This is good - but could have been great if they'd only have leaned into it a bit more...
Late eighties supergroup Mr Big, apart from a decade-long hiatus at the start of this century, have been part of the hard rock furniture for a while now. Much longer if you count their collective endeavours before coming together as an entity, and it’s that experience that drips from every pore of this, their ninth album.
I suspect it would have been too much to expect a Green Tinted Sixties Mind or even a Take Cover in 2017, but they band have assembled a collection of hard rock easy listening that will comfort long term listeners as much as stimulate them.
Eric Martin is in good voice – especially on Forever and Back – Paul Gilbert is occasionally minded to whip out the odd face-melting bit of fretwork and Billy Sheehan provides the backbone and some spine tingling vocal harmonies just like he always did. Only Pat Torpey, cruelly struck down by Parkinson’s disease, is not the equivalent of his 1989 self (he’s ably supported by Matt Starr throughout), so of course there’s a level of professionalism and songwriting class here that’s a given, and the band let nobody down in that respect.
However things do get a little soporific in places, with Martin’s command to ‘hit me’ at the end of Nothing at All sounding a little perfunctory, whilst the closing blues of Be Kind allows the album to peter out in a disappointing damp squib of a closer. And at seven minutes long, that’s a lot of squib… even without the minute-long shredding jam at the end of the track.
It’s not all somnolence, though. 1992 is a spritely and affectionate look back at the band’s heyday which houses Martin’s best performance on the album alongside Forever and Back, whilst opener Open Your Eyes kicks things off with a steely glint in the eye and a spring in the step.
Other highlights include the pop grunge (and there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type) of She’s All Coming Back to Me Now, which has a nice ring of Everclear to it, whilst the dreamy intro and verses to Nothing Bad (Bout Feeling Good) belies the muscular riffwork of the chorus.
So, there you have it. A pleasant experience from start to finish, and sometimes on a warm Summer afternoon with a beer in hand that’ll be enough for long term Mr Big Fans; but for those looking for a statement album from these four titans of hard rock, I’m afraid disappointment awaits. Just love this for what it is, and all will be well.
Mr Big release their ninth studio album, Defying Gravity, through Frontiers Music on July 21st.