Mr. Big is a familiar name to many rock fans, and the names of the members of that band should be equally as familiar. A super group comprised of Paul Gilbert (Guitar), Billy Sheehan (Bass), Eric Martin (Vocals), and Pat Torpey (Drums), Mr. Big is a quartet that can bring the thunder as well as deliver a quintessential 80’s ballad. With a legacy of hits like “Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy” and “To Be with You”, Mr. Big has certainly cemented its place in the musical lexicon. Never content to rest on their laurels (read my interview with Billy Sheehan here), Mr. Big has launched their newest album, Defying Gravity.
The album starts with a fuzzed out guitar and bass groove on “Open Your Eyes.” A few things pop out almost immediately. The first is Eric Martin’s vocal performance, which continues to be rock solid, and how it combines with the backing vocals from the rest of the band. It certainly sounds like classic Mr. Big. Then the jamming starts, and the rhythm section smoothly moves between mid-tempo groove and signature Gilbert arpeggiated shredding. “Defying Gravity” amps up the pop, delivering a catchy and melodic intro which becomes the continuing theme in the track.
“Everybody Needs a Little Trouble” is a song that really emphasizes how in sync the instrumental part of Mr. Big is. Billy Sheehan owns the low end like not many bassists can, and this was on display when they played the Newton Theater in Newton New Jersey (review here). So often you’ll see one guitar bands lose their wall-to-wall sound when the guitarist hits the solo, but Sheehan keeps the big sound alive. “Mean to Me” has what might be the coolest opening riff on the album, a staccato tremolo picked run that comes in later on as the chorus. Oh, and if you forgot that Gilbert and Sheehan are two of the most talented instrumentalists on the planet, there is even a dueling solo. This is by far my favorite track on the album.
The next few tracks are a return to the softer side of the Mr. Big sounds, featuring excellent harmonies and a few more ballad moments, before kicking back in “1992” which pokes a little self-aware fun at the bands history, and their dealings with record companies who made the band wear “somebody’s shirt that I didn’t choose”.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this album. I’ve been a avid listener of the band for a while, but a classic band putting out new material is always a bit nerve wracking. But after finally seeing them live, and listening to the newest album, my misgivings evaporated in the smoke of burning guitar strings and glorious vocal reverb. I may have been born only one year before “1992”, but I know incredible rock when I hear it. Defying Gravity gets an 8/10, and a fan waiting breathlessly for their return to the East Coast.