Sound — 8
Back with their first new studio album in four years, Mr. Big have survived the turmoils of significant lineup alternations, the introduction of grunge, a seemingly unavoidable breakup, and the odds stacked against the entire original lineup coming back together for a reunion in 2009, and yet somehow they've overcome all of that and continue to regularly tour and create music right in line with their earlier efforts.
Such is evident on the newly released "...The Stories We Could Tell," which has Mr. Big (whose lineup is comprised of the familiar roster of lead vocalist Eric Martin, bassist Billy Sheehan, guitarist Paul Gilbert and drummer Pat Torpey) offering not-so-outlandish tales of love, love lost, rolling with the changes and lastly kicking a-s and takin' names. With such lyrical themes installed into a soundtrack provided by the entire original band, what we should have in front of us is a seemingly standard installment which reinforces the Mr. Big legacy. Thankfully, this time the odds were in favor of this veteran hard rock act, who manage to succeed in keeping their distinctive approach alive through exemplary musicianship and admirable amounts of hesitation towards new musical frontiers.
Songs such as "Gotta Love the Ride" has the members of Mr. Big firing on all cylinders through a mid-tempo anthem overloaded with commanding operatic vocals, energetic percussion work, gliding bass lines and the blistering arpeggios which defines Gilbert's technique which established listeners are well accustomed to hearing on such previous rockers as "Green Tinted Sixties Mind." "I Forgot to Breath" and "Satisfied" follow a similar suit, however the full length of "...The Stories We Could Tell" isn't just a highway of ferocious diesel engines; the band knows just when to drop their fist on the pace and take the back alleys home, and the romanticized power ballad themes to "Just Let Your Heart Decide" is a strong example of this ability to keep the outcome leveled out as to appease both casual fans and diehard Mr. Big athletes.
The main focus, however, is directed to driving hard rock bolstered by soaring vocal harmonies and impressionable instrumentation; "It's Always About That Girl" and "The Light of Day" unearth this same chemistry with admirable strength. Revealing very few weaknesses in regards to musical ability, songwriting, studio production and overall performance, there's little to nitpick on Mr. Big's latest offering.
Lyrics — 8
Eric Martin has done a notable job at maintaining his vocal range and tone through the three decades he's spent at the helm of Mr. Big and amongst various solo and side projects over the course of his career. There are apparent heavier overtones in his voice, which are expected after hitting the high notes to the band's classic material live every other night, however that hasn't affected his vocal range in the least. He isn't afraid to head for those operatic notes, either, as indicated on the aforementioned "Gotta Love the Ride."
Overall Impression — 8
An exceptional offering of accelerated hard rock from one of the more dominant "supergroups" of the late 1980s, Mr. Big return with a vengeance on "...The Stories We Could Tell." On a less enthusiastic note, as of this writing drummer Pat Torpey has been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease and will be refraining from any involvement with Mr. Big for the foreseeable future. Should his performance on "...The Stories We Could Tell" serve as the curtain call for Torpey, there's no denying that he went out as formidably skillful as he arrived.