Mr. Big broke up in 2002 but after fan interests & requests came pouring in they reformed in 2009 and did a tour of Japan. The success of that and consequent performances, including two dates in India, convinced them to stick together and in January of 2011 they released their first studio album in 10 years titled What If….. Also this album sees the return of original guitarist Paul Gilbert who had left the band in 1999 to pursue his solo career, which had seen some success and a few albums put out to guitar enthusiasts’ acclaim.
The album was recorded between September–October 2010 in a Los Angeles-area studio with producer Kevin Shirley (Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, Rush), and was supported by a world tour this year.
The album starts at a fast pace with lead single Undertow, galloping on the strength of drummer Pat Torpey’s boom boom sounds. You are treated to their trademark musicianship (all excellent at their instrument of choice), solid vocals and harmonies. “All dressed up in the red, white & blue” as singer Eric Martin remarks in the intro, American Beauty reminds me a lot of Colorado Bulldog from their 1993 release Bump Ahead. Stranger In My Life is a self reflective song, a ballad done in the style they are best know for. A melodic guitar riff starts off the next song, until the banging drums takes over – Nobody Left To Blame is not their best song but the bass & guitars still shine on this track.
Still Not Enough For Me which sets the album into a pedal to the metal pace, with bassist extraordinaire Billy Sheehan leading the way with his bass lines. The pace doesn’t slow down for Once Upon A Time, which is sure to be a concert favourite and probably the best song on the album. Whoever said that Mr. Big was a ballad band? In As Far As I Can See singer Martin shines all through, flexing his vocal abilities to it’s finest. The band takes the foot of the gas just enough to give us a delightful little number in All The Way Up, very melodic and a crowd pleaser to the crowd. It’s a love song, instantly memorable and one for the ages. A mid tempo break comes up in I Won’t Get In My Way, with harmonizing chorus vocals and thoughtful lyrics and a solid guitar solo. It’s about correcting your flaws and finding what it takes to get stuff done.
Around The World sees the trio of musicians click together like one unit, supporting Eric’s vocals and like much of this record, features a blistering bass line from Sheehan. A melodic rocker is I Get The Feeling – sunshine, top down on the car, riding along the beach sides and the music playing loudly – that’s what this song reminds me of. Kill Me With A Kiss is a bonus track, I think for the Japanese version only, which I have. Gilbert’s guitar shines & shreds, Pat Torpey’s drums are bombastic and Sheehan is awesome as always and Eric does some well done vocals. I missed them when they were gone. All’s well with the world now. Here is the video for Undertow; enjoy!