Prime Cuts: I Have a Savior, Hunger, Jesus, You're Beautiful
Overall Grade: 5/5
CeCe Winans has won 2 Grammy Awards and 23 GMA Dove Awards. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she has sold over 5 million albums worldwide, and she has collaborated with stalwarts such as Whitney Houston, Michael W. Smith, Patti LaBelle, BeBe Winans, Mary Mary, Vince Gill, and many others. Yet, despite her success in the music industry since the early 80s, "Believe For It (Live)" is her first ever live record. Comprising of newly scripted songs, some of her older material, and her cover of contemporary worship songs, this is a stellar collection of 13 well-curated songs (plus two studio versions of "Never Lost" and the title cut "Believe for It"). Whilst many live records falter from too many meaningless ab-libs or ceaseless chatter, the songs tightly flow one into another. However, this doesn't mean that Winans is on cruise control; she does interact meaningfully with her audience and she even offers an altar call after "I Have a Savior" which is one of the album's highlights.
Let's get into the songs. Best among the batch are her worship song covers. Winans demonstrates her affinity with contemporary worship music with her cover of Gateway Music's "I Have a Savior." While the original jumps through octaves making the song extremely difficult to sing, Winans eliminates the melodic hills and valleys, making the song more palatable. The same goes for MDSN's "Hunger." Winans takes this gorgeous ballad that expresses our need of Jesus and makes it her own heart's cry. On "Shepherd," originally recorded by Nashville Life Music, the way Winans exudes such confidence when she sings "my life is better when I am following you" is priceless.
Fans may recall Winans'"King of Glory" from Michael W. Smith's latest live worship album. The song is so catchy that it's melodic hook of this hymn has a way of ringing in your ears long after the music has stop. Winans take of her own "Jesus, You Are Beautiful" (originally from her "Throne Room" album) is given a worshipful and thoughtful delivery. The display of Winans simmering alto and the song's killer-sounding piano riffs are not to be missed. Winans' more popular original "Alabaster Jar" is another show-stopper: the way she re-tells the story of how the woman wiped the feet of Jesus with her hair and tears is simply a nudge to the heart.
Of the newly written songs, the upbeat "Fire," though repetitive, re-tells Acts 2 of how the Holy Spirit came upon the church. Co-written by Winans, Mitch Wong, Kyle Lee and Dwan Hill, the title track "Believe for It" (the title though is a tad awkward) is a dramatic and crescendo-building anthem about how God can do the impossible. "Never Lost" and "No Greater" round off the canon of newly composed entries. "Never Lost" veers too closely in terms of execution and theme to "Believe for It." Much better is the upbeat "No Greater" which has an old spiritual feel. On the whole, this record like the last few Winans' albums is sublime. Even after all these years of recording and performing, Winans' shows no signs of wear and tear in her vocals; in fact, she still has that uncanny ability to convey an array of emotions in her articulations.