MR. BIG – Ten (Album Review)

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Mr. Big are currently on their proverbial victory lap with “The Big Finish” tour, which began in 2023. Having already toured Asia, and North and South America, they are now poised to hit Europe for the second time. This tour’s setlist features a selection of their greatest hits along with their most successful release, 1991’s “Lean Into It,” played in its entirety. Before wrapping up their career, they are set to release a new studio album titled “Ten,” produced by Jay Ruston and the band themselves.

“Ten” offers a chance to close an illustrious career on a high note. This album marks their first without any input from their late drummer, Pat Torpey, and is a significant step up from 2017’s “Defying Gravity,” which the band admitted was rushed. In tribute to Pat, Eric Martin (vocals), Paul Gilbert (guitars), and Billy Sheehan (bass) have enlisted the exceptional drumming talents of Nick D’Virgilio from Big Big Train, who has been also manning the drum throne for the “The Big Finish” tour.

The album kicks off with the blues rock “Good Luck Trying”, inspired by Hendrix’s “Manic Depression.” Echoes of The Allman Brothers Band can also be heard on the song, the perfect way to kick off the album and a good choice of first single. Gilbert explains the meaning behind the lyrics: “Overall, it’s about being overwhelmed with life, and realizing that you won’t win many of the battles, but still fighting to the end. And keeping a sense of humor about it by saying to anyone nearby, ‘Wish me good luck trying!'”

Next up is the uplifting “I Am You,” where Gilbert doubles the main riff on electric and acoustic guitar. Martin shines on this track, particularly during the chorus, while Paul’s solo is simple yet effective, serving the song rather than descending into aimless shredding.

In stark contrast, “Right Outta Here” has an enigmatic beginning and features one of the most complex arrangements on the album. Martin’s melodic lines are duplicated by Paul’s guitar, while the rhythm section holds the fort and elevates the track. Coming after is “Sunday Morning Kinda Girl”, a song that wouldn’t be displaced in one of Gilbert’s solo albums – think of the early days of his solo output when he released “King of Clubs” and “Flying Dog” – which carries an undeniable The Beatles influence.

No Mr. Big album is complete without a ballad, and on “Ten”, that box is ticked by the soulful “Who We Are”. Think of a cross between What If’s “Stranger In My Life” and Hey Man’s “The Chain”. Much like on the rest of the album, Sheehan and D’Virgilio show restraint and service the song, while Martin and Gilbert take the forefront. Sonically speaking, this track is probably the one where the improvement in the mix stands out the most when compared to “Defying Gravity”.

“Ten” Album Artwork

Song number six, “As Good as It Gets”, sounds as if The Who wrote a Queen song. Gilbert plays the main riff with a clean tone, and Brian May-esque overdubs are scattered throughout, while the whole band shines: yet another uplifting track that would become a great live setlist entry, should they choose to include it. The claps toward the end of the song, when Sheehan does his signature bass run, highlight the positive atmosphere surrounding the writing and recording of the album.

“What Were You Thinking” is a bluesy and quick one with a pull-off riff, which harkens back to the early days of rock and roll, almost as if Chuck Berry pressed F5 in one of his songs. Paul’s slide guitar solo is absolutely gorgeous, meanwhile, Sheehan and D’Virgilio play as if they’re telepathically connected. “Courageous” is also firmly planted in the garden of rock and roll, with a terrific drum intro from D’Virgilio and an infectious chorus section.

The second single, “Up On You”, is arena rock in its pure form, and yet another fantastic showcase of the record as a whole, simply because they are firing on all cylinders. Melodic and heavy, this song manages to condense all that Mr. Big stands for in just under five minutes.

The rock waltz of “The Frame”, which reminded me of Hey Man’s “Dancing Right Into the Flame”, brings things to an end, if we’re sticking to the standard edition. Special editions of the album contain one more song, “8 Days on the Road”, which is sung by Paul, and once again shows his ability to conjure pop elements and seamlessly blend them onto a rock tune.

Overall, “Ten” is as strong an album as these seasoned musicians can write at this stage in their careers. Granted, there are no high-octane numbers on the album like “Colorado Bulldog” or “Addicted to that Rush” – songs that the band could easily conjure in previous albums. But there are some great pop songs from the first right to the bonus track, and the material is appropriate for the mature musicians they became.

D’Virgilio’s drums sound very similar to Pat Torpey’s in the mix, Billy shows restraint for the most part on the record, and Paul and Martin, who wrote the majority of the album, really take the bulk of the spotlight here. As Martin summed it up: “This new album doesn’t copy anything from the 9 previous studio records. It’s all new stuff from scratch. This is raw, unadulterated riff rock and blues with all the Mr. Big trimmings.”

Mr. Big has been quite vocal about the fact that they don’t intend to tour to promote “Ten”Eric, in particular, doesn’t want to do long tours anymore. That’s quite a shame because many songs here would go down really well in a live setting. Who knows, maybe they’ll change their minds and do tours on a smaller scale. Whichever way this story goes, this is a fitting end to a victorious career and a great send-off for the devoted fans.

Released By: Frontiers Music SLR
Release Date: July 10th, 2024
Genre: Melodic Hard Rock

Musicians:

  • Eric Martin / Vocals
  • Billy Sheehan / Bass, vocals
  • Paul Gilbert / Guitars, vocals
  • Nick D’Virgilio / Drums, vocals

Ten” Track List:

  1. Good Luck Trying
  2. I Am You
  3. Right Outta Here
  4. Sunday Morning Kinda Girl
  5. Who We Are
  6. As Good As It Gets
  7. What Were You Thinking
  8. Courageous
  9. Up On You
  10. The Frame
  11. 8 Days On The Road (Bonus Track)

Order TenHERE.

8.8 Excellent

Mr. Big's new album "Ten," finds the band looking back at the origins of rock n' roll whilst modernizing their sound, and should this be the closing chapter of their studio story, it serves as a fitting end to a successful career, leaving fans with a final, polished collection of their signature groove

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8
  • Production 9
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