Malaco Music Group / Regimen Records
(release date: August 30, 2019)
By Bob Marovich
The gospel voice is not homogeneous. It is as varied in texture as the genre itself.
While the paradigm of the gospel sound is the shouting or melismatic voice, smooth balladeers have been around since the beginning. Homer Quincy Smith of the Southernaires quartet and one of the first male African American gospel singers to record as a soloist, delivered his songs of Zion with operatic sonority. From there sprang the soothing sacredness of Robert Anderson, Bishop Charles Watkins and, in the present day, artists such as Brian Courtney Wilson.
Baritone BeBe Winans falls squarely within this tradition. Some of his best work, in fact, whether as a soloist or with sister CeCe, has been tender and contemplative, easy-as-Sunday-morning gospel ballads that soften as much as they minister.
Not surprisingly, the stars of Need You, BeBe’s new album, are the several slow selections. Particularly powerful and moving is “Born for This,” the title track of the BeBe Winans stage musical. It comes across like a show’s penultimate scene: when a main character, alone in the spotlight, comes to public terms with his feelings and sets in motion a series of actions that ultimately resolve the narrative’s chief conflict. It’s among the most moving songs I’ve heard this year.
The other showstopper on Need You is “Farewell, Well Done.” David Langford’s delicately-played piano underpin this simple and beautiful song dedicated to the memory of the mother of Donnie McClurkin and his singing siblings, Frances McClurkin, who passed away in 2013. It’s destined to enter the home going ceremony lexicon.
Other noteworthy ballads are the title track and the quiet storm inspirational “Power of Love/Love Power,” originally recorded in 1991 by Luther Vandross. And though it moves at a quicker tempo, the single “Laughter (Just Like a Medicine),” rendered with the able assistance of the group Korean Soul, contains some of the secret sauce that makes a BeBe ballad a BeBe ballad.
Another sibling, Debbie Winans Lowe, assists on the album’s most vivacious track, “It’s All Good,” though the quicker tempo songs don’t showcase the warmth of BeBe’s voice as the slower pieces do. Though not identified as such in the credits, “Come to the Water” is actually a contemporary arrangement of the classic baptism hymn, “Take Me to the Water.”
The album, produced by BeBe along with Gerald and David Langford, Donald Lawrence, and Ron Gillyard, is steeped in real strings and horns. The choral sound comes courtesy of maestro Lawrence. BeBe Winans albums are almost always worth the wait, and Need You is no exception.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “Born for This,” “Farewell, Well Done”