Marvin Winans has a new mission that is connected to his old mission as a teller of the Good News of the Gospel through song. Winans is a member of one of Gospel music’s royal families. At least three generations of Winans have used Detroit as their base to make some of the most memorable Gospel songs over the last four decades. However, Winans’ fame and his good works did not prevent him from being targeted by carjackers as he filled his car with gas in Detroit in mid-May. An injured but resolute and faithful Winans told the congregation at Perfecting Church that he wants his misfortune to begin a discussion about the status of young men in his city.
The carjacking and robbery are part of what has been an eventful few months for Winans, the pastor at Perfecting Church. Winans delivered a rousing eulogy at Whitney Houston’s funeral; his new song “Let the Church Say Amen” tops the Billboard Gospel music charts; and now Winans has released a new live album, Marvin Winans Presents A Praise and Worship Experience.
“Let The Church Say Amen” is not on the new album, but the tunes and the collaborators joining the legendary Rev. Winans will make lovers of traditional choral based Gospel music very happy. Ironically, Marvin Winans is probably best known musically not for “traditional” sounds, but for pioneering the work he did as part of the Gospel group The Winans, which he formed with three of his brothers. That outfit that was anything but traditional. The Winans was a groundbreaking group that melded songs featuring tight harmonies and strong Gospel messages with contemporary R&B production values. The quartet’s first CD, Introducing The Winans, featured the prophetic tune “The Question Is,” which received much play on R&B stations. A decade later, “It’s Time,” the first single from Return, an album produced by Teddy Riley at the height of the New Jack Swing era, entered the rotation in the nightclubs.
The pastor returns to his roots on Marvin Winans Presents. He shares the stage with his mother, Delores Winans, and Donnie McClurkin on “Just Another Day That the Lord Has Kept Me,” with Marvin Winans accompanying on organ. Winans leads the choir in an up-tempo medley of congregational praise songs that features tunes that can still be heard in churches on Sunday, such as “What Do You Want the Lord to Say” and “Everlasting Life,” as well as some tragically neglected numbers such as “After While” and “Just a Little While.”
Winans has a strong sense of music history, and he takes pleasure on Marvin Winans Presents in reintroducing lesser known Gospel gems to a new generation. He begins “Just a Little While” by saying “I know y’all don’t know this one.” He’s right, of course. I’d never heard it, and after hearing the choir tear through the fantastic tune, I could only wonder why.
Winans does not completely ignore his successful history as an artist able to fuse old time religion with modern production values. The mid-tempo “Reach Out and Touch” couches Gospel stories such as the Woman with the Issue of Blood with a 1980’s era smooth R&B sound. Conversely, “Influence My Heart” is reminiscent of something that the Fisk Jubilee Singers might have performed generations ago.
Marvin Winans Presents a Praise and Worship Experience is in most ways a traditional Gospel recording. However, someone with Rev. Winans’ background and experience manages to reveal the connections between an ultra-classic piece such as “Influence My Heart” and something more modern like “Reach Out and Touch.” One connection, of course, is the timelessness of the Gospel story. Another is the power of quality lead vocals, choir harmonies and instrumentation. Traditionalists and modernists will be equally impressed by the ease with which Marvin Winans marries the old and the new into a great disc of praise that is accessible to all. Recommended.
By Howard Dukes