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05 March 2011 @ 11:03 pm
Bp's Song of the Week #107: Mr. Big "Undertow"  
Those who wrote off Mr. Big as a hair band with a ballad hit back in the early ‘90s sadly sold short an extremely talented band of songwriters and musicians. Named after the Free song of the same name, they reunited in 2009 with a tour, after a spending much of the 2000’s apart, and then headed into the studio. They brought in producer Kevin “Caveman” Shirley (Iron Maiden, Joe Bonamassa, Rush) to tackle the new album, What If, who recoded them as a band (as opposed to individually), thus giving them an energetic jolt to their typical way of recording. The result is more organic with a tighter, locked in groove.

Check out that groove on the first single, “Undertow,” with some intricate interplay between guitarist Paul Gilbert, bassist Billy Sheehan, and Pat Torpey on drums. As detailed as the interplay is, as was their trademark, it’s done in a tasteful way that serves the song. It never sounds like a soloists out of control. The guitar and bass interplay alone during the verses is masterful. Eric Martin’s golden tinged voice is in fine form and the full band vocal harmonies have not skipped a beat.


My introduction to Mr. Big came as a result of them having the opening slot for Rush in 1990 at my 2nd concert (first being Bad English/Saraya, 12/20/89). Someone (maybe Dale Webster) a grade or two higher than myself in high school had the Mr. Big debut cassette one day a few weeks before the June 2nd Rush show and I borrowed it, taped it, and got into it so I’d know what to expect rather than go in dry. I would catch them two years later when opening up for Bryan Adams (I was there more for Mr. Big, but BA put on a rockin’ show) after having a plan to see them with Rush again right before graduation in June of ’92 – what was supposed to be 3 shows in a week sadly turned into 0 shows. Since that first cassette though I’ve had a soft spot for their lush harmonies, fierce musical interplay, and ability to be intricate, yet sounding very melodic and crafty. Their Japan-only live release, Raw Like Sushi, is one of the best sounding live CDs I’ve ever heard.

More Mr. Big:
American Beauty (2011)
Seven Impossible Days – one of my favorite Mr. Big cuts – the bass takes the verse melody and the guitar solo is actually a bass solo, awesome chorus harmony vocal = pure pop perfection
Green-Tinted Sixties Mind (live 1991)
Addicted to that Rush (live 2009) – they’ve still got it