Pros: 12 songs of faith, courage, wisdom, soul, passion and beautiful singing.
Cons: Too many slow songs though that is where CeCe's best efforts are.
Gospel music has changed my perception of music in so many ways that nowadays, I often don't have the desire to listen to anything else. I love the positivity and sense of encouragement that I feel when I listen to uplifting music that does not disrespect people or talk about things that I get nothing out of. That's not to say that I don't love secular music. I mean, there was a time when I used to think that gospel music was just too much for me to handle. It never seemed like a music choice that I could actually sit down and enjoy. and what is funny is that gospel music now dominates my CD collection and I have grown to love it so much.
My favorites of the craft so far is Out of Eden because I love the pop gospel feel and when I am down their music picks me up and gets me listening, singing along, dancing and feeling positive. Because of their difference in musical style, I have every single album in their collection, which is only 5 albums with their latest being, Hymns, but that is enough to keep my heart and mind in the spirit. I love the music of Karen Clark-Sheard, and also have all the three albums in her collection, because she sings with such authority and demands respect with her strong and beautiful vocals and the words that she says as she praises the Lord. And plus there is something about an entire family effort that makes me feel like I have to have some kind of feelings for the music of the Clark family. BeBe & CeCe Winans have recently become an almost everyday CD for me to listen to. In fact, I started liking it so much that I decided that I had to include some CeCe Winans solos into my collection.
CeCe Winans is one of the few that I can still listen to and want to hear over and over again at times because she sings naturally, calm and with such clarity. Her words define a person of true wisdom, contentment for whom she is and her passion for the Lord and all his acts and works. When I listen to her, her voice and style reminds me a lot of Deborah Cox, Whitney Houston or just a plain old country singer which may be a reason for her success.
In 1982, her and her brother, BeBe Winans, sang with a group called the PTL singers. BeBe and CeCe Winans decided to do a duo project on their own and for their efforts, they signed with Sparrow Records in 1987. They released their first album of the same name, BeBe & CeCe Winans from which the CeCe Winans solo, For Always earned her a Grammy for "Best Soul Gospel Performance, Female." From the strength and passion that I heard in each and every song that was executed on BeBe & CeCe Winans, I expected no less in CeCe Winans' solo project Alabaster Box.
Alabaster Box is a collection of 12 songs released in October of 1999 by Sparrow Records. Most of the songs on this album are slow ballads or just mid-tempo songs where her voice rings the best. But sometimes too many slow songs can get boring, though her best efforts are in the slow songs because you can hear her voice and her vocal abilities the best in them. Here is a list and description of the songs that are on this album:
(1)Fill My Cup is the introduction to this gospel collection. It's hard to sing a song with no musical accompaniment or background, but this accapella intro was pretty cool and a great way to further the mind of the listener to know what to expect from her vocally on the rest of the album. CeCe has strong vocals and she takes her time singing, pronunciates each word and has very good clarity so you can understand each and every word that's sung out of her mouth. She sings with a lot of soul, passion and stresses the message across for the love of the Lord. 51 seconds of what to expect throughout the album. From this track alone, I expected the album to be soulful and a very spiritual experience which it was and still is. "Come and quench this thirsting from my soul. Bread from heaven, feed me 'til I want no more. Fill my cup. Fill it up and make me whole."
(2) King of Kings: From the introduction to this track, I can see the musical similarities it has to the second song, I Don't Know Why off her debut duet album with her brother BeBe Winans, BeBe & CeCe Winans. Shaking of the cymbals, synthesizer, cowbell and keyboards. Then it changes to a melodic dancy well arranged song. I like the background because it adds much emphasis to the passionate lyrics that CeCe uses. Especially in the vamp when the words, "He's a Wonder" appears. Without the heavy background, I feel like them music might have been empty though the bass line really stands out because of it's constant change and movement. I like her strength vocalized. Her technique reminded me of Deborah Cox's. "He lifted me. King of Kings, my God. He's a wonder in my soul. He's good, so good 'cause he's been good."
(3)It Wasn't Easy: I liked that this song started out as a soft rock melodic type song. I like the drums and the chimes that breathe life and energy to this track. I liked that CeCe spoke through Jesus about his experience dying on the cross and what it was worth. I liked the soft tempo and calm feel, followed by the low to high belting vocal change. This is the type of song you'd hear played on 106.7 Lite FM NY, CD 101.9 FM NY, or even in a doctor's office because of it's peaceful vibe. I like how the instruments take the song out. Her strong vibrato change to a softly textured saturated technique which I felt could really be compared to the vocal abilities of Rachelle Farrelle. "I left my throne. My purpose was the cross. Shed innocent blood. I paid all costs. It was worth it."
(4) The title track Alabaster Box sounding like a song that would be in a musical because it was very animated, the music told a story and the feel of the vocal arrangement was very classical and moving. Because of the way that the keyboards, chimes and synthesizers were played, I could see ballet dancers doing some kind of performance to this song. CeCe pours her soul out in this very rich ballad. She put all of her heart and soul into this song. I love the the way the song ends with the sound of the very well timed soft chimes. It made this song very beautiful from start to finish. "I can't forget the way life used to be. I was a prisoner to the sin that had me bound. And I spent my days pouring my life without measure into a little treasure box I thought I found. Until the day when Jesus came to me and healed my soul with the wonder of his touch."
(5)Comforter was one of the songs I admired because of the way the background vocals were arranged. It really made a difference to the song. I especially liked the background in the bridge. The theme seemed so perfect for this song because the entire piece as a whole is very calming. I really like the musical accompaniment of the guitar and bass that had lots of movement and color and was very funky. bright and defining. "Faithful friend and father. I've called you through the years. You've been great physician when sickness lingered near. Through distressing moments, your name is new and sweet. You've become comforter to me."
(6) I was glad to hear a faster song because out of 6 tracks, this is the second one with the first one being track number 2, though I prefer the way she sings in slow songs. Love of My Heart was was one of the songs that I could've done without though because the music didn't really do much for me. The vocals though were beautifully wrapped around the music but still I felt like her vocals were too loud over it so it didn't blend that well with the music. The lyrics however gave me feeling and moved me as she gave testimony to what the Lord really is for her. "Your touch is healing. You;re my strong power. Mighty in power, your spirit moves me. The love of my heart."
(7) The hook of Without Love reminded me of an old El DeBarge song. The tenor voice of the background made this song I think and maybe it stood out on purpose, but I found a fondness for it. "Without love, there's no need to prophesy. Without love there would be no blue skies. Without love, we're all just wasting time. Love is the key to eternal life."
(8) He's Not on His Knees Yet is one of the best slow songs on the album because of the way CeCe exemplified her strength, power and spirit. She sang this song with real passion and fullness of breath. The music seemed to really tell a story. I used to love seeing the video for this song on Sunday mornings on BET. The more I listen to her sing, the more I get this country soul vibe from her. I like the simpleness of the song because there's no background which gives more focus to her vocal quality and technique. "He's not trendy. He's not on his knees yet. He's too strong to be weak. Show him mercy. He's not on his knees yet."
(9) I liked the harmony that I found in One in the Same. The drum pattern is very rich and the bass line is very soulful and deep. I love CeCe's calm but cool attitude. Her voice never sounds too much. I noticed that all her songs on this album start out with the ringing of chimes. With the movement of the musical accompaniment, I noticed how well the lyrics blended which made the song sound very much like a musical. Especially with the classical piano that is present. "How shall I begin to speak about a God I'll never seem to comprehend. So high and mighty and yet closer than a friend. The beginning and the end. The mystery of his holiness. The wonder of his humanness are one, one in the same."
(10) Maybe it is the change of musical acceptance and gospel sounding more and more like secular music, but I admire CeCe's slow stuff because she has more ability in them. Though the lyrics in Higher Place of Praise show her diversity, depthness and wisdom in writing and being able to execute a well arranged song. I like the way CeCe sings and the choir responds to brighten up the mood and feel. "My spirit, my soul and my flesh needs this place of praise. Now there's a place that's blessed where we find happiness. A place of sabbath rest. A higher place of praise."
(11)Blessed, Broken & Given reminds me of her song For Always because of the way the piano is being played. This reminded me of a narrative with Jesus as the main character. This is another ballet type song because of it's classical movement. "When I've been blessed. When I've been broken. Then after, forgiven. Lord bless me. Lord wake me again and again."
(12) The final track on this album is a 47 second instrumental track of track # 2. It was too short for me though this was only an outro. But I could understand the starting with an accappella and ending with an instrumental though this album felt kind of incomplete to me because of the way it ended. 13 more seconds would've made a big difference for me.
Overall, this album was very good. I like a lot of her solo songs but I preferred her duet efforts with BeBe Winans. There was more variety on the duet efforts and not just plain ballads and slow songs. Plus the different voice, though I loved the effort that Take 6 put out in One in The Same.
I've listened to this album more than once since I have gotten it, but to tell you the truth, I haven't found the heart to listen to this as much as Out of Eden's No Turning Back, Karen Clark-Sheard's, The Heavens are Telling or the debut album from BeBe & CeCe Winans, BeBe & CeCe Winans, though I love her voice, lyrics and musical accompaniment.
I would recommend this album as an album to listen to when waking up from sleeping. Put this in your alarm clock Cd radio and let the songs on this album uplift you so that you could feel the spirit for the rest of your day. This is a good album to even listen to while studying for the added inspiration. I like this album.