Back in early 2009 Mr Big announced they were reforming the original line up of Eric Martin (vocals), Paul Gilbert (guitar, backing vocals), Billy Sheehan (bass, backing vocals) and Pat Torpey (drums, percussion, backing vocals). The reunion was in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of their debut album. There was so much excitement surrounding the reunion the band decided to go back into the studio and write a new album entitled 'What If'.
As part of the promotion for the new album and tour they were invited to the WOWOW TV Studios in Tokyo to perform an acoustic set. As you expect from a band as skilled as Mr Big they wanted to do something different to what they had done before and the idea do an acoustic show with strings to enhance some songs was born.
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What we have here is the results of this show. Ten Mr Big tracks presented acoustically by the band for the first time. Although to be fair Sheehan and Gilbert do plug in and go electric at some points in the performance.
As this was recorded during the promotion for 'What If', it does comprise of seven tracks from that album, namely 'Undertow', 'Still Ain't Enough For Me', 'As Far As I Can See', 'Around The World', 'Stranger In My Life', 'All The Way Up' and 'Nobody Left to Blame'.
It also has renditions of 'Voodoo Kiss' and 'To Be With You' (from 'Lean Into It') and 'Take Cover' (from 'Hey Man').
The album opens up really well and from the outset it has the Mr Big stamp all over it. Amazing musicianship, fantastic vocals, tight harmonies and well written rock songs.
The songs sound fresh and new, showing that the band knows how to rearrange their songs to work acoustically. We lose none of the Sheehan/Gilbert fretboard work and Gilbert in particular puts in a stunning performance. Standouts are his work on 'As Far As I Can See' and 'Voodoo Kiss'.
As we get further into the album we get three songs with string arrangements and things take a little dip for me. The strings don't really enhance the songs and it feels as if the band are having to hold back to cater for the strings. The overall feel of the music moves and takes on a more pop/rock ballad feel to it.
The band finishes off by plugging Sheehan and Gilbert in and doing a great version of 'Nobody Left To Blame'.
In summary this is a fantastic album from start to finish, the band are all top class musicians playing at the top of their game, the songs are well structured in an acoustic setting and the album has managed to capture that live feeling which so many live albums fail to do.