Mr Big, Defying Gravity, Frontiers
Recorded in six days in Los Angeles by all original members, Eric Martin, Billy Sheehan, Paul Gilbert and Pat Torpey (albeit that Pat had a little help on the drums due to his recent diagnosis of Parkinson from Matt Starr) its great to see Mr Big back and having so much fun in the videos for the singles for the album (both drummers interchanging which while necessary doubles as an entertaining video gimmick). In this their ninth studio album the band have proved they can still come up with the goods even if they set themselves an extremely tight schedule in the studio. The deluxe version of the CD comes with a DVD of the making of the album bringing the process of making the album alive for fans.
‘Open your Eyes’ reminded us in style of recent well crafted songs by Richie Kotzen who did, of course replace original member Paul Gilbert for a while in this band and this first track reveals a slew of influences from soul and funk behind the scenes (Billy Sheehan now, of course, plays with Richie in the Winery Dogs with strong similar influences). However, the solo from Paul Gilbert is pure metal shredding making sure the track stays firmly labelled rock. Title track ‘Defying Gravity’ is even more diverse introducing middle eastern style melodies and syncopation similar to those used recently by Kip Winger and House Of Lords and, certainly keeps things interesting. The chorus of this track, however, is pure straight down the line infectious aor. ‘Everybody needs a little trouble’ has a little bit of jazz and swing, in the rhythms, but nothing serves to supplant Mr Gilbert’s rock style solo we are pleased to see. “Damn I’m in love again’ is an acoustic number in the skiffle tradition and is the closest to the ‘To Be With You’ era so far on the album. ‘Mean To Me’ about a ball breaking female is nice word play with ‘mean’ also meaning cruel in the context of the song and has some complicated jazz style playing behind the simpler main melody. ‘Nothing Bad (Bout Feelin Good)’ has the feel of a song you’ve heard before as it is so easy on the ear, but it’s just a feature of how well the song is written with some nice sixties style harmonies in the chorus. ‘Forever and Back’ is a big sounding ballad with nice Brian May style guitar breaks. ‘She’s all coming back to me now’ is an easygoing number with chart sensibilities with another excellent Queen style guitar solo. ‘1992’ about the time of the huge success enjoyed by the band has some musician’s musician type playin sitting as a sophisticated layer behind a sixties/seventies influenced commercial chorus. ‘Nothing at all’ is a funk influenced track with a Beatles influenced chorus and some blues guitar. ‘Be Kind’ is a nod to the fifties big band vocals wise but this is combined with a Zeppelinesque guitar twist, a blues guitar interlude, some Robert Plant style seventies vocals mid track and ends in a free for all jam. Nobody can say this album does not pack it all in!
Like a lot of top class musicians Mr Big clearly are interested in many forms of music, they have, however, successfully synthesised these influences into an album aimed at their longstanding fans without plowing furrows where they have already been. The result is fresh without being too much of a shock to the system for loyal fans.