It’s hard to fathom that CeCe Winans is already on her fifth solo album. Since her daring detour in 1995 from the success that she shared with brother BeBe, Winans has continued to triumph on her own (see 1999 interview).Producers: Tommy Sims, Brown Bannister
album release date: June 19, 2001
Choosing to self-title her fifth album (and her second on her own Wellspring Gospel label), the Detroit native comes with a new look, and cements her reputation for quality Gospel, paving roads both funky and smooth.
That discrepancy in styles might trip up less experienced artists, but CeCe seems to thrive on it. And whether it’s knockin’ rhythms or slow jams and lush ballads, her message of God’s love and the hope we have in Jesus rings loud and clear throughout.
With producers Brown Bannister and Tommy Sims at her side, this project is pulled off with a stunning work of sequencing that often-forgotten but very important art of ordering and positioning the songs on a record. Hearing is believing, but we’ll try to explain.
The project kick-starts with “Heavenly Father”, a personal prayer that lulls with a rich string quartet on opening bars, before a thudding, jeepy track filled with resonant guitar nearly knocks you over.
The cut then fascinatingly segues into the phat hip hop grooves of “Anybody Wanna Pray”. The message that the solutions to today’s woes are to be found on our knees is brought home with CeCe’s penchant for soulful outpouring and hip hop legitimacy from special guests GRITS. Producer Sims lends just the right touch of studio effects plus his own instrumental talent and a fine backing group that includes Leanne Palmore, Jovaun Woods and Jerard Woods puts it into pocket.
Then that genius sequencing makes its mark again, as the message of the next track (“Say a Prayer”) is a natural outflow. These songs were made for each other. Electric guitar from Chris Rodriguez and a choral ensemble (Anointed, Nicol Smith, Kayla Parker, Debbie Winans, Wendy Moten and several others) accompany CeCe on tightly wovenm high energy, soul/pop pearl.
On “Looking Back at You” things are as equally intense in lyrics, but less in-your-face musically, albeit with a great hook. One of several cuts recorded in UK studios, a collective of session string players imparts the swells to the number.
And kudos to CeCe for bringing back Special Gift’s "More Than Just A Friend". The tune is easy and snaggy and with horns prominent, finds an easy comfort spot with CeCe’s warm signature vocals making it a beaut.
Brother Pastor Marvin Winans joins in with CeCe on the remake of “Bring Back The Days of Yea and Nay”. Originally sung by The Winans, the siblings work it into another vocal gem, with that family touch of wonderful color and texture. It's one of many album highlights. The Gospel cover of “No One” (originally sung by salsa superstar Marc Anthony), also falls into highlight territory, with its crescendo burst of chorale layers over the last two minutes of the song.
In yet another sequencing feat, the boisterous drive of “Out My House” (where CeCe calls Satan the thief the liar that he is, and commands him in Jesus' name to leave and be gone), is followed directly by the contrasting tempo of Babbie Mason's “Holy Spirit Come Fill This Place”, awash with waves of violins and wide-open, floating ensemble vocals.
Track By Track from CeCe Winans
CeCe Winans outlines her thoughts and the meaning behind each of the twelve tracks on her new self-titled project.|
Click on above image for the track-by-track rundown from CeCe.
The album concludes with two songs tied together in theme: It’s Gonna Get Better and “Better Place”. The latter is a melodic triumph from co-writers Nee-C Walls and Nick Trevisick that triggers an itchy finger on the ‘track repeat’ button.
The end result of ALL this is an entire album bound together by continuity and unity of purpose. Each song reinforces the previous and sets up the next, making for a sum that is far greater than the beauty of the individual singles.
Wow. Incredible as it may seem, CeCe just keeps on getting better.
reviewed by Stan North —
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