Mike Winans (Michael Winans, Jr.)
Mike Winans is the son of Gospel performer Michael Winans (a member of the legendary Winans group). Mike first came to the public's attention as part of the teen gospel group, Winans Phase 2. The third recording generation of the Winans family, Winans Phase 2 took the Gospel world by storm with their 1999 debut, We Got Next. Produced by top R&B producers Narada Michael Walden, Rodney (Darkchild) Jerkins and Cedric Caldwell, We Got Next received its initial airplay on Gospel stations because of the Winans name, but shot to #1 on the Gospel charts because it was a marvelous debut album by a talent singing group armed with top notch material and production. Whether handling upbeat cuts such as the hip-hop-like "Come On Over," or the soft ballads "Just for a Day" and "Too Much Heaven" (a remake of the Bee Gees hit) the young group appeared comfortable, confident and ready to take a leadership position in the Gospel and R&B markets.
Unfortunately, rumored record company problems caused a halt to the group's development, and, to the dismay of Gospel fans, a follow up was never recorded. In 2003, group member Mike Winans quietly released his solo debut, Only Me. With no major record deal (it was released on Winans' own Serene Entertainment Records), no website and virtually no promotion, Only Me was a disc that was tough to find - even for Winans' fans.
From its start, Only Me provided a good demonstration that the then 21 year old Winans was a talented songwriter. This purely secular disc was a modest theme album about male/female relationships at various stages. Lyrically, it was pretty interesting (particularly "Only Me" and "These Words") and only rarely fell into triteness ("Perfect Ten"). However, Winans' soft, unassuming tenor voice, which worked well in the group setting, really requires strong, crisp arrangements and solid musicians to shine solo. Unfortunately, like many limited budget independent Soul albums being released today, Only Me is dominated by electronic keyboards and programmed drums. To his credit, Winans is able to overcome the sonic limitations on quality songs like "What's It Gonna Be" and "1st Priority," but the lack of real instruments and the somewhat murky sound ultimately give the album a demo-like feel that doesn't do Winans or his material justice. With Darkchild or Walden at the helm and the budget for real musicians, Only Me could have been an excellent solo debut for Winans. In the end it was just a so-so disc that showed a talented, developing songwriter and singer who, in the right setting, could regain the lustre of his auspicious teenage debut.
By Chris Rizik
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