Mr. Big still does it big with ‘What If …’

Mr. Big
What If…
Frontiers (FR CD 505)

By Michael Popke

Mr. Big pretends it’s the 1990s all over again with “What If…” — the band’s first studio album with the original four members in 14 years. You heard that right: Vocalist Eric Martin, guitarist Paul Gilbert, bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer Pat Torpey have reunited to create another loud-and-proud album of pop-metal shredding with famed producer Kevin Shirley.

Nothing here stands out like the acoustic ditty “To Be With You,” which hit No. 1 in several countries in 1992. But there are ballads worthy of a flickering lighter, and the raucous “American Beauty” recalls “Shy Boy” and “Addicted to that Rush” — earlier songs that Mr. Big executed so well, but which left little lasting impact.

The band sounds tighter and sharper than expected after such a long absence, and when Mr. Big cuts loose on “Around the World” and “Nobody Left to Blame” — Martin, Torpey, Sheehan and Gilbert finding their collective groove — “What If…” seems like a great idea.

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