Mr. Big aren’t afraid to stick to their guns in this ever changing world of music. With Defying Gravity, Eric Martin (lead vocals), Paul Gilbert (guitars), Billy Sheehan (bass) and Pat Torpey (drums) with Matt Starr covering some drum parts due to Torpey’s Parkinson’s diagnosis, the group teams with producer Kevin Elson for eleven electrifying but satisfying tracks.
Throughout the album, the group of virtuosos play syncopated rhythms, lightning fast guitar solos, driving bass lines and pounding drums. The group’s syncopated rhythms really draw you in as they often match each other rhythmically, along the lines of prog rock bands. The group’s masterful harmonies that have always been a staple on their records continue here with nearly every song giving you prominent backing vocals.
The album’s mixed a little differently their earlier albums with drums buried more in the mix. However, this doesn’t take away from the hard rock edge the group has always had. “Damn, I’m In Love Again,” which has a country flair with light drums with brushes and acoustic guitars, was a surprise to me. This song is more country sounding than most current country songs and could be a nice crossover hit. However, I doubt their team services it to country radio, although I think they should and see what happens.
“Mean To Me” is hard pounding and features a guitar/bass solo trade off that is very well accomplished. Anyone who knows Billy Sheehan knows how much of a bad ass this guy is on the bass. Definitely my favorite bass player ever and I’m a drummer! What I’d give to play a few hours with him! It would be fun!
Mr. Big brings it down a little bit with “Nothing Bad (About Feeling Good).” The track has a “Wild World” feeling as acoustic guitars are prominent with some nice electric lead work mixed. The drums aren’t as heavy as “Wild World,” but they nicely compliment the track and provide a great back beat.
One of my favorites on the album is “1992,” a song I figured was a throwback to their heyday just by the title alone. The hard rocker reflects the group’s rise to the top of the charts in the late 80’s and 90’s before they split with their label. The song has a half time feel with a heavy groove. The chorus reads: “Thought about a girl I once knew / Put her in a song with some greens and blues/ Wore somebody’s shirt that I didn’t choose / But the fans were screaming so I couldn’t refuse / Record company said to us, ‘Thank you, man’ / Then they threw us right into the garbage can / But the good people listened and they pulled us through / I was number one in 1992.”
Most “hair metal” bands from the 80’s that are still recording have been forced to “sell out” and produce more pop-oriented music to stay relevant. Not Mr. Big. These guys are proving that rock still exists and they have a statement to make. They aren’t afraid to avoid the current trends and continue to write and produce great music. Mr. Big fans won’t be disappointed with Defying Gravity, even though it was recorded in just six days in Los Angeles! Pick it up on July 7th when Frontiers Music Srl releases it on several formats including CD and Deluxe Edition CD/DVD. An LP edition is slated for sometime later this year.