Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Review: Mr. Big “What If…”

Rock/Melodic rock
Mr. Big should need no introduction to most readers – one of the rock super groups formed in 1988, consisting of Eric Martin (vocals), Paul Gilbert (guitarist), Pat Torpey (drums), and Billy Sheehan (bass). Despite a notable debut, Mr. Big really hit it big with 1991’s “Lean Into It”, which spawned the # 1 cross-over smash “To Be With You”. This sweet acoustic tune was a departure for Mr. Big at the time, but seemed to steer the band into soft melodic rock territory for the next several follow up albums. By year 14 the band called it quits.

So what if the original line up got back together for a reunion record? Would the band be able to recapture its winning sound twenty years later? The new record, the first Mr. Big record in 10 years, gives us a chance to find out. Our first taste of these seasoned AOR masters comes with “Undertow”...and what an awesome way to remind us of the abundance of talent in this band. Martin’s vocals – kept in shape from an active solo career – sound as if he hasn’t aged a day. His smoky rasp is ideal for the genre and it is a shame we don’t hear it on the radio in this day and age. Sheehan’s fingers are still as dexterous as ever, crawling up and down the bass like spiders on steroids. Musically, these guys haven’t missed a beat.

After a promising opener, the band slides into their comfortable boogie-woogie groove in “American Beauty”, which sounds very “Colorado Bulldog”. Meh. It doesn’t take long for the band to slip into another comfort zone for them in the power ballad “Stanger In My Life” – but wow, do they knock this one out of the park – great chord changes, super harmonies, and decent lyrics. This one may be their best since “Just Take My Heart”. “Nobody Left To Blame” is also engaging, with its mix of acoustic and electric guitars over thundering drums – every member gets a few seconds of the spotlight on this one. After a few mediocre songs, “All The Way Up” wakes us back up with a compelling melody and radio-friendly blend of sound. This is followed by a string of excellent cuts, including a terrific gritty rocker called “I Won't Get In My Way” and a feel good sing-a-long in “I Get The Feeling”.

“What If…” is a great start to a reunion and on its way to becoming my second favorite Mr. Big record (behind “Lean Into It”). Hopefully pigs will continue to fly and we’ll hear even bigger hooks from Mr. Big.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11

Mr. Big official site.

Check out the video for “Undertow”