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Bebe Winans - Live and Up Close

Bebe Winans - Live and Up Close

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Bebe Winans made gospel music history as the male half of the duo, Bebe & Cece. The gospel duo broke many barriers, daring to cross into the mainstream, thereby paving the way for artists such as Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams, Mary Mary and Donnie McClurkin. Now a solo artist, the megasuperstar and multi-platinum recording artist, is back with Live And Up Close. Bebe, known for his smooth sound and blockbuster hits, delivers his third solo project (his second on Motown) and his first live project. Live And Up Close is an impressive project, filled from beginning to end with true gospel music. Last November at BET Studios in Washington, D.C., I had the opportunity to attend the live recording. The concert provided an intimate setting which afforded BeBe the chance to be personable with the audience and to sing from his heart. And youll feel that on this CD. I have to admit; I was afraid once I heard the CD, the feel of intimacy would be lost. But thankfully the integrity of the project was captured. And let me tell you, if you havent seen Bebe in person, make sure to see him on the Winans Family Tour. His live show is second to none.

Live and Up Close opens up with the bouncy, fun cut "Do You Know Him?", a reworked remake of the classic "Have You Seen Her?". Tactfully done, the song is a plea for a relationship with Christ. Already getting love from radio, "Do You Know Him?" is produced by producer extraordinaire, Warryn Campbell (Mary Mary, Yolanda Adams, Luther Vandross, Angie Stone). Winans also revisits a church classic, "Amazing Grace". Thats one thing I like about Bebe; you can give him a mic and he can truly minister. He needs nothing else. This gospel crooner does this church anthem with simply a piano, an acoustic guitar, bass guitar and drums. Just a beautiful arrangement.

Live And Up Close is a collection of old hits and some soon-to-be new ones. One of his old hits includes the title tune to his last project, Love and Freedom. Nicely done with the live concert feel, he follows "Love And Freedom" with "I Believe", a smooth, mid-tempo groove. Originally written for Take 6, the lyrics go something like this:

I believe
I believe every word that You say
You said your love never dies
And when tears fill my tears
Youll be right by my side
I believe

Following "I Believe", Bebe does a tune with a theme reminiscent of Yolanda Adams "Darling Girl" (dedicated to her daughter Taylor Ayanna). He does his own dedication to his daughter with a song called "Love Thing. Complete with harmonica and pleasant, laid-back harmonies, this song has a relaxing, melodic touch.

One of the true highlights of this recording, is "I Fell In Love With God/This Song". An incredible songwriter, Bebe sings from the heart on "I Fell In Love With God". This song, destined to be a hit, barely left a dry eye in the house on the night of the recording. And thats what Bebe is known for. He can belt it out with the best of them, but its his songs that have brought him notoriety. His velvet voice and gifted songwriting is a recipe for an anointed and incredible ministry. And youll find that consistently on this CD. "This Song", the second part of the medley, is just a true love song to God. The ballad combination is a beautiful worshipful one and will touch your heart.

As the music moves back into an uptempo mode, "I Wanna Be", with a festive, almost Calypso rhythm track, affords Bebe the opportunity to duet with Margaret Bell-Byars. The song was a number one single and crossover hit for Bebe (and the pop girl group Eternal) in the U.K. in 1997.

CeCe may have some stiff competition as BeBe and one of his other sisters, Debbie Winans, reworked hits made famous by Bebe & Cece. Together they redid popular hits including "Heaven/Meantime/Celebrate New Life/Lost Without You". As Bebe explains in the recording, "Lost Without You" is not about "the kind of love that man can give you". He leaves no doubt that the love hes singing about is the love of Jesus". The connection between Debbie and Bebe on stage is genuine. And make sure to play the song to the end; the impromptu adlib between the two is priceless.

Other great songs on Live And Up Close are "Thank You For Being You" and "It All Comes Down To Love". Stepping back into the vein that hes known for, next is another moving ballad, "Humpty Dumpty". Taken from the nursery rhyme, Bebe reminds us that theres only one King can put us back together again. "Lay Them Down", another Warryn Campbell produced track, flows into another beautifully-penned ballad. The incomparable Stephanie Mills, a personal friend of Winans, brings down the house with a song written by BeBe entitled, "Born For This" (Bonus Track). Her flawless vocals truly shine on this song.

For this recording, BeBe had some of the best background singers in the industry. The aforementioned Debbie Winans and Margaret Bell-Byers, as well as Eric Dawkins and Byron Cage, were part of the tight group of singers on Live And Up Close.

From beginning to end, Bebe has outdone himself on Live And Up Close.

This project was recorded for BET Gospel, one of BET's Digital Networks channels. Live And Up Close is also available on DVD from Motown.



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