by Simon Webbe
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When R&B boy band Blue's chart-dominating four-year career came to an end at the beginning of 2005, few would have predicted that laid-back Mancunian Simon Webbe, arguably the third most utilized vocalist behind frontman Lee Ryan and group pinup Duncan James, would become the solo success story of the band. But while Ryan struggled to pull off his Robbie Williams-esque guitar pop transformation and James' career fizzled out before it really began, Webbe was selling out arenas and crossing over to a much older audience than Blue's predominantly teen fan base, thanks to his polished co-penned debut album, Sanctuary. Eschewing the slick Americanized urban vibes most people were anticipating, its 12 tracks instead focus on a much mellower acoustic sound, which, when combined with Webbe's smooth vocal tones, recalls the sun-drenched soul of '90s duo Lighthouse Family rather than the glossy-produced R&B pop of Usher. Lead single and opening track "Lay Your Hands" bridges the gap between his boy band days and solo career perfectly, its scratched vinyl intro, sweeping strings, and helium-voiced sample cleverly combining the hip-hop-fused pop of Blue with a subtle orchestral production indicating a maturity far beyond that of his bandmates. The "Lean on Me"-esque follow-up "No Worries" raises the bar even higher, an effortless attempt at gospel-soul featuring a glorious female vocal hook that is as empowering as it is uplifting. Elsewhere, the title track echoes the expertly crafted pop
ock of Seal's early-'90s material, the banjo/harmonica-led "Time of Your Life" and the twanging guitars of "Unjustified" see Webbe make a surprising but accomplished stab at country-funk, and the stripped-down "Free" is a gorgeous summery ballad that thankfully avoids the vocal histrionics plaguing many of Blue's slower numbers. Only the skittering old-skool beats of "Only Love" and the dancehall-inflected closing track, "Star," offer any concessions to a more contemporary urban sound. The Gallic-infused "After All This Time" veers a little too close toward bland MOR territory, while "A Little High" is a clunky attempt at neo-soul, but overall, taking the softer, chilled-out approach has paid dividends for Webbe, and Sanctuary is the most confident and melodic debut album from a U.K. boy band member since Robbie Williams' Life Thru a Lens.

Product Details

Release Date: 11/14/2005
Label: Emi Import
UPC: 0094634366823
catalogNumber: 3436682

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Simon Webbe   Primary Artist,Vocals,Background Vocals
Tim Heintz   Keyboards
Chris Braide   Multi Instruments
Martin Harrington   Keyboards
Richardson   Harmonica
John Themis   Guitar
Reed Vertelney   Keyboards,Background Vocals
Simon Hale   Strings,Keyboards
Terence Elliott   Guitar
Steve DuBerry   Background Vocals,Multi Instruments
Ash Howes   Bass
Wayne Hector   Background Vocals
Yvonne John Lewis   Vocals
Tim Woodcock   Background Vocals
Jill Zadeh   Background Vocals
Pete Gordeno   Keyboards,Background Vocals
Matt Prime   Banjo,Bass,Guitar,Mandolin,Accordion,Keyboards,Background Vocals,Multi Instruments

Technical Credits

Chris Braide   Producer
Martin Harrington   Producer
Nick Ingman   String Arrangements
Paul Middleton   Engineer
Bill Padley   Composer
Reed Vertelney   Arranger,Composer,Producer,Engineer,drum programming
Gavyn Wright   Orchestra Leader
M.A.C.   Composer
Steve DuBerry   Programming,Producer
Ancel Duberry   Composer
Ash Howes   Producer
Steve Mac   Producer
Chris Laws   Engineer
Daniel Pursey   Engineer
Tim Woodcock   Producer
Pete Gordeno   Composer
Rob Haggett   Engineer
Reece Gilmore   Programming
Matt Prime   Programming,Producer,String Arrangements

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Sanctuary 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago