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.