Thursday, April 14, 2011


I remember that day back in 1989 when I couldn't wait to throw in a new CD from Billy Sheehan's new band, Mr. Big. That self-titled debut roared out of the gate with "Addicted To That Rush" and addicted to this band I was. Mr. Big is a foursome of some of the finest musicians in the world. Eric Martin on vocals, Billy Sheehan on bass, Paul Gilbert on guitar and Pat Torpey on drums. (In 1999 guitar virtuoso Richie Kotzen replaces Gilbert on guitar who departed in 1997). Although they are tremendous musicians with a penchant for hard rock and have recorded some rockin' tunes they are most widely known for their breakout hit and ballad, "To Be With You". Including their debut they released six studio albums from 1989-2001. They also released eight live albums. All their live albums targeted the Japanese audience. Unlike here in the US where their success was fleeting with the singles "To Be With You"(1991) and "Wild World"(1993) Mr. Big were bonafide superstars in Japan and are still revered as rock star heroes. The band has also released four compilations or best of collections.

The original lineup reformed in 2009 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their self titled debut with a tour of Japan. It's success lead to the band recording their first album of new material since Actual Size(2001). The result of those recordings is the twelve track (11 + "bonus track") offering titled "What If...".

The first track, "Undertow", also the first single off the album, easily could have been on those first three masterpieces of hard rock, pop & glam metal (Mr. Big, Lean into it, Bump Ahead). Strong vocals, a chorus accompanied by that familiar sound and a killer solo. Yes indeed, you are listening to a Mr. Big record. Followed up by "American Beauty" a pure rock you to the bone tune that will have your fist in the air and banging your head.

Not every song on this record is a gem but I wouldn't call any of them clunkers either. It is without question a solid collection of tracks that any Mr. Big fan will enjoy and easily slip into their rotation of the bands previous works. People who find Mr. Big for the first time with this album will get an honest flavor of the band and will certainly want to get a hold of the earlier stuff.

"All The Way Up" is the one true ballad on the album. Eric Martin has proven in the past that he can handle the hard and heavy in your face rock song then turn around and nail the soft pull at your heart strings ballad. His performance here is no exception. Although "As Far As I Can See" is without question the song that Eric's vocal talents shine the most.

Let us not forget the bassist in this band. Mr. Sheehan shines through on "Around The World" but this entire album has a killer rythm section throughout thanks to Sheehan and Torpey. It's hard not to appreciate how well these great musicians compliment each other in all their work.

Paul Gilbert's fantastic throughout the record but is certainly the high point of "Unforgiven" the aforementioned bonus track.

This is a solid record but a terrific band that has a lot left in the tank. They kicked off a world tour in support of this record on April 2nd. If you get a chance go see this band live. They're tremendous in person.

WHAT IF... Complete Track Listing

1. Undertow
2. American Beauty
3. Stranger In My Life
4. Nobody Left To Blame
5. Still Ain't Enough For Me
6. Once Upon A Time
7. As Far As I Can See
8. All The Way Up
9. I Won't Get In My Way
10. Around The World
11. I Get The Feeling
12. Unforgiven (Bonus Track)

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