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Mr. Big - 'What If...' http://ns2.rocktopiarecords.com/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/5e/50/4b/935_MrBigWhatIf_1295991226.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     January 25, 2011    
 
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I just wanted a new album from these guys, and was happy to get it. I hoped it would be this good, but I needn't have worried.

Mr. Big are a band who constantly surprise. First of all they attracted a supergroup tag, along with a virtuoso label mostly due to the dextrous digits of Paul Gilbert and bass player Billy Sheehan, only to score their biggest hit with an acoustic ballad. Then, those fans of Mr. Big who thought there was no future without Paul Gilbert were proven wrong when Richie Kotzen stepped up to the plate and helped create another two great albums, before things collapsed internally and the band bit the dust in 2002. Many people (myself included) thought that was that, but take it from me, I've never been so happy to eat humble pie. Jump to last year, and the original line of of Eric Martin, Billy Sheehan, Pat Torpey and Paul Gilbert got together in Asia to celebrate the anniversary of their debut album. This spawned a full blown tour, the excellent 'Back To Budokan' album, a new greatest hits package with two 'new' songs on, and a whole lotta hope for the future.

So, now that the unlikely reunion has taken place and spawned a record, how does it measure up? Well, I must say, I'm really rather pleased with 'What If'. The cover depicting a flying pig about says it all, but the music contained within is yet another surprise. I was expecting the band to have put together another fine collection of mature songs containing a couple of blistering rockers, some superbly written ballads from Eric Martin and Andre Pessis, a couple of mid tempo songs... basically to pick up where 'Hey Man' left off, by putting out an album that might as well have had the sticker 'Craftsmen At Work' on the front. This album easily rocks harder than the others though. While opener 'Undertow' isn't a million miles away from what the guys have done before, 'American Beauty' follows it with breakneck pace that puts it in the 'Colorado Bulldog' category. 'Nobody Takes The Blame' actually sounds like it could have come off 'Get Over It', and 'Still Ain't Enough For Me' is another pacy powerhouse with a bassline that could only be Billy Sheehan. There's some excellent interplay between he and Gilbert in the middle eight here, before Gilbert launches into a scorching solo, followed by a textbook bass flurry from Billy.

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The ballad side of the band is represented by 'Stranger In My Life' and has all the Mr Big hallmarks you'd expect - but it's slow pace puts it very much in the minority compared to most of the material here. 'Once Upon A Time' and 'I Won't Get In My Way' are another pair of great rockers where Gilbert's guitar tone is darker than his previous work with the band. 'All The Way Up' is basically exactly what I was expecting - this is classic Mr Big and could have sat comfortably on 'Hey Man'. 'I Get The Feeling' is awesome with it's catchy chorus and bouncy verse. 'Around The World' is yet another one with a fast pace and some superb drum work from Torpey in between the blistering assault of notes from Gilbert. On top of all this is Eric Martin, one of the most consistent vocalists around and one of my all time favourites. He sounds as good on this record as ever.

With Kevin Shirley at the helm, the album crackles with energy - he is famed for liking first takes and this does sound a lot less polished than some Mr. Big albums - not that that makes it bad! For fans of Sheehan and Gilbert, they cut loose on this like they did on the first album. For fans of Mr. Big in general, this album rocks hard and with all the quality the band ooze. I just wanted a new album from these guys, and was happy to get it. I hoped it would be this good, but I needn't have worried. 'What If' was well worth he wait!

James Gaden

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