BeBe Winans


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It's anyone's guess what possessed BeBe Winans to record the unfortunately titled Cherch, his second live collection and easily the most gospelized album of his entire solo career. For someone who is a rank-and-file member of one of gospel's greatest dynasties, Winans always managed to keep his family's choice style at bay, favoring instead the kind of smooth, contemporary R&B of Babyface and Brian McKnight. But Cherch is a radical 180. Perhaps inspired by his sister CeCe's good fortunes in gospel, Winans seems to want to overcompensate for all the years he spent outside the sanctuary with a concert recording aimed squarely at the Sunday-morning set. Winans almost appears out of character here, often playing more the role of emcee than that of an album's central figure, as when he defers to guests Mary Mary, Israel & New Breed, and even Dionne Warwick for unplanned call-and-response assists. For the remainder of the program, Winans is at the helm but detached; he seems to be going through the motions, making a bigger deal about the fact that he is not just trying to have church, but hand-clappin', floor-stompin' cherch -- yes, he even makes it a point to spell it out for the audience. When Winans plays up the logistics of Cherch more than its songs, most of which are traditional selections from the Christian and black gospel canons, he is clearly reaching, as if trying to convince gospel heads that he is for real, that he is the bona fide church kid Mom & Pop Winans raised him to be.

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