Mr. Big – What If… Album Review

Good old fashioned rock and roll never goes out of style and Mr. Big have proven that yet again with their new record What If… After a long hiatus you’d think these veterans would either have lost their edge or conformed to some modern ideal of what rock and roll should sound like. Nope. Mr. Big does things the old fashioned way using the old fashioned tools of songwriting skill, rock and roll swagger, and skillful musicianship. Mr. Big is most well known for their hit To Be With You but be assured this is an album that rocks hard. Nearly every song is a winner; the only bump in the road is the mediocre ballad, ‘All the Way Up’.

Mr. Big is made up of four talented musicians that when put together equal more than the sum of their parts. At the forefront of Mr. Big’s talent pool are the mighty axemen Paul Gilbert on guitar and Billy Sheehan on bass. Both of these badasses have chops, tone, and personality galore. They are far more than just mindless shredders. Sheehan’s classic bass tone and skill are displayed in full force. And Paul Gilbert employs a restrained and sweet guitar tone with a raw edge to his speedy yet tasty leads. Pat Torpey’s accurate, solid drumming gives his bandmates room to shine.
All the great musicianship in the world doesn’t mean crap if the songs aren’t good. And that’s where Mr. Big rises above the rest of the pack with this album. What If is packed with infectious hard rock songs. The arrangements highlight the catchy riffs and build to hook filled choruses; and each tune is peppered with a perfect amount guitar and bass fills to make things more interesting without being overdone. Most of the lyrics are about relationships but they’re not sappy about it. An example is ‘I Wont Get In My Way’:

I don’t want to burn the life of my candle
Waiting around for a better day
I’ll take a chance on fates middle finger
And be someone I’ve never been

They cover some tried and true rock and roll subject matter as well; a notable piece is ‘Stranger in my Life’ which could have a double meaning but is ostensibly about a soldier who feels lost. The song affects more poignancy delivering these lyrics in the context of a ballad:

There was a vision, decisions made
To mold me out of clay
Taken away my wings
The man I’m supposed to be
Now is the enemy

Finally, over all the rocking riffs is Eric Martin’s soulful voice carrying the strong melodies to put the perfect cherry on top of this hard rock sundae. If you’re a fan of hard rock in the tradition of Thin Lizzy, Uriah Heep, King’s X, and of course Free (where Mr. Big’s namesake came from), this is a record you should not miss.

Here are a couple of tunes from What If…

Nobody Left to Blame

Stranger in my Life