Sixteen years since their last release, the reunited Mr. Big return in a big way with the Kevin Shirley produced What If..., a triumphant hard rock album that should see plenty of attention for this veteran band. Eric Martin, Paul Gilbert, Billy Sheehan, and Pat Torpey might be a bit older now, but they are certainly wiser, as they've delivered a CD chock full of blistering instrumental virtuosity, catchy hooks, and hard rockin' groove.
Opening cut "Undertow" sets the stage perfectly, a hook laden track that rocks hard, with both Sheehan and Gilbert displaying their chops of doom while Martin supplies the powerful vocal. "American Beauty" is classic Mr. Big, along with a big Van Halen influence, as this gritty guitar rocker signals the arrival of a heavier side to this band that we haven't seen before. There are plenty more crunchy tunes included here on What If..., including the Zeppelin-ish "Nobody Left To Blame", "Still Ain't Enough For Me" (check out the unison lines from Gilbert & Sheehan on this one!), the grinding "Once Upon a Time", the heavy funk machine "As Far As I Can See", and the two absolute shred fests that appear at the back end of the CD, "Around the World" and "Unforgiven". On these two crankin' pieces, Gilbert, Sheehan, and Torpey show just how good they are, while Martin wows with his Paul Rodgers-meets-Joe Lynn Turner styled pipes. Toss in some great pop tunes such as "I Get the Feeling", "Stranger In My Life", and "All the Way Up", and you have a wonderfully well rounded affair that just warrants many repeated spins.
Hopefully Mr. Big gets all the attention they deserve with the very fine What If... and continue on for years to come. This one is easily as good, if not better, than their excellent first two albums released many years ago. Like a fine wine, they've aged very well!
1. Undertow 4:48
2. American Beauty 3:44
3. Stranger In My Life 4:25
4. Nobody Left To Blame 4:19
5. Still Ain't Enough For Me 3:04
6. Once Upon A Time 4:02
7. As Far As I Can See 3:54
8. All The Way Up 5:12
9. I Won't Get In My Way 4:39
10. Around The World 3:51
11. I Get The Feeling 4:34
12. Unforgiven (Bonus Track) 4:15