Mr Big was a hair metal supergroup put together by Billy Sheehan after he left the David Lee Roth band. Being one of the few bass superstars of the era, he had no trouble attracting Paul Gilbert, formerly of Racer X. Pat Torpey and Eric Martin rounded out the group who, in true 80s fashion, had lots of high octane guitar heavy tracks but had a number one single in 15 countries with an acoustic track about casual sex and followed up with another acoustic song, a Cat Stevens cover.
The band has been reunited since 2009, and has released two albums in that time, ‘What if…’ in 2010 and ‘…The stories we could tell’ in 2014. The album opens with ‘Open your eyes’, a riff driven rocker with more than it’s share of shredding. It’s classic Mr. Big. The title track is next, and with it’s harmony guitar intro, once again the focus is on these shredders bringing strong melodies and songs to the table. Pat Torpey has Parkinson’s and is no longer playing with Mr. Big live, but his drums sound solid and strong on record.
The solo for ‘Everybody needs a little trouble’ is pure blues. The great thing about Mr. Big has always been a bunch of guys who can play rings around most people, but who play for the song and create accessible music rather than just a shred fest. This song has more groove than anyone ever expected from 80s shredders.
Damn, I’m in love again is an upbeat, acoustic rock song. Mean to me has a busy riff but is still strong on melody. ‘Nothing Bad (Bout feeling good)’ is another acoustic song that veers more in to ballad territory. As the tracks flow by, the versatility of this group is on display, with each song strong and also very different to the ones that came before. Consistently, there’s fast guitar playing as Gilbert shows his chops but there’s never a feeling of showing off or of the playing not being in thrall to the quality of the songs.
Forever and Back has a strong chorus and screams radio friendly single. From here the album rounds off with a bevy of songs in the same vein, great musicians, but also strong song writing. The soul stylings and slide guitar of Be Kind, clocking in at over 7 minutes, with the last minute or so a freewheeling jam, make a satisfying end to a high-quality album
There is obviously not as much money in this sort of music as there was in 1990, but the overall feeling is of a band of top notch musicians freed from record companies demanding a single and creating the sort of music they love. The song 1992 has a chorus of ‘I was number one in 1992’, and that about sums it up. These guys paid their dues, proved their worth, had their hits and now they are self-confident enough to do what they want, on their own terms. The whole album is infectiously joyous and a lot of fun to listen to.