Review by Teresa Hopkins
Artist: MR BIG
Album: …THE STORIES WE COULD TELL
Label: Frontiers Records
Release Date: 30th September 2014
1. Gotta Love The Ride
2. I Forget To Breathe
5. The Man Who Has Everything
6. The Monster In Me
7. What If We Were New?
9. The Light Of Day
10. Just Let Your Heart Decide
11. It’s Always About That Girl
12. Cinderella Smile
13. The Stories We Could Tell
⦁ Addicted To That Rush (Live – Exclusive Bonus Track)
Just when I sadly thought we might not hear anything new from these guys collectively—what with all their other musical and teaching projects, to name a few—here comes MR. BIG with another generous offering of the kind of guitar lovers’ ear candy to which I’m still addicted.
“The Stories We Could Tell”, the band’s 8th studio album, is a real treat. Having been a fan since their debut, I got right into ‘Gotta Love The Ride’ and ‘I Forget To Breathe’, two tracks that open the album and immediately harken back to the classic MR. BIG sound, complete with funky, rock-solid grooves and blazing guitar solos. They go seamlessly into ‘Fragile’, also a strong song, bringing down the party mood just a bit to reflect poignantly before kicking it in again for the sass of Paul Gilbert’s guitar licks in a bluesy face-off with Eric Martin’s vocals on ‘Satisfied’.
Paul Gilbert is a prime example of a guitar hero who only gets better with time. The same can be said for his tone. There’s no doubt the man can shred, but his musical scope, broad to begin with, has widened and finessed considerably. He has the knack for always knowing the perfect licks, runs, and solos for every spot in a song to give it that extra somethin’- somethin’ to bring it to the next level, without taking away from the feel or the structure of it. The talent is evident, but it never sounds like he’s showing off. Rather, it’s more that he’s totally into what he’s doing and he’s having a blast, and he’s invited you along for the party. The artistry of Billy Sheehan is ever impressive as well; although he’s mixed in a little more than what I’m used to, there’s plenty here of what makes Billy one of the most admired artists in music. They sync so well in the irresistible funk of ‘The Monster In Me’, and in the lead break in ‘Light Of Day’. Pat Torpey doesn’t miss a beat, either; each song on the album could stand apart from the rest on the diversity of percussive timings alone. Despite a recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, there’s no evidence of it here, and he gives the other guys a great run for their money to keep up with him! I wish Pat all the best.
The album is replete with some wonderful acoustic stylings as well; ‘East/West’ and ‘Just Let Your Heart Decide’ are both lovely and powerful, and stay in my mind long after the music is over. Eric Martin can still belt them out like the best of ’em, and these days his voice carries more depth and soul than ever. I like the melody and the richness that the string section adds to ‘The Man Who Has Everything’, a tune that upon initial listen, might seem to fit better among Eric Martin’s solo efforts. Gilbert gives the song a little of a Beatles feel with his smooth playing and the chord progressions he uses.
The remaining songs: ‘It’s Always About That Girl’, ‘Cinderella Smile’, and the title track, ‘The Stories We Could Tell’ (the bonus live track was not available for my review) are slower-tempo rockers and also feature some great playing from the guys, but for whatever reason, they don’t seem to possess the same verve as the other tracks on the album. That won’t keep me from adding this one to my collection, though. Overall, the classic MR. BIG elements that initially made me a fan are still evident: talent out the wazoo, strong and catchy melodic songs, and terrific vocal harmonies, all coming together perfectly once again on “The Stories We Could Tell”.
Eric Martin – vocals
Paul Gilbert – guitars
Billy Sheehan – bass
Pat Torpey – drums