Kickstarting 2020 With One Of My Favorite Albums; Guess Who! by Philip Mayaab

It is a new year, and a new decade as well, and even though I have enjoyed taking a break from the blog during the Christmas season, it is time for Vinyl Revival and our weekly blog to once again get back to work.  I have had some time to refocus my thoughts and energies for the upcoming year, and so I decided to pull out one of my FAVORITE albums from the 80s to kick start 2020, so here we go...

I have been considering a post on Facebook that would ask our social media friends to pick their favorite decade between the 70s, 80s, or 90s, and then give us a list of their five favorite albums from the decade they have chosen.  I know it's a tough task, but I would love to know which recordings that folks hold so near and dear.  For me, it would take some thought, because 98% of the classic CCM albums I own have tracks that instantly stand out, or they might have a special memory attached to them.  I can tell you that one of the albums that would garner substantial consideration would have to be the 1987 self titled release by brother-sister duo BeBe and CeCe Winans.  Even though it was the first exposure that a number of us (myself included) had to the pair, this is actually their second album, and we will get to that shortly.  

This was an act that already had some MAJOR sized shoes to fill before this album was released.  As the 7th and 8th siblings of one of the most talented musical families in history, Benjamin and Priscilla started their career in the shadow of four of their older brothers, which of course would be The Winans.  Due to several outstanding recordings for both Light and Qwest Records. the older siblings had already set the bar very high for the younger members of the family to reach for.  After doing some background vocal work in the studio for the older brothers, BeBe and CeCe began to work together as a singing duo, and in 1982, the pair took a position singing with Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's television network, on its flagship program Praise The Lord.  After two years worth of on-air work, the siblings were signed by the network's record label (PTL Records) to record their debut album Lord, Lift Us Up, which was released in 1984.  The album itself is actually rather good, and was even nominated for a Grammy Award, but the problem is that when you're working on a Christian television network, for two people that most Christians would not watch, even if their lives depended on it, your field of promotion is small, and that resulted in the album not selling exceptionally well.  Still undeterred, BeBe and CeCe would spend five years with PTL, and their time with the network is actually chronicled in BeBe's biographical musical called Born For This.

It was during the last few months in Charlotte that BeBe was asked to work on Keith Thomas' second solo album, Kaleidoscope.  The album was a huge departure from Thomas' first recording, which was a full blown, instrumental smooth jazz album (hence the name, Instrumental Appetite), and this time there were songs that needed vocals.  BeBe was asked to provide the vocals for two of the album's tracks, those being Arms Of Love, and It's Only Natural.  When Kaleidoscope was released in 1986, the national CCM fanbase got a taste of BeBe's talent, and the results where amazing.  Natural would reach #4 on the CCM Magazine Adult Contemporary chart, and to put the cherry on top, BeBe won a Grammy award for the performance, and the rest, as they say, is history.  With Thomas' help, BeBe and CeCe started shopping for a recording contract, and would eventually sign with Sparrow Records.

Since Keith Thomas had worked with BeBe previously, it was decided that he would produce the sibling's first album for a national record label, and together, they turned out a phenomenal piece of work.  I remember my first listen to anything from the record was when I heard the album's debut single I.O.U. Me on the radio.  It blew me away, and I decided to go out and pick up a copy of the album, which is the exact copy you will be hearing this week on Vinyl Revival.  There are 10 songs on this album, not a bad one in the bunch, and here is the proof...the album itself was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Soul  Gospel Performance category, and BeBe himself was nominated at the same Grammy Award show in the Best Male Soul Gospel Performance category for the album's second single Call Me, so we can say this album is legit.  The sound is classic late 80s...keyboard driven, hook laden, R&B, but even now, this album still sounds good, and I still enjoy taking my CD of it with me in the car on numerous occasions.  The album impressed Sparrow's parent company, EMI Capitol Records, that they cross promoted the album to mainstream radio, both pop and R&B.  Following Sparrow's lead, Capitol released I.O.U. Me, Call Me, and Love Said Not So, to mainstream radio.  While none of the singles were successful in regard to mainstream chart position, they did get the siblings' foot in the door, and eventually they would find the crossover success that Capitol had envisioned from the start.

Now as it usually is in the case in most loving families,  when a family member needs some help, everybody pitches in, and that is certainly the case on this album.  Two of the tracks on this album, the aforementioned Love Said Not So, and I Don't Know Why (one of my personal favorites) feature The Winans, the four brothers who started the family dynasty.  Five sisters or sisters in law from the family also provide background vocals on the recording, so this definitely was a family affair.  Half of the ten tracks on the album feature one of the siblings by themselves, and five feature them together, so the balance in the vocal department is just right, and to be honest there are several songs on this album that could have been released as radio singles.  Everyone has their own individual tastes in music and songs, my personal favorite from this album has to be the closing song, He's Coming Soon.  Written by BeBe, this song takes me to church every single time I listen to it,  because it reminds me of the greatest hope that we have as children of God...that He will return, and take us to be with him.  By the time they get to the final verse, I feel as if I'm standing in the gateway of Heaven, waiting to see His face for the first time!  

In closing, another thing about this album that I love so much is that its success set up BeBe and CeCe for the follow up, which of course is 1988's iconic album Heaven, which we have already featured on Vinyl Revival.  It is my belief that Heaven was one of the 80s best CCM albums, and it is definitely in my top five of the decade.  I was blessed to see BeBe and CeCe on the tour for Heaven, and I have to say, it is one of the best concerts I have ever attended in my entire life, all of which was made possible by success of this self titled release.  Across their complete catalog of work, this brother and sister never made a bad album, and they have certainly earned their place in CCM history, as well as induction in the Gospel Music Association Hall Of Fame just five years ago.  A lot fans would say that our featured album this week was what started that career journey, and I agree wholeheartedly.  So whether it's your first time to hear it, or you're enjoying it for the umpteenth time, I hope you'll give a close listen to this late 80s masterpiece on CCM Classic's Vinyl Revival this week, I believe you'll love it!


Side 1 - 

1. I.O.U. Me  (#1 Hit CCM Magazine Adult Contemporary Chart)

2. I Don't Know Why (featuring The Winans)

3. For Always

4. No Hiding Place

5. Still In Love With You

Side 2 - 

1. Call Me  (Grammy Award Nominee)

2. Love Said Not So (featuring The Winans)  (#8 Hit CCM Magazine Adult Contemporary Chart)

3. Change Your Nature (#6 Hit CCM Magazine Adult Contemporary Chart)

4. In Return

5. He's Coming Soon

1987 Sparrow / EMI Capitol Records

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