everyday”. On Live and Up Close, she accepts BeBe’s invitation again, this time delivering on “Born For This”, the album’s bonus track.

Live And Up Close is the best solo project from BeBe to date, and that’s a very wonderful thing. Call it his break out.

Producers: BeBe Winans, Evan Lamberg, Kedar Massenburg, Warryn Campbell
album release date: March 5, 2002
Motown Records

— reviewed by Stan North

  All content in GospelFlava © copyright 2002. No information to be reprinted or re-broadcast from this site without the expressed written consent of GospelFlava.com. All rights reserved.

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