Frontiers Records [Release Date 29.09.14]
Mr Big appear to be back to stay, despite the unfortunate news of drummer Pat Torpey’s progressive illness. Three years after returning with the somewhat dry sounding ‘What If’, this latest release sees them back with all their old vigour.
The ‘supergroup’s trademark, that of combining virtuosos musicianship with traditional melodic rock songcraft, seems rejuvenated. Billy Sheehan’s upfront bass is always a big part of the sound and guitar musos will find much to appreciate in Paul Gilbert’s subtle solos and arpeggios.
Yet at the same time Eric Martin’s vocal melodies, even if a touch huskier and more lived in than in his heyday, give the end result a real accessibility on songs such as ‘Fragile’, which would surely have followed the likes of ‘To Be With You’ and ‘Just Take My Heart’ into the charts in their heyday.
Openers ‘Gotta Love The Ride’ and ‘Forget To Breathe’ fairly crackle out of the starting gate with fresh sounding riffs and enough twists and turns to keep things interesting within the confines of the song.
But the album’s other delight is the frequent changes of tempo with no successive song sounding the same: The likes of ‘Satisfied’ and the ‘Monster In Me’ have a bluesy, raunchy feel, while on the likes of ‘Just Let Your Heart Decide’ Eric is very firmly given his melodic head.
In particular ‘East/West’ has the stirring melodies and sound driven by a mixture of electric and acoustic guitars acoustically driven sound that Bon Jovi should be producing had Jon Bon Jovi not lost his mojo.
There is a slight dip in quality near the end with ‘Cinderella Smile’ and the title track perhaps insufficiently distinctive from what has gone before, plus a bonus live version of debut album classic ‘Addicted To That Rush’.
The latter seems unnecessary as it detracts from the fact that these relative veterans have delivered one of the finest and freshest albums of their career. There are unlikely to be many melodic rock albums this year with this all-round strength. *****
Review by Andy Nathan
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