Alabaster Box

CeCe Winans

Wellspring Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/15/1999

With a CeCe Winans album, it's easy to sit back and just enjoy because she makes it sound so effortless. On her fourth solo album, Alabaster Box, Winans cradles the listener in her arms as if to say, "Let me sing for you. You just relax and I'll make the world go away for 45 minutes or so."

But, you know what Winans accomplished this time around did not come as easily as it sounds. Alabaster Box is the debut project for Winans' new record label, Wellspring Gospel, so there is a lot riding on this project. As well, she wrote or co-wrote five of the songs on this project -- and they are good, solid, songs.

Opening with a short, a capella, rendition of "Fill My Cup," which segues beautifully into the rousing "Kings of Kings (He's A Wonder)" it's clear Winans' cup is overflowing at this point. Co-written by Winans and gospel great Fred Hammond, who also produced the track, this song is praise and adoration to God from the first note.

"The truth reaches the clouds/Your mercy never runs out/We give You honor/Be thou exalted above the heavens and above the earth/I give all Glory unto Your name/King of Kings and Lord of Lords/Lover of my soul Jehovah/One and only God, I AM/Jesus Christ the Holy Lamb"

Many songs have been described as "percolating" -- well, this one really does. As Winans builds through the bridge it's all you can do to keep from standing and swaying, arms uplifted to Heaven, in praise. And there's still 10 more songs to go. Lord have mercy!my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Since 1987 when Winans first began recording for Sparrow Records with her brother, BeBe, she has been developing her God-given talents. (She is the sister of the men in the gospel group The Winans and the daughter of Mom and Pop Winans, longtime names on the gospel music circuit. Other Winans abound in the gospel/CCM industry, including Angie & Debbie and a new group this year of the sons of the men in The Winans, Winans Phase 2 -- talk about a family business.)

Keeping in line with the family practice of stradling genre lines, Alabaster Box has elements of both gospel and CCM included, although it is more in the vein of her Grammy-winning gospel release Alone in His Presence from 1996, than 1997's more pop-oriented Everlasting Love.

What never changes though is Winans' phenomenal voice. If she sought it, she could be a bigger pop diva than Whitney Houston ever was and though only time will tell, she certainly seems to have the talent to rank right up there with the Queen, herself. But, Winans' goals are different.

In this album's title song, a classic Winans ballad written by Janice Sjostran, Winans makes it clear what her life's ambition is -- as well as the theme of this disc -- service to Jesus Christ, her Lord. Taking a story from the gospel of Luke about how Mary Magdalene anointed Jesus with expensive perfume, Winans sings from Mary's point of view:

"And I've come to pour my praise on Him like oil from Mary's alabaster box/Don't be angry if I wash His feet with my tears and I dry them with my hair/You weren't there the night He found me/You did not feel what I felt When He wrapped His loving arms around me/And you don't know the cost of the oil in my alabaster box"

This is a disc of 12 highlights. Among them are the song "One And The Same," on which Winans duets (or would that be septets?) with the group Take 6 -- it's a magical moment.

Additional highlights:

* "He's Not On His Knees Yet" -- A song about a friend who's not come to know Jesus yet and so hasn't found his full potential. Sung as a prayer to God to keep this friend safe until he does realize his need for God.

* "Higher Place Of Praise" -- Another gem co-written by Winans and Hammond, this one is a little mid-tempo call and response number between Winans and a gospel choir about going beyond the norm in worship, to a higher place where praise is pure and the worshiper is not just following the order of worship in the church bulletin.

* "It Wasn't Easy" -- Written by Winans from Jesus' point of view, this song is about the sacrifice Christ made on the cross for the sins of the world. "I didn't have to do it/But I did it anyway/'Cause I really love you/So much I took your place/I died for your sins"

Winans has come a long way since the days when she was singing with her brother. Those were great days -- these are better ones. I'm already looking forward to her next project.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1999 Michael Ehret and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Wellspring Records, and is used for informational purposes only.