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Mr. Big – Defying Gravity

Mr. Big
Defying Gravity
by Harry Green at 31 July 2017, 9:38 AM

For a band by the name of MR. BIG, the group from Los Angeles formed in 1988 don’t appear to be afraid of not being taken seriously. Their 1992 smash hit, “To Be With You”, a #1 single in 15 countries, was about being satisfied simply with being able to say they had briefly had some kind of contact with the girl with which they were infatuated. This album, “Defying Gravity”, released on July 21 of this year, features an upside-down elephant and a song thanking their fans for rejuvenating them as a band while reminiscing on that same hit. The band have had a prolific career, releasing a self-titled in 1989, followed by 8 full-length albums: Lean Into It (1991), Bump Ahead (1993), Hey Man (1996), Get Over It (1999), Actual Size (2001), What If… (2010), and …The Stories We Could Tell (2014), before “Defying Gravity”.

MR. BIG are also surprisingly restrained. Martin’s vocals are tidy and straightforward, hardly quiet but comparatively understated for this genre. Gilbert is on this album the image of a disciplined shredder, because while he proves time and again that he can blast out a searing lick, he largely sticks to more restrained bluesy stylings that focus on having an impact on the listener. The phenomenal guitar work on the chorus of “Mean To Me” is probably the best display of Gilbert’s prowess, in that none of his material strays from the beat or feel of the song; none of the notes are wasted in a technical but enjoyably memorable and upbeat riff. Sheehan’s bass rolls along delightedly on a level with the other instruments, adding its own flourishes while sliding from an audible, clean burble on “Open Your Eyes” to a loud sludgy buzz on “Everybody Needs A Little Trouble”. Torpey shines on the bluesy tracks, providing a solid basis for elaboration by the rest of the band while providing an energetic performance from the lower end of his kit.

The first few tracks are straightforward fare with enjoyable guitar work, most notably on the upbeat title track with its cues from THE WHO, and aforementioned “Mean To Me”. In much of the latter half, the band ends up sounding strongly influenced by BILLY JOEL and ELTON JOHN“Nothin’ Bad (‘bout Feelin’ Good)” being a particularly striking example of the latter. Interestingly, “She’s All Coming Back To Me Now” has a number of 90’s alt-rock tropes, most notably being reminiscent of “Closing Time” by SEMISONIC while retaining the basic 80’s vibe the band arguably helped define. The album closes with “Be Kind”, which has a strong 50’s slow dance tempo with multilayered crooning backup vocals, punctuated with a hazy THE DOORS-type riff that makes it come off as very reminiscent of MR. BUNGLE’s “Pink Cigarette”.

This does not have the sound of a honed commercial product, though it certainly is refined. MR. BIG have the reputation of being a technically proficient rock band that play pop music, and that proves to be the case here. If I had to make a criticism, I’d single out “Damn I’m In Love Again” as a flagrant weak point, a baffling Keebler commercial soundtrack among an album comprised of cogent and memorable material. On the whole, however, “Defying Gravity” seems inappropriate as a name because this is a very grounded work. MR. BIG have their feet fairly firmly planted and walk wherever they like.

Songwriting: 7
Originality: 6
Production: 8
Memorability: 7

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Open Your Eyes
2. Defying Gravity
3. Everyone Needs A Little Trouble
4. Damn I’m In Love Again
5. Mean To Me
6. Nothin’ Wrong (‘bout Feelin’ Good)
7. Forever and Back
8. She’s All Coming Back To Me Now
9. 1992
10. Nothing At All
11. Be Kind
12. Defying Gravity (radio edit)
Lineup:
Eric Martin: Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Paul Gilbert: Guitar
Billy Sheehan: Bass
Pat Torpey: Drums
Record Label: Frontiers Records
     


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Edited 21 January 2020
 

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