Mr Big: What If...

They don’t make ’em like this any more.

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Fourteen years after the desertion of guitarist Paul Gilbert comes the melodic hard rock album that even Mr Big’s four original band members advised us not to expect.

In attaining multi-platinum success and a run of hits, including the ballad To Be With You, the US band scotched the conventional rock’n’roll notion that first-rate musicianly chops and hummable hooks can never be compatible bedfellows.

Produced in an overdub-free whirlwind by the increasingly ubiquitous Kevin Shirley, What If… offers an instant refresher course of the quartet’s talents, from the album’s impressive video calling card of Undertow to the sassy American Beauty (with distinct echoes of bassist Billy Sheehan’s work alongside David Lee Roth), by way of the psychedelic-tinged All The Way Up and the power balladry of Stranger In My Life.

The contributions of Sheehan and Gilbert reach a muscular climax during Around The World, drummer Pat Torpey the silent partner, sticking them together like glue throughout, while Eric Martin’s voice – a mixture of soulful blues wailing and hard rock preening – hasn’t aged a single day over the years since their last outing.

Granted, there’s nothing as saccharine-friendly as To Be With You this time around, but if MTV still played real music, Mr Big would be stars once again.

Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.