BeBe and CeCe Winans - Still (2009)

BeBe and CeCe Winans
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"I believe this is going to be the most successful album we've had and it's not because we deserve it.  It's because we believe it."  That statement by BeBe Winans regarding Still, the first recorded collaboration by BeBe & CeCe Winans in fifteen years, was simply a matter of faith in motion.  Being part of one of gospel music's respected families, the brother and sister duo have an unwavering support system of several siblings and two extremely grounded parents who passed on their faith in God.  Certainly faith has carried BeBe & CeCe throughout their years together and separately in their music ministry, but talent also played a big part -- and BeBe and CeCe are full of talent.  During their decade of recording together they became one of the most beloved vocal duos in the contemporary gospel community.  Even so, fifteen years can be a mighty long time and a tough test for the often fragile chemistry among musical partners.   On top of that, the

"I believe this is going to be the most successful album we've had and it's not because we deserve it.  It's because we believe it."  That statement by BeBe Winans regarding Still, the first recorded collaboration by BeBe & CeCe Winans in fifteen years, was simply a matter of faith in motion.  Being part of one of gospel music's respected families, the brother and sister duo have an unwavering support system of several siblings and two extremely grounded parents who passed on their faith in God.  Certainly faith has carried BeBe & CeCe throughout their years together and separately in their music ministry, but talent also played a big part -- and BeBe and CeCe are full of talent.  During their decade of recording together they became one of the most beloved vocal duos in the contemporary gospel community.  Even so, fifteen years can be a mighty long time and a tough test for the often fragile chemistry among musical partners.   On top of that, the urban hit musical landscape has changed its stripes in those fifteen years with more emphasis on electronic musical dressing and less on melodic soul. 

Back in the day, BeBe & CeCe, like their older brothers The Winans, had a smooth blend of R&B sensibility and gospel messages that easily translated to crossover appeal from gospel to the pop and urban charts.  Their hits through the years like "I'll Take You There," "Heaven" and "Lost Without You" were certainly high quality inspirational songs, but with a much more contemporary sheen than the more traditional gospel artists of the day such as The Hawkins Family and Richard Smallwood & The Richard Smallwood Singers.  Audiences loved that sound, and BeBe & CeCe's were extremely successful from the late eighties until 1994 when they decided to break up their professional relationship.    

During their subsequent solo careers, both BeBe and CeCe thrived, but not quite at the levels that they had reached together. BeBe released several solo discs where he showcased his strengths as a songwriter and also collaborated with Stevie Wonder, Stephanie Mills and the U.K. vocal group Eternal.  CeCe's rich alto voice and ministry progressed with several worship-oriented projects with crossover appeal including Alabaster Box and Purified.  But while BeBe and CeCe had sustainable solo careers,  it was not a shock - it was perhaps even inevitable - that the duo decided to reunite and record another album together.  

Before Still hit the record bins, two singles were released to whet the taste buds of BeBe & CeCe fans and both are welcome entries.  Keith Thomas, who produced many of the duo's past hits returns behind the boards for "Grace," a pure song of redemption, and "Close To You," a pure love song to God.  But the success of the album goes well beyond the singles. Other highlights include "Let It Be," with its hypnotic trance beats from nephew Mario Winans and a riveting tag team effort with another popular duo Mary Mary.  Brother Marvin Winans also gets into the act by adding some downright jazzy soulful frosting for "Things." 

With all the gems on Still, there are a couple of minor missteps, including the ill-fitting "Reason To Dance" (which sounds suspiciously like the hooks from Michael Jackson's "Wanna' Be Startin' Somethin'") and the rather limply arranged reggae praise driven "He Can Handle It."    

Despite those minor issues, Still is a very believable and successful body of work.  After fifteen years, BeBe and CeCe have not lost a beat as their rich harmonies still strike a nerve today.  Their messages of hope and restoration are also believable and extremely relevant - particularly in the current stressful times.  In the end, this disc is surrounded by the aura of faith, expressed well by BeBe & CeCe, and that aura should connect with both old and new fans, who will welcome the duo's return. Recommended.

By Peggy Oliver

 

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