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CeCe Winans

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2001 1 Jan
CeCe Winans
Sounds like … especially well produced vocal pop like Whitney Houston and Celine Dion, it also recalls recent music by Avalon at times.At a Glance … smartly written, produced and performed, CeCe's newest album will please fans while attracting a lot of first time listeners.

Forget the CeCe Winans you think you know! I don't mean to imply this album is all that different than her past albums. Her voice is as incredible as ever, and this is still her flavor of R&B influenced pop music. But with CeCe Winans, her second album with Wellspring Entertainment and follow-up to her successful Alabaster Box album, the music is more diverse than usual, very well produced, and at times very fresh in sound! Though her music still has a pop vocal base, there are moments of R&B, urban gospel and even dance-pop throughout the album, and it is this fresh new sound and the variety of lyrical content that will help make this one of CeCe's greatest outreach albums.

Brown Bannister (Steven Curtis Chapman, Avalon) oversaw the majority of the album's production, and it shows in that much of the pop music sounds like something Avalon would have tackled on their recent album—CeCe's lastest features the same big and spacious programmed pop sound. The song "Say a Prayer" is a great example of this sound, even featuring the same sort of layered background vocals that Avalon is known for … except CeCe and company sound a little more soulful doing it. CeCe revisits familiar Whitney Houston power pop territory with "Looking Back at You, " a passionate love song for Godly human relationships. There's a beautiful cover of the power ballad "No One," originally performed by Marc Anthony, but slightly altered to make it a more vertically focused song—it has a pop feel reminiscent of Celine Dion's hit "That's the Way It Is." There's also a cover of the classic "Let's Bring Back the Days of Yea & Nay," originally recorded by her brothers (The Winans), and performed as a duet here with her brother Marvin.

These pop tracks are very good, but the ones that are really going to turn your head those co-produced by Tommy Sims (The Neville Brothers, Michael Bolton, Newsboys). His contributions lend CeCe's music a more soulful, R&B sound. For example, the prayerful "Heavenly Father" has a jazzy acoustic gospel feel to it, with acoustic guitars and horns that almost lend it a latin sound. "More Than I Wanted" a love song that works on multiple levels, and sounds a lot like something by Toni Braxton or a more soulful Celine Dion. The very aggressive "Anybody Wanna Pray" has a very urban gospel feel to it—almost Kirk Franklin in sound. It's a solid fun hit with a serious message about our need to pray for this fallen world, and it features a rap by Gotee rap act Grits. Even more aggressive still is "Out My House," which has an urban R&B sound that's going to surprise fans of CeCe. Since this song is about rejecting the devil and the power and authority we have as believers, it seems CeCe is using the more aggressive sounds to drive home her frustration and passionate pleas for prayer.

CeCe co-wrote six of the songs on the album, which seems to have a theme focused on relationships (Godly and human) and prayer, that which keeps us connected with God. In many ways, this album is simply another Christian pop album, but that would be underrating the work done here. The songs are very straightforward and simple in lyrical content, but they're well-written and inspiring, rarely sounding too clichéd. Musically, CeCe displays a lot of diversity in her music. Yes, it's pop music but there are shades of R&B in one song, urban gospel in another, power pop in still another and even some soul and jazz here and there. Just when you're ready to dismiss her album as her version of Avalon-styled pop, she shifts gears to another form of pop music. There's more depth and thought in this production, and unlike Avalon's Oxygen album I can hear some of the songs on CeCe Winans crossing over to mainstream stations. CeCe's become one of those artists who has comfortably found her sound and knows how to improve upon it without straying from it, much like a craftsman who is continually improving upon his work. This album is just further testimony to CeCe's status as one of Christian music's greatest vocal talents, and her desire to improve her R&B pop sound over time.

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