The mid-90s were the time that every hard rock band in the world released a greatest hits. Why? Most of them either split, got dropped by the label, or both. Tesla, King’s X, Slaughter, Extreme, and Mr. Big are among the sidelined bands whose labels released a greatest hits mid-decade.
Big’s at least had four unreleased tracks, topping off 12 familiar cuts from their first four albums. Three of the songs were newly recorded. Unfortunately, the label stacked a bunch of ballads and made this disc really hard to finish in one sitting. The running order and track selection is a little wonky.
“Addicted to that Rush” is the jet-speed opener, as it should be. Big’s 1989 debut was instrumentally thrilling but light on hits. A so-so album track, “Rock & Roll Over” should probably have been left off. Lean Into It (1991) was the big one. “To Be With You” sits at track 4, because the CD is chronological, but the song has always worked better in the closing position. Placing it at track 4 is anticlimactic. Lean Into It spawned three more singles, all present: “Green Tinted Sixties Mind“, “Just Take My Heart”, and “Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy”. This spurt of songs is a bit too soft. Two are ballads, one a pop track, leaving only one to instrumentally smoke you. That’s unfortunate because their cover of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” is next in the pack. Though it is a fabulous and underappreciated cover, it’s too much mush at the start of the CD.
A buyer who picks this CD up as their first and only Mr. Big purchase will assume they are just another pop rock band. Another Bon Jovi, another Warrant. Though there are some serious moments of instrumental shreddery, that side of the band is too overlooked. “Colorado Bulldog” from 1993’s Bump Ahead is about the only remaining song with that kind of force. This is why suits shouldn’t compile CDs. Their studio albums are more balanced.
Unfortunately, none of the four unreleased songs are spectacular. The acoustic ballad “Seven Impossible Days” is from a Japanese EP called Japandemonium. The other three are new recordings. “Not One Night” is another acoustic ballad. Sonically beautiful, but it’s too much saccharine. “Unnatural” isn’t a ballad per se, but it is mostly acoustic (and features the lead vocals of guitarist Paul Gilbert). “Stay Together”, which is a dead ringer for vintage Van Hagar, is probably the best of these four songs.
Big, Bigger, Biggest! The Best Of Mr. Big does not represent the Mr. Big that fans have known all these years. Their favourite songs are rarely the ballads. Too many killer deep cuts are missing, and, I hate to sound like a broken record, there are too many ballads!