Simon Webbe, previously from the boyband Blue, is the unlikely candidate among the four members to be the first to come up with a solo CD but here it is. Sanctuary is nothing like the music of Blue, instead it is a mellow and melodic without coming too much as background music material for bistros.
Mr Webbe doesn’t try to be boyband-pinup sexy here, instead he chooses to take the Lighthouse Family route, singing about love and hope like an enlightened guru who just happens to have the body of a sex god. Wonderful songs like A Little High and Lay Your Hands seem like dirty little ditties to drugs and sex but they turn out to be gentle songs about feeling the exuberance of being in love and finding strength in life from the comforting touch of a loved one respectively.
There’s a surprising dip into country in Unjustified that actually works very well in an unorthodox yet fun manner, and Mr Webbe comes off as pretty cheeky in here. Even at the CD’s most upbeat moments in tracks like Ashamed, Mr Webbe manages to sound laid back and confident of himself. The integration of African chants in the reggae-influenced Star may seem contrived in the hands of other artists but Mr Webbe manages to carry himself off very well. And no, while that song may sound like something Smash Mouth would do, it’s not a cover of Smash Mouth’s hit single.
Kinda like a male version of Des’ree crossed with Lighthouse Family, Simon Webbe comes up with a charming winner of a debut where not one track feels like a dud filler. Sanctuary may take a while to get into considering the overall mellow vibes of the CD but once it catches on, it holds on hard and won’t let go. Listening to this CD is like drinking a delicious cup of smooth hot chocolate – too enjoyable for words. Fans missing the grooves of Paul Tucker and Tunde Baiyewu may feel reassured that Simon Webbe seems keen on capturing the finer sounds of pop smoothed over with jazzy elements.