CD Review: Mr. Big – ... The Stories We Could Tell

CD Review: Mr. Big – ... The Stories We Could Tell
Frontiers Music s.r.l.
All Access Rating: A-

Mr. Big - ... The Stories We Could Tell 2014
"To Be With You" had hit written all over it. Spun from pure acoustic guitar gold, with pleading hooks, a sunny disposition and a gushing romantic sensibility, it brought Mr. Big worldwide fame and fortune. Even the overwhelmingly dour grunge movement couldn't darken its glow.

Somehow, even as other like-minded acts were being publicly flogged for their crass commercialism and lack of substance, Mr. Big's sterling reputation for world-class musicianship survived all that completely intact. ... The Stories We Could Tell, the band's second album since a 2009 reunion of the original lineup, won't tarnish it any.

Always able to walk that fine line between crafting accessible pop metal and punching out nasty, bluesy rockers like the sizzling "The Light of Day," the bumping and grinding "It's Always About That Girl" or the swaggering "What If We Were New" – all off the new record – Mr. Big's appeal was never limited to love-sick girls, high-brow musos or scowling, testosterone-fueled metal heads. They found a middle ground, as they do here, with the big, gusty strumming and flooding harmonies of "Eastwest" and the aching beauty, thorny hooks and tough, tenderized heart of "Fragile" hitting all the sonic erogenous zones. "Fragile" is the kind of song Def Leppard should be making.

Of course, it helps to have one of the most dynamic bass players in rock history in Billy Sheehan and a high-flying guitarist such as Paul Gilbert, not to mention a versatile, soulful singer in Eric Martin and the well-manicured bashing of drummer Pat Torpey. Sparks fly as they put their blazing chops on display throughout ... The Stories We Could Tell, the hard funk of "I Forget to Breathe" updating Jimi Hendrix's "Crosstown Traffic" for the 21st century, while "Gotta Love the Ride," and the title track mix slinky, laid-back grooves with Zeppelin-like power and mystique.

Lance the boil that is the plodding "Cinderella Smile" and take the leash off Gilbert, as they do on a smoldering, hot-wired "The Monster In Me," and Mr. Big ends up tearing the roof off the place on ... The Stories We Could Tell. The production is striking and bold, heightening the band's kinetic energy, as well as its obvious vim and vigor. Mr. Big has never sounded ... well, this big.
– Peter Lindblad

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