Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Still is BeBe & CeCe's first album in more than 15 years and is the reunion that has been on the lips of fans around the world since it was announced. Premiering 12 new BeBe & CeCe classics, Still includes the album's lead single, "Close to You"
""I believe this is going to be the most successful album we've had and it's not because we deserve it. It's because we believe it." That statement by BeBe Winans regarding Still, the first recorded collaboration by BeBe & CeCe Winans in fifteen years, was simply a matter of faith in motion. Being part of one of gospel music's respected families, the brother and sister duo have an unwavering support system of several siblings and two extremely grounded parents who passed on their faith in God. Certainly faith has carried BeBe & CeCe throughout their years together and separately in their music ministry, but talent also played a big part -- and BeBe and CeCe are full of talent. During their decade of recording together they became one of the most beloved vocal duos in the contemporary gospel community. Even so, fifteen years can be a mighty long time and a tough test for the often fragile chemistry among musical partners. On top of that, the urban hit musical landscape has changed its stripes in those fifteen years with more emphasis on electronic musical dressing and less on melodic soul.
Back in the day, BeBe & CeCe, like their older brothers The Winans, had a smooth blend of R&B sensibility and gospel messages that easily translated to crossover appeal from gospel to the pop and urban charts. Their hits through the years like "I'll Take You There," "Heaven" and "Lost Without You" were certainly high quality inspirational songs, but with a much more contemporary sheen than the more traditional gospel artists of the day such as The Hawkins Family and Richard Smallwood & The Richard Smallwood Singers. Audiences loved that sound, and BeBe & CeCe's were extremely successful from the late eighties until 1994 when they decided to break up their professional relationship.
During their subsequent solo careers, both BeBe and CeCe thrived, but not quite at the levels that they had reached together. BeBe released several solo discs where he showcased his strengths as a songwriter and also collaborated with Stevie Wonder, Stephanie Mills and the U.K. vocal group Eternal. CeCe's rich alto voice and ministry progressed with several worship-oriented projects with crossover appeal including Alabaster Box and Purified. But while BeBe and CeCe had sustainable solo careers, it was not a shock - it was perhaps even inevitable - that the duo decided to reunite and record another album together.
Before Still hit the record bins, two singles were released to whet the taste buds of BeBe & CeCe fans and both are welcome entries. Keith Thomas, who produced many of the duo's past hits returns behind the boards for "Grace," a pure song of redemption, and "Close To You," a pure love song to God. But the success of the album goes well beyond the singles. Other highlights include "Let It Be," with its hypnotic trance beats from nephew Mario Winans and a riveting tag team effort with another popular duo Mary Mary. Brother Marvin Winans also gets into the act by adding some downright jazzy soulful frosting for "Things."
With all the gems on Still, there are a couple of minor missteps, including the ill-fitting "Reason To Dance" (which sounds suspiciously like the hooks from Michael Jackson's "Wanna' Be Startin' Somethin'") and the rather limply arranged reggae praise driven "He Can Handle It."
Despite those minor issues, Still is a very believable and successful body of work. After fifteen years, BeBe and CeCe have not lost a beat as their rich harmonies still strike a nerve today. Their messages of hope and restoration are also believable and extremely relevant - particularly in the current stressful times. In the end, this disc is surrounded by the aura of faith, expressed well by BeBe & CeCe, and that aura should connect with both old and new fans, who will welcome the duo's return." - SoulTracks
"There are vocal duos that are so 'in tune' with one another that they can effortlessly split a lyric down the middle, but how many can shift from voice to voice between syllables? After a 15 year wait, fans of Gospel/R&B/pop superstars BeBe and CeCe Winans finally have the reunion project that they've been waiting for with Still, the duo's first album of new songs since 1994's Relationships. From the first notes of the title track it's obvious that the soulful siblings have picked up exactly where they left off a decade and a-half ago. Well, if you missed them the first time, meet BeBe & CeCe, still harmonizing and finishing each other's vocal phrases like they haven't missed a beat in the 15 years leading up to their new single, "Close to You."
(No, not that "Close to You... ")
In truth, with the first two tracks having all of the familiar earmarks of Keith Thomas' production style, it's as if there was no gap at all between the closing track of Relationships and "Still," which opens the new album. This is somewhat of a two-edged musical sword, since many fans will be delighted by the total familiarity and easy accessibility they'll have with Still, but others might be disappointed that Thomas still produces the same way he did twenty years ago, and it's his heavily 'programmed' style that dominates much of this project. Even so, this album shows what consummate professionals BeBe & CeCe are and how fully-realized this 'come-back' is.
If there's such a thing as a BeBe & CeCe formula, it would be this: take a liberal sampling of pop-influenced R&B, add a pinch of dance (you can substitute or add just a hint of disco light), toss in a hearty dollop of soul, a couple of ballads, and produce with a dusting of techno. Like a good recipe, if it ain't broke don't fix it seems to be the rule followed here. If you're looking for a return to form, that's exactly what you get - you'll love Still.
For those who are looking for a more adventurous, more mature BeBe & CeCe, the closest you'll come to that is "Grace," a song that fits best into the 'world music' category - a big production where producer/arranger Keith Thomas steps out of his usual synthetic mode with a choir, real strings, piano and acoustic guitar. The adventurous vocal phrasing by BeBe and CeCe add a unique flavor to this sound-poem about God's amazing grace. Another highlight, and a song sure to become a wedding standard before too long, is "I Found Love (Cindy's Song)," a stunning ballad delivered in BeBe's best R&B style and produced and arranged by the amazing Mervyn Warren. "The Garden" features CeCe in a cool jazzy mode, produced with classy sophistication by her co-writer Percy Bady, with vocals arranged by brother BeBe.
There's a certain unavoidable novelty factor to a new album after a 15 year gap, which accounts for the first track being a bit too self-referential, with a chorus that combines several titles of past BeBe & CeCe hits. This is a catchy, well-structured song and an impressive opener if you can get past the borderline cheese of forcing a string of song titles into the lyric and Keith Thomas' odd choice of trying a wailing synth-trumpet fanfare in the song's opening (what were you thinking, Keith?). Marvin Winans makes a short but impressive guest appearance on "Things," a song produced by Peter Zizzo as if it was still the 80's, but with a good lyric about the relative value (or lack thereof) of material goods. Mary Mary adds some spice to the up-tempo closing track, "Let it Be." (No, not that "Let it Be... ")
Of course, there's the obligatory 'dance' song ("Reason to Dance") and the island-rhythm groove of "He Can Handle It," which, admittedly, has fun lyrics - basically a list of things that God 'can handle' (did you know that God cares about your hair extensions?) with an entertaining Jamaica-rap at the end, mon.
So BeBe & CeCe are back, and they're as good as they've ever been - and that's very good. What I'd like to see next is a couple of steps away from the past and into some unchartered waters. Still, Still is good stuff!" - Soul-Audio
Billboard (p.32) - "The pair's smooth yet arresting blend of R&B, pop, soul and jazz carries a contemporary vibe..."
Personnel: Marvin Winans (vocals); Peter Zizzo (guitar, keyboards, drum programming); Wendell "Junior Jazz" Ferraro, Paul Jackson, Jr. (guitar); Jonathan Crone (acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Tracy Silverman (violin); Dontae Winslow (horns); Keith Thomas (piano, programming); Leroy Barbie Romans (organ, keyboards); Mervyn Warren (keyboards, programming, background vocals); Alex Teamer (keyboards, drum programming); Anthony "CD" Kelly (drums, percussion); Scott Frankfurt (drums, percussion programming); Lionel Delao, Eric Darken (percussion); Darwin Hobbs, Faye Simpson, Priscilla Jones-Campbell, Lisa Vaughn, Lawrence Johnson , Lain Gray (background vocals).
Audio Mixers: Dave Pensado; Graham Archer; Bill Whittington; Leslie Brathwaite; Warryn Campbell; Brian Stanley .
Recording information: The House Studio, FL.
Illustrator: Wendell "Junior Jazz" Ferraro.
Photographer: Derek Blanks.
Arrangers: Keith Thomas ; Mervyn Warren; Peter Zizzo; Alex Teamer.
Brother-sister duo BeBe and CeCe Winans became one of the most successful Christian crossover acts of all time, garnering hit after hit with their ultra-smooth brand of contemporary R&B-style gospel. 2009's STILL is a slick, energetic, dancefloor-ready slice of funky positive message music that benefits from both modern and vintage approaches to production. The first single, "Close to You," is a hip-grinding hip-hop slow jam, while "Things" is driven by an old school disco/funk rhythm reminiscent of Cheryl Lynn's "To Be Real." The sweeping, sting-laden "Grace" showcases CeCe's powerful vocals, while "Reason to Dance" channels Michael Jackson's propulsive grooves. Of course, beneath all the fancy sounds and impassioned singing are deep faith and reverence, which makes STILL one of BeBe and CeCe's most satisfying efforts.