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Mr. Big - What If

Frontiers Records (Warner Bros)

by Edwin van Hoof

Mr. Big - What IfI have to admit being slightly anxious towards the release of the new Mr. Big CD. The reunion tour was a successful endeavor, but the release of the live CD/DVD with it's additional studio tracks just didn't tickle the senses. So, what if...

"What If" is the new full blown release of the band destroying my prejudice instantly! From the excellent opening single release "Undertow", all the way to the end, this album rocks hard. Pumping hard rock, loud,yet melodic, powerful yet emotional, with a keen ear for ear mingling choruses, choirs and hooks. Songs like the opening track, "Once upon a Time" and the stormy "As Far As I Can See" are classic 'Big' tunes. A higher pace is injected into the furious shuffling "American Beauty", "Still Ain't Enough For Me" with excellent vocal work from Martin, and the bass/guitar eruption in "Around The World". Balancing this sheer power are finger licking beautiful songs like the semi ballad "Nobody Takes The Blame" and the emotional and heartfelt "All The Way Up". The last one perhaps their finest ballad to date.

For musicians and fans of outstanding musical craftsmanship there's a lot to enjoy. Billy Sheehan plays and slaps his bass like in his prime, almost as if he's playing the six string. Loud and passionate. Paul Gilbert lays down some of the finest riffs, licks and solos, combining his personal best from Racer X (power and speed), Mr. Big (groove) and his solo work (skill and tricks). The interaction between them is infectious and inspiring, almost magical. Underlining it all with the driven powerful drumming of Pat Torpey. Spotlight however is still on the amazing vocal work of Eric Martin who simply doesn't seem to age, nor does his voice. Soulful, powerfully and emotional, he provides the extra's making this a top notch CD. On top, the vocal interaction between the members is simply magnificent. Check out "I Get The Feeling" and "Still Ain't Enough For Me"; trademark Mr. Big tunes!

Kevin Shirley managed to capture the vibe of the band as performing on stage creating magic so many nights throughout their career. Full frontal and in your face, hard and driving without downgrading the overall studio sound. A true live feeling captured in the standard of today's expectations.

"What If"; A captivating joyride from the most talented and skillful band known in rock history. Inspired and energetic playing, great vocal work and excellent song writing making this album a must for fans of the genre.

And, I will go as far as stating this album to be their very best release topping their classics!

10 out of 10