Mr. Big – Defying Gravity (Album Review)
Mr. Big is a band that rose to prominence back in 1992. Their sound was all over the radio, MTV and even late night television back in the day. Songs like “To Be With You”, “Just Take My Heart” and “Green-Tinted Sixties Mind” brought them world-wide recognition. Shining a bright light on an incredibly talented group of musicians that includes Eric Martin (Vocals), Billy Sheehan (Bass), Paul Gilbert (Guitar) and Pat Torpey (Drums). Sheehan and Gilbert are often highly ranked on lists of the greatest musicians to ever pick up an instrument and rightfully so. Both are as unique as they come, but their ability to meld their talents behind those great melodies and harmonies makes for a truly dynamic duo. Few others can blend so well, yet still shine through.
After a great run though, Grunge happened. The arrival of Nirvana, Alice In Chains and Soundgarden completely changed everything. Radio and MTV changed almost overnight and so did the musical landscape for which Mr. Big had found so much success within. They put out several albums after the classic ‘Lean Into It’, but none would ever rival it’s succcess. I tell you all this for one reason, just because the spotlight may have faded on many bands from that era, the quality of Mr. Big’s songs never wavered. Eventually, the band broke up in 2002. The fans never let go though and the band finally picked up the torch to continue on and haven’t looked back since.
Obviously, that’s why we’re here. The band is about to unleash their ninth studio album, titled ‘Defying Gravity’. The album as a whole is as solid as a rock, but as with any album, some tracks shine a bit brighter. So let’s make our own little list of highlights. Shall we?
Mr. Big – Defying Gravity:
Busting out of the gate with the throttle wide open, Mr. Gilbert slaps you silly with a riff that immediately sets the tone for the entire album. “Open Your Eyes” is classic Mr. Big and for me, it’s perfect. I often say that music is the closest thing we have to an actual time machine, this track took me back to a time when guitarists like Jake E. Lee with Badlands were melting faces and I absolutely love it.
“Everybody Needs A Little Trouble” keeps the throttle nailed to the floor, as Mr. Gilbert is yet again unleashed with an infectious riff. This song will have you scratching your head as to how on earth the band completed this record in only six days. Granted, the talent is off the charts and there was familiarity with their original producer in Kevin Elson, but come on…six days? Most bands haven’t finished drum tracks in six days. But I digress, this one is a definite highlight.
Mr. Big – Everybody Needs A Little Trouble:
“Mean To Me” continues the rifftastic journey and has the breathing room to not only settle into a solid groove, but deliver a technical performance that few musicians can approach. If you weren’t a fan of Gilbert or Sheehan before this one, you will be after this track.
I mentioned earlier in this article about music being a time machine and that’s exactly what you get with “1992”. The band resurrects their classic style and reminisce within the lyrics, to fully transport the band and fans back to 1992. The harmonies on this track are fantastic and are as good as they get. So I suggest you strap on your helmet and goggles before you listen to this one, because it’s a definite trip!
The album ends on a song titled, “Be Kind”. It’s a bluesy, groove-oriented track that allows Eric Martin to deliver his most natural and eloquent performance on the album. I love to hear a guitarist that can play as fast and technically as Paul Gilbert, but it’s when he slows it down and plays soulfully in the pocket that you can truly appreciate just how good he really is. The laid back atmosphere is like a parachute to help you ease back down to earth after taking you on a fantastic musical jaunt across the time and space continuum. That is of course until they dust your pants off by kicking your ass on a 1:30 jam session to close it all up. A perfect red bow on this musical gift, if you will.
Overall, the album is, as I said, very solid. If I had one complaint, and it’s more of a personal preference, I wouldn’t have so many ballads. I understand that’s part of who they are, but the ballads on this album seem to break the momentum for me. As soon as I’m jamming and ready to play air guitar, it slows down. Again, just a preference, not a knock. They’re quality songs, but I wanna rock!
If you were a fan back in the day, you will certainly be a fan of this album. All the elements that you fell in love with are there, but just as a fine wine does, they’ve gotten better as time has moved along.