THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH - CeCe Winans album review

Let Them Fall in Love features the artist in fresh musical contexts, as strong as ever, and revealing musical facets of this gem of a performer that we’ve never heard before...

Let Them Fall In Love

CeCe Winans

CeCeWinans.com

Pure Spring Gospel / Thirty Tigers

10 tracks / 42:15

Street Date: 2/03/17

In the early 80s I was in the audience of a Christian TV show. As usual, the show opened up with a song by the show’s resident group of singers. I nudged my wife, pointed to two members of that group, and said, “See those two? Someday they’re going to really make it big on their own.” More than three decades have passed and ‘those two’ have indeed made it big, first as the brother-and-sister act, BeBe and CeCe Winans, and then as solo artists in their own right.  While brother BeBe’s solo career was more aggressive, even landing him a contract with Motown, CeCe’s path led her to a more Christian radio-friendly place, featuring well-received inspirational and ‘praise & worship’ projects that featured her stunning voice and bold Christian message. Let Them Fall in Love, CeCe’s first album of new material in almost a decade, features the artist in fresh musical contexts, as strong as ever, and revealing musical facets of this gem of a performer that we’ve never heard before.

It can be argued that a solo artist can sometimes be overshadowed stylistically by a producer – and even for CeCe this might have happened on occasion – but Let Them Fall in Love is produced by CeCe’s son, Alvin Love III, and co-produced by the legendary Tommy Sims (who also worked successfully with Marvin Winans, among many others) - and the result is an album full of delightfully-retro sounds and a plethora of styles, from funky Motown, to lush orchestration.

Big ballads are, of course, a strong element of what CeCe does, and this album has no shortage, opening with “He’s Never Failed Me Yet,” closing with the album’s title track, and featuring the epic, almost-cinematic “Never Have to Be Alone,” all of which feature the artist’s soaring, emotional vocals bringing the lyrics to life in a way that will strike down deep to your spirit.

“Run To Him” could have been a Motown hit from the mid-sixties – it’s a fun song packed with energy and hooks. “Hey, Devil!” follows, and is a funky horn-driven party of a song featuring The Clark Sisters as guest artists.  The song sounds like a page out ofRay Charles’ songbook – one of the Clark Sisters can even be heard quoting “Hit the Road, Jack” on the fade….  More horns and more guests (this time Hezekiah Walker’s Love Fellowship Choir) are featured on the hot, irresistibly-funky “Dancing in The Spirit,” a Holy Ghost-infused dance party that will rock your speakers.

“Peace From God” is more typical of CeCe’s spiritual side but with enough appeal to become a radio single. The song has interesting melodic surprises, one of which is a turn of musical phrase that is reminiscent of the chorus of Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’”.  Winans tries on some country boots with the cover of Kris Kristofferson’s “Why Me,” which never sounded as soulful as it does here – you don’t have to be a country music fan to enjoy this version. Another unique approach is heard on “Lowly,” which has an organic, piano-driven Leon Russell vibe – once again, an unexpected and very welcome new side of CeCe Winans.

Of course, CeCe takes us to church. “Marvelous” starts out with the singer’s voice accompanied by a Hammond organ - but soon the choir, bass, guitar, and drums join in and it’s revival time, and nobody does it better than CeCe (and is that the mighty Marvin Winans I hear in the background? Hmmm).

For me, this is the CeCe Winans album I’ve been waiting for – it’s CeCe unleashed, fulfilling all of the potential I saw three decades back. Let Them Fall In Love is a wonderfully well-rounded album, both musically and spiritually satisfying. CeCe’s back and better than ever.