by J. Joe Smith
The summer of 2017, July to be exact, brings with the summer heat a new release by Mr. Big. Their ninth album titled Defying Gravity on Frontiers Music SRL is everything you would expect from this super-group from the eighties, and they are still rockin’ as strong as ever. The great news is, the four original members are on board for this project. Eric Martin (vocals), Paul Gilbert (guitars), Billy Sheehan (bass) and Pat Torpey (drums). The project is produced by Kevin Elson, and Matt Starr lends his support on some of the drum parts, because of Torpey’s recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
Defying Gravity only took the band six days to finish, no real surprise there since this is the elite of rock. Gilbert and Sheehan are known for their virtuosity in technique, speed and melodic finger twisters. The eleven tracks are pure Mr. Big, they did not try to reinvent the wheel, they just keep pumping out great rock ‘n’ roll.
The title track starts with Gilbert’s finger pickin’ a catchy figure with band hits that develop into the groove. Martin’s vocals are rich and full. The track is just what you want from Mr. Big, high energy levels, catchy guitar riffs, outstanding vocals and a guitar solo that combines jaw dropping technique with a melodic sense. The group displays their song writing chops on this one, with multiple song sections and interludes and a strong chorus.
“Everybody Needs a Little Trouble” has a bluesy riff, groovy phrases with the bass doubling and the drums laying down the perfect rock shuffle. Sheehan’s big bass sound is so solid, his feel with the drums is something magical. Gilbert’s solo is full of notes, but each one has heart and builds to make an energetic solo that will satisfy any guitar aficionado.
“1992” is a tour de force of shred, Gilbert and Sheehan display burning fret work for the intro and the drums brilliantly support the two along the way. Martin’s vocals give the melody all the right attitude with a good chorus. Gilbert’s solo will bring back a nostalgic feel of the amazing guitar playing that was commonplace in the eighties and nineties. Not to be missed or ignored, the band also has a nice vocal harmony section to let your ears cool down for just one second from all that burnin’ playing!
Defying Gravity is a must have for music lovers that enjoy guitar, bass, drum and vocals. The album sports chops and offers fresh sounding riffs and melodies. It’s obvious Mr. Big has the fire still brightly burning, and they have not lost an ounce of bite.
Tracks to sample first: “Defying Gravity,” “Everybody Needs a Little Trouble,” “Mean to Me” and “1992.” The song to take a chance on is “Forever and Back.” The music stands on its own, we could simply marvel at the pyrotechnics, but because of the band’s serious sense of timing and close attention to melodies, we hear music!