CeCe Winans’ teams up again with her son, Alvin Love III, to produce a Christmas album in classic form – stately, lush, filled with Christmas songs old and new, and of course that soulful voice...
Something’s Happening! A Christmas Album
Pure Spring Gospel / Thirty Tigers
10 tracks / 42 minutes
The voice has been legendary in Gospel music for way more years than you would think possible. It didn’t take long before people would be using the Winans name as the vocal standard – with many an up-and-comer hoping to hear someone say, ‘she sounds a little like CeCe.’ In truth no-one really sounds like CeCe Winans. Except, of course, the woman herself. After years of memorable performances and recordings with her equally-soulful sibling BeBe, Ms. Winans has carved quite an impressive solo career for herself – lately with the aid of her son Alvin Love III at her side as producer, arranger, and songwriter. This combination that worked so successfully with last year’s Let Them Fall in Love has now given us a holiday gift in the form of CeCe’s first solo Christmas project: Something’s Happening! A Christmas Album.
You would have to go all the way back to the late 90s and BeBe and CeCe’s First Christmas to hear anything remotely like a CeCe Winans Christmas album – and, in truth, Something’s Happening! A Christmas Album shows the level of maturity that this gifted singer (and her gifted offspring) have achieved. Love penned no less than half of the album’s ten songs, treating the new music and standards with lushly orchestrated settings. The up-tempo jazzy waltz of “Giving Season” could easily become a light holiday standard, fitting comfortably in rotation with classics such as “Sleighride.” Recalling Love’s “Run To Him” from CeCe’s last album, “It’s Christmas” evokes that same great Motown-inspired vibe – another song with annual radioairplay potential at Christmas season.
Standards like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” and “Silent Night” are all respectfully treated, although often with surprising turns in the lavish orchestrations and occasional shifts into a gospel mode. That being said, don’t expect a ‘gospel Christmas’ with this package of songs. CeCe’s soulful vocals bring the words to life without trying to outshine the message itself – and that’s what makes this project special.
The production is impressively big, with an admirable job with the arrangements by Tim Akers and Alvin Love III. The sound is at first traditional but under the strings, choirs, timpani, and horns don’t be surprised to find a walking bass line emerge, or a Hammond organ to make its presence known.
On Something’s Happening! A Christmas Album you get something old and something new - but especially, you get to celebrate the coming of salvation, as the title track says:
The answer to the sinner’s prayer
Was sent to earth with Love and care
Let every home receive Shalom
Eternal Wonder, take your throne
...and of course you also get the incomparable voice of CeCe Winans.
- Bert Saraco