CECE WINANS has returned with another big hit album showing a surprising enthusiasm for urban rhythms. Tony Cummings reports.
CeCe Winans is a bona-fide phenomenon in the Christian music world. Ever since she emerged in 1984 with an album of duets with her brother BeBe, she has been a singer able to find an audience with white CCM enthusiasts as well as black church-goers. When CeCe released her debut solo album In His Presence in 1995, if anything her popularity grew and by 1999 her classy inspirational set Alabaster Box was enjoying sales of beyond half a million copies. The released of Purified marks CeCe's return to a more urban sound. The album's modern contemporary sound originated at the hands of Keith Thomas (the Nashville studio veteran responsible for most of BeBe's and CeCe's hits), Tommy Sims (Nicole C Mullen, Natalie Grant), Andy Selby (TobyMac, Shaun Groves) and CeCe's nephew and R&B star Mario Winans. Mario co-wrote, produced and played all the instruments on the song Pray. His first collaboration with CeCe, Pray is Purified's third track and showcases the album's first hip-hop elements. GRITS later bring hip-hop into A Place Like This, an album standout which features the duo and CeCe yearning for Heaven. Said CeCe, "When I heard what GRITS did, I was like 'Oooh!' I love - I mean, I really, really love - what they did. I enjoy creative minds. I love seeing people do what God has anointed them to do." GRITS' Stacy 'Coffee' Jones responded, "Working with CeCe was an honour. She's a legend. The Winans were our Jackson 5 - know what I'm saying? Her openness to work with some hip-hop cats took the respect level up a notch, if that's even possible. We've got nothin' but love for Mrs CeCe."
Of the 13 songs on Purified, CeCe co-wrote eight. Her siblings, Angie and Debbie, helped her pen Always Sisters, an ode to their relationships. CeCe's son Alvin, meanwhile, co-wrote three of Purified's best - A Place Like This, the surprising, Sade-esque title track and the lovely and moving celebration of race and diversity, Colorful World. Commented CeCe, "I think really, as the body of Christ, we should be the first to celebrate the uniqueness of everybody and celebrate our differences. I think we all miss out on a lot of things because they're different. it takes time, a lot of time, to tear down different walls. We have to be patient and keep chipping at them."
She then considers her own family. "I don't know who my children are going to bring home when they get ready to get married. My thing is, I just want them to love the Lord. It really doesn't matter what colour they are. It doesn't matter where they come from. 'Do they love the Lord and love you?' Other than that, I don't have a problem with it. And I praise God for that. A lot of people are not there, but that's the heart of God."
When CeCe was hard at work recording Purified, the sessions were interrupted by the sudden unexpected death from pneumonia related complications of her brother Ron Winans. Ron was one of the founder members of The Winans gospel music pioneers. CeCe paid tribute to her brother: "He lived a life that was pleasing and the funeral service was incredible," said CeCe. "I've never experienced a service like that before. It was a celebration - a going home service. It didn't seem like a funeral at all. A lot of people were calling afterward saying, 'I'm so glad I made it. It was so refreshing.' Just being at the services - having all the different people come up and say what they wanted to say - it was just remarkable. One of the amazing things that happened was, the doctor who was a part of bringing Ron back the first time said that because of meeting Ron, he got saved. He began to preach at the funeral - the doctor! It was incredible. He was like, 'If God didn't' keep Ron for any other reason, He brought him back the first time so that I would get to know the Lord.' It's because of his operating on Ron the first time that he came to know the Lord, and now he's a solid Christian."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.