mr. big

REVIEW: Mr. Big – Bump Ahead (1993)

MR. BIG – Bump Ahead (1993 Atlantic)

Living up to Lean Into It was never going to be an easy thing to do.  By the time 1993 rolled around, it didn’t even matter.  Mr. Big were going to be ignored no matter what they did.

There are no giant leaps and bounds on Bump Ahead, but there are enough decent rock thrills and ballads to call it a good album.  A lot of the heavy artillery is expended right on the first track, “Colorado Bulldog”.  An amped-up Van Halen shuffle is cranked to the max with the one and only Billy Sheehan pushing the whole thing on the bass.  It’s an insane affair of accelerated playing and a stomping riff.

“The Price You Gotta Pay” keeps it heavy, anchored by a patented Sheehan groove.  Eric Martin’s bluesy soul rasp gives the music accessibility, but there is plenty going on instrumentally too.  Fans of sheer playing will find plenty of challenging licks within.  Likewise, “The Whole World’s Gonna Know”.  It sounds like a redo of an old Talas song called “Smart Lady”, with a new improved chorus.  They lay down a granite groove on “Temperamental”.  Plenty of solid rock is to be heard here.

That said, let’s not kid ourselves.  Mr. Big made their money with ballads like “To Be With You”, and so they loaded the deck here with a few more.  “Promise Her the Moon” is sentimental, understated and classy.  The big one is Cat Stevens’ “Wild World”.  Mr. Big were not likely to blow it on a song this magnificent.  Their version is more lush than Stevens’, but is actually quite great.  They miss the mark on “Nothing But Love”; too syrupy with its guitar synth orchestra.  In a case of ballad overdose, there is a fourth:  “Ain’t Seen Love Like That”.  It’s one of those basic campfire ballads.  Good song, but not essential.

Bump Ahead has a bit more filler than preferred.  “What’s It Gonna Be” is fine funky rock, but the chorus is pedestrian.  They go a different direction on the psychedelic “Mr. Gone”.  Don’t forget this is the band that gave us “Green-Tinted Sixties Mind“, though “Mr. Gone” isn’t as perfect as that.

They close the album on the free cover “Mr. Big”, the song that gave them their name.  The grind of “Mr. Big” ends the album on an upstanding note, but damn, they should have cut one of those ballads doncha think?  The fact is, Mr. Big were simply not going to have a hit with a ballad in 1993.  Wasn’t gonna happen.  The Japanese edition had a bonus track called “Long Way Down”, which wasn’t that outstanding but perhaps should have been included in the main tracklist at the expense of a ballad.

3/5 stars.

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REVIEW: Mr. Big – Hey Man (1996)

MR. BIG – Hey Man (1996 Atlantic)

With the recent passing of Pat Torpey, it’s definitely time for some fresh listens to classic Mr. Big.  Their most underrated album might be their fourth, Hey Man, on which Torpey had three writing credits.  1991’s Lean Into It is generally considered the highwater mark, but Hey Man boasted songs just as strong and many just as memorable.   If only MTV wasn’t avoiding Mr. Big and bands of their era like the bubonic plague.

Mr. Big were always ferocious musicians, and formed as a “supergroup” of such.  The point of Mr. Big was for these mega-instrumentalists to write some commercial rock, and that has been their modus operandi on every album.  When Mr. Big formed, Torpey already boasted two albums:  Ted Nugent’s If You Can’t Lick ‘Em…Lick ‘Em, and the supergroup Impelliteri.  Billy Sheehan was already worshipped for his work with David Lee Roth and before that, Talas.  Guitarist Paul Gilbert had established himself as a wunderkind with the Shrapnel band, Racer X.  The key ingredient to Mr. Big is the blue-eyed soul of singer Eric Martin.  He had a two album solo career before he made the unlikely jump to supergroup.

It’s the rocking side of Mr. Big that hits the ground running on first track “Trapped in Toyland”.  Heavier and grooving more than usual, Mr. Big poured the gas on the fire right off the bat.  It’s a huge impression.  Gilbert wrote this smoker with his old Racer X singer Jeff Martin, and Russ Parish of Fight (and now Steel Panther).  That would explain the heavy!  What really nails the heavy sound is the combination of Billy Sheehan’s bass rumble in conjunction with Torpey’s smashing beat.

The most stunning of all the songs is the second, a bonafide Mr. Big classic called “Take Cover”.  It simmers under an infrared pulse of drum beats and understated chords, and then bursts wide open on the choruses. It’s triumphant songwriting and a fine example of how musicianship and songcraft can work together.  It is one of their career best.

“Jane Doe” goes funky a-la “The Crunge”.  Eric Martin pushes it into soul on the choruses.  A couple ballads follow, one acoustic and one darker.  “Goin’ Where the Wind Blows” fills the slot of past Mr. Big acoustic ballads, something that had become compulsory after the success of “To Be With You”.  The more interesting song is “The Chain” which has a sombre edge.

There is an undeniable twang to “Where Do I Fit In?”, so much that it could easily be mistaken for Tesla.  It’s a solid side closer, though “sides” were becoming meaningless in 1996.  Hey Man has never seen a vinyl release, and the dying cassette version was the only one with “sides”.

Eric Martin makes it soulful on “If That’s What it Takes”, which doesn’t deserve to be called a ballad so we won’t.  It serves as a reminder of how these musicians can adapt to any situation.  The Paul Gilbert who plucks these earthy chords is the same guy who shred all over Lean Into It.  Pat Torpey turns into a human steamroller on “Out of the Underground”.  It’s as heavy metal as Mr. Big have been.  Then they go “Dancin’ Right Into the Flame” on a pretty cool ballad.  It has a bit more finesse than the usual.

You can tell immediately that “Mama D.” was written by Paul Gilbert, because it has one of those squirrly Gilbert guitar licks that only he writes.  To close the album, they return to a heavy soul-funk on “Fool Us Today”.  Pat Torpey is rock solid and a key ingredient to a fun closer.

Track for track, Hey Man can go up against most other Mr. Big albums.  They had a temporary breakup after this CD, a result of it being criminally ignored.

4/5 stars

 

 

RIP Pat Torpey (1959-2018)

If any single person in the rock world seemed destined to keep on truckin’ despite a terrible diagnosis, it was Pat Torpey.  Even though he had Parkinson’s disease, he was still participating in Mr. Big in every way except physically playing the drums.  He wrote the parts and oversaw their performance by Matt Starr.  He was in the videos. He was so positive and inspiring in interview footage.

This debilitating disease finally took Torpey’s life at age 64.

This one hurts.  Mr. Big is one of those underrated bands made up of fantastic players, but largely ignored.  They had the dreaded “one hit” (“To Be With You”), but that’s not the song we’ll use here to remember Pat Torpey.

Listen to the power, precision and sheer rock and roll that is Pat Torpey on “Addicted to that Rush”.

Rest in peace.

REVIEW: Mr. Big – Mr. Big (1989)


Scan_20160811MR. BIG – Mr. Big (1989 Atlantic)

Mr. Big started as a “supergroup” of sorts, with bassist Billy Sheehan being the most well known due to his stint with David Lee Roth (and Talas before that).  Because of his bass prowess, we know his band Mr. Big would be heavy on the shred.  What set them apart was the blue eyed soul of singer Eric Martin.  Their debut record possessed the speediest chops imaginable, but used sparingly.  It’s a song-oriented album, with “Addicted to that Rush” leading off with heavy space-age playing.  Unfortunately nothing else is as memorable, except the Humble Pie cover “30 Days in the Hole”.

Tracks like “Had Enough”, “How Can You Do What You Do”, “Rock & Roll Over” and “Merciless” are all competent rock tunes, and due to Billy’s bass, the bottom end is unbelievable.  Unfortunately it took Mr. Big one more album to really come up with the songwriting goods.  Their debut is fine enough indeed, but folks who dig the playing will be sticking around.  Those looking for soul and memorable hooks will have to dig deep.  There is good stuff here, but little that will make repeated spins in the CD player months and years down the road.  Good, but not quite good enough.

3/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Jim Crean – Insatiable (2016)

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JIM CREAN – Insatiable (2016 Rocker Records)

If you’re not familiar with Jim Crean, that’s OK.  You probably know of his famous friends.  Crean sings lead with the Appice Brothers (Carmine and Vinny) for their Drum Wars live shows.   Both brothers appear on his solo CD, Insatiable, along with other stars such as Phil Lewis (LA Guns), Mike Tramp (White Lion), Tony Franklin (The Firm/Blue Murder), Phil Naro and more.  But it doesn’t matter how many guests you fill your album with if you don’t have the tunes.  Crean has not only the tunes, but also the voice.

In a way the weirdest track is the intro by Don Jamieson from That Metal Show.  He pronounces “Appice” differently for each brother.  Carmine is “Appeece” and Vinny is “Appicee”.  Very odd.  The title track “Insatiable” features Vinny, but the song does not address the pronunciation controversy!  If you’re a fan of 80’s sunset strip rock, then “Insatiable” is for you, like Faster Pussycat but fed a steady diet of heavy metal.  Crean has range and rasp, and the result is the kind of rock that people miss today.

Vinny might be best known for his stint in Dio and Black Sabbath with Ronnie James.  With the late Jimmy Bain on bass, Appice and Crean re-created Dio’s “Caught in the Middle”.  Having original players and writers on it lends it a credibility that most covers can’t match.  Best of all, Crean can pull it off!  Singing Dio is, to put it mildly, not easy.  Crean pulls it off with confidence and ability, just as he does with his own original tune “Touch”.  Not to exaggerate, but “Touch” has to be one of the best songs to come out in 2016:  killer mid-paced rock, besides the riffs and that voice!  Another fine cover, L.A. Guns’ “Over the Edge” is performed with assistance from Philip Lewis.  A more obscure choice from 1991’s Hollywood Vampires, it’s a powerful slow rock track with a Zeppelin-y groove.  Guitarist Steve Major also needs to be singled out for a fine performance on this one (and all the tracks).

The most star-studded song is the lead single, “Can’t Find My Way”, a Mike Tramp cover.  Mike sings on it, as does Phil Naro, with Tony Franklin on bass and Carmine on drums.  (Tony and Carmine make it 2/3rds of the original Blue Murder, minus only John Sykes.)  This ballad is a bit slow, a bit long, but kicks in for the chorus. I actually prefer Jim’s original material. “Follow Your Heart” is one such original, this one featuring ex-Dio guitarist Rowan Robertson. It has a distinct Dio-ish vibe, aided and abetted by Vinny’s incomparable drum sound. The final three originals (“Shut Your Mouth”, “Turn it Around”, and “Miss Me”) are all very strong hard rock songs. Crean wrote all his originals himself. What a talent. Such a voice, with sharp songwriting chops. This guy has more talent in his pinky than CC Deville has in his entire body.

Two bonus tracks close it out, both covers: Mr. Big’s rockin’ “The Whole World’s Gonna Know”, and “Magic Touch” by Kiss. Sharp fans will recall that Crean contributed “Magic Touch” to Mitch Lafon’s Kiss tribute CD, A World With Heroes.  If you missed that now sold-out CD, you can at least get Jim’s version of the song here.  “Magic Touch” is, of course, great.  It always was, but now here’s a chance to hear it without the disco (Kissco?) trappings.  As for “The Whole World’s Gonna Know”, Jim’s version may surpass the original.

Added Can-Con bonus:  Much of the album was recorded in Toronto, just a stone’s throw away from Jim’s base in Buffalo, New York.

Added extra bonus:  My copy included a DVD with the “Can’t Find My Way” music video.

If you like hard rock with integrity the way they used to make it, then this album is for you.  If you buy one new release this week, make it Jim Crean’s Insatiable.

5/5 stars

 

#335: Musical Archaeological Discovery!

It’s #throwbackthursday!

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#335: Musical Archaeological Discovery!

A couple weekends ago, I had a chance to dig through some old boxes looking for musical memories.   I found that, and a lot more.

I discovered a complete inventory of my entire music collection, that I had made as a kid.  Most of it was on cassette.  There’s no date on it, but thanks to my photographic memory of musical life events, I can easily date this to within +/- a couple months.  Let’s have a look and figure out when I made this inventory.

The first thing I noticed was there are 24 CD titles on this list.  I received my first CD player for Christmas of 1989.  That would place this list a fair bit after Christmas of ’89.

In the section for “Videos”, I only had four VHS titles at the time:  Kiss, Def Leppard, Judas Priest, and Warrant.  I know I received a Faith No More (You Fat Bastards) video for Christmas of ’92.  So we’re well before December 1992.

Back to the CD section.  The presence of the Led Zeppelin box set helps me narrow it down further.  I know I received that box set for Christmas of 1990.  I also remember getting Slaughter’s Stick It Live tape on December 28th of that year, and that cassette is on this list.

I distinctly recall my birthday in July 1991.  I received Alice Cooper’s Hey Stoopid on cassette (thanks sis), and Van Halen’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge on CD (thanks Bob).  Neither are on this list.  Therefore, this was made sometime between Christmas of 1990, and July of ’91.  Just over six months. To narrow it down as tightly as possible, I need to look for purchases that I know I made in early 1991.

In April or May of ’91, I can remember getting the new Mr. Big (Lean Into It) on cassette, and the first Raw M.E.A.T CD.  Neither are on here.  Most definitively however, missing on this list is David Lee Roth’s newest, A Lil’ Ain’t Enough.  I know I got that for Easter of 1991.  Now we’re really close.  Somewhere between January to March of ’91!

I know I bought the uber-rare cassette single for Helix’s “Good to the Last Drop” really early in 1991.  Snow was still on the ground, and that cassette single is not listed here.   Therefore: I conclude that I created this list after Christmas 1990 or early in 1991, but probably during Christmas break 1990!  I would have had the spare time to work on it during break.

Some additional observations:

1. Apparently I hadn’t yet discovered alphabetizing.

2. The dollar values printed represent approximate guesses as to retail value.  I later made a revised list that replaced this with 5 star ratings, but I have not as yet found that version.

Here it is, now preserved digitally forever!  And look — I only owned one CD single!*  Final interesting note:  Most of the items on this list are long gone.  I’ve upgraded to CD on all the cassettes and only kept a handful.  I have most of the vinyl, but I gave away my ’45 of the Wrestlers.  I have some of the CDs, but others (Kiss, Bon Jovi, AC/DC, Van Halen, Slaughter, Maiden, Motley Crue) have long been replaced by remasters.

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* Iron Maiden’s “Holy Smoke”, bought at Dr. Disc in the autumn of 1990.

Gallery: The Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale 2014

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T-Rev, Wes, Doug and I had a great time at the Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale 2014. Trevor came home with some kind of Asian import of Foo Fighters’ In Your Honor with at least a dozen bonus tracks. He also scored a cool silver Grand Funk LP with a round cover. Wes stocked up on Tom Petty vinyl.

My treasures are below.  Let’s start with the Japanese imports!  Yes, the same vendor was there.  I probably cleared out his best stuff last year, but he still had some good ones left for me.

Japanese imports purchased:

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Under Cover ($25 with obi strip intact)  I am well on record as not being a fan of this album.  But it’s one of only two Ozzy albums that I didn’t own.  Finding a Japanese version made it easy to justify for my collection.  The bonus track is “Changes” with Kelly Osbourne, but I had that already on the Prince of Darkness box set.  This comes with a region 2 DVD.
  • Europe – Start From the Dark (sealed, $20)  I already had this album as a bonus CD within Europe’s Live From the Dark DVD set.  The Japanese get two live tracks from Sweden Rock 2004:  “Seven Doors Hotel” and “Wings Of Tomorrow”.
  • White Wolf – Endangered Species (sealed, $20) Last year I bought Standing Alone on vinyl, this year I got Endangered Species!  I always liked that song “She.”  There are no bonus tracks on it but it’s so hard to find this on CD at all, let alone Japanese.
  • Paul Gilbert – Get Out of My Yard (sealed, $20) I’ve long been a fan of Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big), and he’s a cult hero in Japan.  I know his solo stuff is pretty out there.  Although I have tracks of his on guitar compilations, this is the first solo album of his that I have found.
  • Aerosmith – “Pink” (sealed CD single, $15) In Record Store Tales Part 42, I made fun of the “Barefoot DJ” because he was looking for this Aerosmith dud.  Regardless, I’m probably most excited about this CD.  If there’s one thing rarer than Japanese CDs, it might be Japanese CD singles.  They’re produced in even more limited number.  I won’t get all the B-sides for “Pink” on this CD single, but it has plenty of tracks that I believe are exclusive to this disc.
  • Aerosmith – “Amazing” (CD single, $5 with obi strip intact) I had a domestic copy of this CD with the exact same tracks, just in a different order.  I wasn’t sure if I had it or not when I bought it, but for $5 I figured it’s still a win-win situation.  It’s in mint condition and I paid a fair price for it.

Other CDs purchased:

  • Anthrax – We’ve Come For You All (sealed German import, $10) I’ve always wanted this album, and I always promised myself I’d get it if I found an import with bonus tracks for a good price.  I have done that now.
  • Deep Purple – Smoke On My Mega-mix ($5) This is a bootleg.  I bought this from the same guy who sold me the Aerosmith “Amazing” single.  Years and years ago, there was a Deep Purple compilation LP called Anthology.  If you bought that and four other singles, you could mail away for a “Smoke On My Mega-mix” exclusive single.  This bootleg has that track, and a whole bunch of other rarities.  One such track is Deep Purple Mk V’s “Fire, Ice & Dynamite” which is only on a DVD called New, Live & Rare.
  • Iron Maiden – Revenge Is Living In the Past (bootleg from A Matter of Life and Death tour, $40)  This is a beautifully packaged triple-gatefold live bootleg.  One of the few recent tours that Maiden have not released a live album from was A Matter of Life and Death.  On that tour, they played the whole album live, and now I have it.  It’s really nicely packaged and I’m looking forward to listening to it soon.

 

“Holy Grails” seen but not purchased:

“Holy Grails” bought:

  • None

One funny story: At record shows, you always find vendors who “know it all”. T-Rev found a CD copy of Kim Mitchell’s self-titled solo EP for $5, but it was burned. Trevor asked, “Do you have the original CD of this? Because if you do, I will buy it.” The vendor swore up and down that no such CD exists. Trevor said, “Yes it does, my buddy has it.” He’s right, because I am that buddy. Here are pictures of my copy of that EP; Amazon are asking over $100 for it, since it went out of print. Photographic proof that it exists below (Wounded Bird CD edition):

Here’s a list of the next bunch of shows.  Attendance is pending funds:

  • London, April 18 2014 (Centennial Hall, 550 Wellington St.)
  • Cambridge, April 27 2014 (Holiday Inn, 200 Holiday Inn Dr.)
  • Woodstock, (Nostalgia Show & Sale), May 25 2014 (Woodstock Fairgrounds, 875 Nellis St.)
  • Ancaster, (Nostalgia Show & Sale), June 22 2014 (Ancaster Fairgrounds, 630 Trinity Rd.)
  • Mississauga, October 19 2014 (Capitol Cenvention Centre, 6435 Dixie Rd.)
  • London, October 26 2014 (Centennial Hall, 550 Wellington St.)

All four of us had a blast.  In the car, Wes commented, “I don’t think I’ve ever had musical conversations like this before!”  Then, I found something out.  Last year, Wes gave me a copy of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”  He did this on condition that I rip and email him the tracks.  I did that as soon as I got home, only I sent them via Trevor, since I didn’t have Wes’ email.

Wes said he never got them.  “I emailed the tracks like a year ago,” I replied.  I explained that Trevor instructed to just send them to him, and he’d forward them along.  That never happened.  Wes said, “All this time I thought it was Ladano’s fault, turns out it’s my friend right here!” and points at Trevor.

This is turning into an annual event.  We might make it semi-annual by checking out the October show.  I’ll be sure to be you posted!

GUEST REVIEW: The Winery Dogs – The Winery Dogs (by Jon Wilmenius)

After hearing so much praise for The Winery Dogs, I finally bought a copy.  I decided for now there was no point in writing a review:  After all, Jon Wilmenius already said it all.  So for my own review, all I’ll write is:  “What he said!”  Enjoy this review from Jon’s own excellent site, Music and Festival Reviews, reprinted with his kind permission.

Read the original here.

GUEST REVIEW by: Jon Wilmenius

THE WINERY DOGS – The Winery Dogs (2013 Loud & Proud)

Way back in the late 80′s / early 90′s supergroups were popping up like mushrooms in your garden. Bands like Bad English, Mr Big and Badlands had big success with the odd album or two before breaking up, but when the 90′s grunge era took over, supergroups were as rare as money on your bank account. Today, things have turned around and with the music industry looking like it does, musicians are forming different projects and bands with each other like never before. One guy that seems to involved a little everywhere are former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy. As of now he is involved in no less than four different bands, Transatlantic, Flying Colors, Adrenaline Mob and now this thing. When The Winery Dogs started out in 2011, they consisted of Portnoy, bassist Billy Sheehan of Mr Big (formerly of Talas and David Lee Roth) and guitarist / lead singer John Sykes (Tygers Of Pan Tang, Thin Lizzy, Whitensake, Blue Murder), but since Sykes seemed to have too much on his mind, he decided to split and was replaced by multi musician and guitar player / lead singer Richie Kotzen, who also has a successful solo career going on, but also a former member of Poison, Mr Big and Forty Deuce.

Without hearing a note of their music, just by looking at the line up makes expectations rise like a virgin’s dong at the Playboy Mansion. That means that nothing worse than ‘great’ would be acceptable for this trio’s debut release. Now, I don’t know how much music that was written with Sykes in the band and how much of it that ended up on this album, but the fact is, Kotzen is all over this record. Kotzen’s solo career sky rocketed after he got the boot from Poison, at least quality wise and even a tone-deaf  could spot his style miles away. Just listen to Poison’s Native Tongue, the best album they ever released, and you’ll hear pretty fast which songs he brought to the table. He really should re-record them as a solo artist someday. So, if you’re a fan of Kotzen’s, this album is a no-brainer – as a matter of fact, it really should be a no-brainer for any a rock fan to buy this CD, because this is amazing stuff. “Elevate” kicks this album into motion with a bang, a rootsy rocker that sounds a lot like Richie’s solo stuff only with Sheehan’s famous and personal bass sound and Portnoy’s heavy groove. “Desire” follows and it is a brilliant tune, full of catchiness and groovy rhythms, “I’m No Angel” has a fantastic refrain and a killer melody, you’re stuck after the first chorus, on “The Other Side”, Sheehan and Portnoy totally rules the groove and the bass and drums are both one and separated at the same time and they give us a brilliant blues ballad in “You Saved Me”. It has a bit of a U2 – feel and Kotzen sings the hell out of it. The guy has got some feel, to say the least.

Both “Not Impossible” and “One More Time” has a lot of Kotzen over them and I find myself thinking that they probably would have been a great fit on his last album 24 Hours. “Six Feet Deeper” has a major swing to it and it strikes me that this is the first album I have heard where Mike Portnoy plays rock ‘n’ roll like this. I mean, he’s an amazing drummer, but his skills has always been in progressive metal where he doesn’t groove that much. This album shows that Portnoy is a lot more all round than people might think. “Criminal” on the other hand, is a heavy piece – not a far cry from how a Kotzen fronted Mr Big would sound. “The Dying” is a ballad, but it leans way more towards heaviness than anything else which is really cool – and it is a great song. The album ends with “Regret”, a classic Kotzen ballad, very bluesy in a 70′s style. Wow! This really is a super trio and they have made one hell of a debut album and hopefully enough people will buy this to convince the guys to keep this project alive. Another thing, has Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy ever played with such a groove like they do here? I mean, they are both ace players and with Kotzen, groove is in his blood, but on here Sheehan and Portnoy really makes the rhythm section swing. When we’re writing January 2014 and making a list on the best albums of 2013, this album will no doubt be up there as a contender for the number one spot. Jon says: Get this!

Jon Wilmenius (9/10)

 

REVIEW: Mr. Big – “Green-Tinted Sixties Mind” / “To Be With You” singles

Part 2 of a 2 part Mr. Big special.  Click here if you missed Lean Into It!

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MR. BIG – “Green Tinted Sixties Mind” (1991 Warner UK 7″ single)

I won’t talk about the song “Green-Tinted Sixties Mind”; I did that already.  (In short:  “classy and cool”.)  I picked up this 7″ promo import from the UK from a record show in London (Ontario).  At $5, it was a no-brainer purchase.  The sleeve is cardboard, not paper, and pretty cool.

I was in the dark as to what the B-side “Shadows” was.  The label indicated the song is from 1990, and produced by Giorgio Moroder.  Although it’s not credited as such, that would make the song from the Navy Seals soundtrack.  They didn’t write it, so it doesn’t sound like Mr. Big.  It’s very “hard rock” circa 1990.  I could swear parts of the verse melody are directly ripped off of Whitesnake.  So, “Shadows” is a curiosity, nothing to get too excited about.

I know there was a second song from the Navy Seals soundtrack called “Strike Like Lightning”, if you’re interested in tracking it down.  Also on the soundtrack was Bon Jovi’s cover of “The Boys Are Back In Town” and “Try” by Blue freakin’ Rodeo!  How the hell did that happen?

MR BIG_0005MR. BIG – “To Be With You” (1992 Warner Europe CD single)

Like with the other single, I want to focus on the B-sides.  I will say that this version of “To Be With You” is an uncredited edit version.  It’s 6 seconds shorter and lacks the count-in.  This German import CD single has three live tracks.  I found this one at Fairview Mall in Kitchener, an incredible score for the time!

Mr. Big sound like they are killer live.  “30 Days In the Hole” is more spontaneous and funky than its album counterpart.  It’s a lot more fun, and man could this band groove.  The Tokyo crowd clearly loves it too.

In crashes the old Talas/David Lee Roth speed demon, “Shy Boy”!  The band can pull it off musically, Sheehan repeating his bass magic, and Gilbert having no problem with a lightning fast solo. The only one who can’t keep up is vocalist Eric Martin.  His normal soulful voice isn’t right for a song that was defined by David Lee Roth.

The final track is a medley.  They first tease the Japanese audience with the first couple minutes of “Woman From Tokyo”, before switching gears to “Baba O’Riley”.  It’s all but seamless, and natural.  Gilbert plays the synth lines, but on his guitar.  Meanwhile Sheehan handles the riff, on his bass.  Martin shines on this one, much more at home with a song like this.  He really gets to stretch out, and I love it.  Sounds like Gilbert singing Townsend’s vocal part.  Really cool.

“Green-Tinted Sixties Mind” – 3/5 stars

“To Be With You” – 4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Mr. Big – Lean Into It (1991)

Today, the album.  Tomorrow, the singles!  Yes it’s a two-part Mr. Big feature!  Happy long weekend, hope you’re partying safely!  

MR. BIG – Lean Into It (1991 Atlantic)

Yeah yeah yeah…”To Be With You”!   As Mr. Big said themselves on a later album, “Get over it”!

I’ve always considered Mr. Big to be more shred-lite than glam metal or pop metal. After all, with credentials like these…Talas…Racer X…Impelliteri…these guys know how to play. Eric Martin is a unique blue-eyed-soul singer, one of a kind, absolutely brilliant.  Martin and the band also know how to write catchy hard rock tunes. Combine that with their playing pedigree and adventurous arrangements, and I’ll call ’em shred-lite if you let me. And this is a pretty damn good album for rockers who want just a touch of integrity in their pop.

The opener kicks you right in the nuts with one of the best Big tunes ever, “Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song)” (whew).  The album starts with an adrenaline rush straight to the head.  Why the “Electric Drill Song”?  Because it opens with the sound of Paul Gilbert and Billy Sheehan playing their instruments with electric drills with guitar picks glued to the bit!  In unison?  Basically spoofing the whole “How fast can you play?” question, Big’s creativity make this speed rocker a standout.

“Alive and Kickin'” is nothing more than a hard rocker with soulful vocal and killer chorus, but “Green-Tinted Sixties Mind” is classy and cool. Pure pop with an incredible retro melody and adventurous guitar arrangement, this first single went tragically ignored.  I don’t remember it getting much airplay though it deserved it.  I’m not sure if the world of 1991 would have accepted a song like this from a hard rock band.

“CDFF – Lucky This Time” is another weird title. See, “CDFF” stands for CD Fast Forward which is the sound you’re hearing at the opening of this rather ordinary ballad. The only thing really oustanding about this song is Billy’s rumbling bass groove.  The guy doesn’t sound like anybody else, and he raises the song to another level.  “CDFF”  is followed by the cool and swampy “Voodoo Kiss”, which ended side 1 of the original album.

Side 2 kicked off with another pop rocker, “Never Say Never”, co-written by Canada’s own Jim Vallance. Catchy but non-descript. “Just Take My Heart” is the second ballad, and a forgettable song to me. “My Kinda Woman” kicks the adrenaline back in. Yet it is Paul Gilbert’s “A Little Too Loose” that rekindles the creative fires on this album. Bluesy and fun, this was one of the high points of this record. “Road To Ruin” shows off the vocal harmonies of the guys, all good singers in their own right. It’s another creative arrangement. Then, of course, the album ends with “To Be With You” which, hard to believe, was actually a really creative song too!  Before it got played to death. Now, it’s the typical rock ballad, but at the time of release, it was very different from the kind of ballads that other bands were putting out, except possibly Extreme.  It has a sparse, vocal-oriented arrangement, an acoustic guitar solo, and no drums to speak of.

Tomorrow we’ll be talking about two singles from this album “Green-Tinted  Sixties Mind”, and “To Be With You” itself, both of which have worthwhile rare songs!

4/5 stars