Well here we are. 2011. 20 years after Mr Big hit the (very) big time with ‘To Be With You’. A #1 single in a shitload of countries around the World. Implosion was not far away, with a certain Mr Sheehan going on record stating that he’d never work with Eric Martin again
Ah, but 20 yrs apart is a great healer, and no doubt so is the money that’s available to them in the lucrative Japanese market. The last few years has been a veritable feast of band reformation, with lots of bands, small and almost large, either trying to recreate that ‘classic sound’, or better still, that ‘classic album’ of whatever specific 1980 year they last hit their hey-day. I remember as an excited 22 yr old bringing home their awesome debut on vinyl! I can comfortably confirm that the Mr. Big reformation has been done for the greater good, and no doubt the whole of the rock community that embraced them all those years ago will certainly embrace them once again after hearing the quite fabulous ‘What If?’ For me, the Mr Big reformation is the biggest one yet
It’s quite clear from the offset that Mr Big mean BIG BUSINESS. Opening track ‘Undertow’ is one of the finest melodic rock songs you will witness in 2011. Its that good, it would grace either of the first two Mr Big albums. As a band Mr Big have brought their A game to the table. Writing, composition and overall musicianship have not lost any lustre. For me the ace in the hole is a certain Mr Martin. His vocals are as good now as they ever have been, plus judging by the band pics, he hasn’t aged a year in the last twenty. What a bastard!
The album flows very nicely into Mr Big typical rocker mode for ‘American Beauty’ and proves that they are not just in it for a quick buck. ‘What If?’ judders slightly with the subdued lyrical content of ‘Stranger In My Life’ but its by no means shite. I prefer my perception of Mr Big to be ripping the floor up with typical fret blasting wizardry of Messrs Gilbert and Sheehan, which is what we get with ‘Still Ain’t Enough For Me’which definitely has its leanings towards ‘Addicted To That Rush’. ‘What If’ is a heavier proposition than previous Mr Big albums, and I thoroughly applaud them for that. That said, we still get the now obligatory ballad in ‘All The Way Up’. The album finishes off strong with the mid paced ‘I Wont Get In My Way’, with its (ever so) catchy chorus. The next track, Around The World’ has Sheehan showcasing his immense bass talents.
The debut was as much about the interplay between Gilbert and Sheehans shedding, with Torpey and Martin being almost underrated members. Not any more. All they guys play major parts in 2011 Mr Big. Torpey is the glue holding it all together, allowing for the now trademarked interplay between Sheehan and Gilbert, with the added polish coming from Martin’s (still) amazing vocal quality.
As a comeback album, its positively amazing. As a modern piece of work in 2011, its not far behind either. It may not entice new followers into the Mr Big coven, but existing fans will be crapping themselves in excitement at this quality release. Almost awesome!