Album review: MR BIG- Lean Into It (30th anniversary reissue)

MR BIG- Lean Into It (30th anniversary reissue)

EvoXS (Release Date 23.07.21)

While their debut appeared a couple of years earlier, it was their sophomore effort, ‘Lean Into It’ in 1991 that marked melodic rock supergroup Mr Big’s finest hour. It is of course remembered for their worldwide smash and rather untypical ‘To Be With You’, but was unquestionably their most accomplished album and forms a strong part of their set to this very day.

The album brings back fond memories for me including seeing them twice on that tour, at Hammersmith and at the Marquee the following spring just before the hit went stratospheric. However you know you are getting old when the reissue treatment is given to albums that were already a product of the CD age!

In this 30th anniversary reissue package the album has been remastered using cutting-edge technology, the description of which was greek to me but will appeal to the notoriously musically literate Mr Big fans.

There can’t be many potential new fans to pick up, but the album works on two levels – as a straight album of conventional melodic rock, yet intelligently arranged and brilliantly played in virtuoso style and with an exuberant enjoyment and playful sense of fun – such as the ‘electric drill’ jam between guitarist Paul Gilbert and bassist Billy Sheehan on ‘Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy’.

For those of us who have lived with the album for longer, in addition to those sonic improvements, the main interest is a second disc of additional tracks including those that did not make the final cut. My favourite is ‘Stop Messing Around’, which has quite a dry and bluesy feel yet Eric Martin works his melodic vocal magic on the chorus.  They are all rougher than the final polished Kevin Elson production and indeed ‘Love Makes You Strong’ has an almost punky edge to it.

The inclusion of early versions of ‘Alive and Kicking’ and the classic ‘Green Tinted Sixties Mind’ are of a similar quality and give an interesting ‘before and after’ insight into the development of the album’s sound.

A pair of songs in the excellent ‘Strike Like Lightning’, and ‘Shadows’ came from the pen of outside writers and were both used on the ‘Navy Seals’ soundtrack, though I recognised as later being used for the debut Khymera album.

There is a piano led version of Just Take My Heart’, which anyway I always preferred as the better of the two hit ballads on the album, but the reggae version of ‘To Be With You’ is terrible, albeit perhaps tongue in cheek.

Finally, the disc has two songs apiece without their bass and guitar tracks which the press release says are ‘especially made for musicians to jam with’. Normally this would come over as parody, but Mr Big always attracted that type of fan! And for an insight into their wider appeal, from muso types to housewives worldwide in the early nineties, this expanded version of their milestone album will do just nicely. **** 1/2

Review by Andy Nathan

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