With enough thrust, even a pig can fly. Winged pigs on the cover of Mr. Big's first studio recording in 14 years--and with the original lineup no less--is totally appropriate for the story of this band. For me, the story reaches back to the 2007 G3 tour that opened with Paul Gilbert whose live performance of "Green Tinted Sixties Mind" which I hadn't heard since I was 10 years old left me feeling so magical, I went on a mission to learn every note of the song. Along the way, I had gone back to look into Billy Sheehan, the man behind that amazing sound on David Lee Roth's solo records. Turns out, he was just about to release his second solo CD, "Holy Cow." And Holy Cow, Paul Gilbert played on the 3rd track! Then these guys started doing shows together. And then along came Eric Martin, and then Pat Torpey. They were in Japan! Could this be the beginning of a reunion? On November 29, 2010, Frontiers Records releases the single "Undertow" on YouTube, shocking the world with a recording that, while modern, stays true and faithful to the Mr. Big sound; with Martin's unmistakable vocals and the dynamic duo Sheehan and Gilbert providing plenty of stringed fireworks for our ear's delight. Indeed, the album DOES NOT disappoint. MelodicRock.com, probably the finest website on the Internet for rock reviews, gave "What If..." a 100% score - which basically never happens. Despite the near death of the music scene in Los Angeles, these guys have managed to keep the spark alive--rehearsing for and recording the album right here in the city of angels. Somehow, Mr. Big managed to record an album that is not 80s rehash while, at the same, not such a departure so far from what made them famous that it would be offensive to their fanbase. There are down-and-dirty, nasty hard rockers like "I Wont Get In My Way" which features a technically advanced performance hidden within 90s-2000 era sensibilities. A similar track is "Once Upon A Time," just a nice grungy riff but without the screaming/growling; plenty of nice thick layered chorus vocals on top of that drop D line. But then there is American Beauty which takes you into trademarked Mr. Big territory--think "Addicted to that Rush" on top of a 'Hot for Teacher' drum line. A high speed hard rock track with a real catchy chorus. "Stranger In My Life" takes us down to a more mellow tempo with a heart warming set of melodies, just the sweetest drum sounds recorded and a wonderful vocal performance by Eric Martin. This one makes you want to sing "Ah" with your cigarette lighter in the sky. They bring the fun on "I Get the Feeling" with such fist pumping lyrics, "I wanna feel rich when I'm broke, young when I'm old, I may never hit gold but you know I get the feelin'!" I can't imagine anyone not just loving this track! If you're looking for the ultimate Gilbert/Sheehan duel, punch up "Around the World." This is a GREAT song because of the chorus and just a wonderful set of melodies carried by fantastic guitar tone. But then they down into that solo and it will just blow your head off! I'll bet the kids behind the glass when they were recording this stuff had NO idea what was about to happen before they started tracking that session. Clocking in at 5 minutes and 12 seconds, you really don't notice its length when you listen to this emotional tune about losing a loved one; "All The Way Up." It's really touching and I think anyone who's ever been through something like that could really appreciate this song. Again, just wonderful chord progression, masterfully performed, and beautifully recorded. I play this one over and over again. Another sad song but that you can't help but listen to constantly is the lead-off track, "Undertow" - about a girl trying to losing the fight against her addiction to drugs. Where do I begin on THIS one? Eric Martin sounds wonderful, as does Billy's attitude bass and of course that rockin' groove Paul Gilbert powers down your speakers is crazy addictive. Sliding harmonics? Pinch harmonics? String bends? YES PLEASE. Just SO damn addictive this track is; you just want to air drum along with Torpey as they bust into that anthemic chorus. Good stuff! Believe it or not, though, my favorite cut on the 12-track album is "As Far As I Can See." The tricky timing takes some time to get used to but you as soon as you 'get' that classic rock chord progression on top of the modern rock sound they recorded for this song, you wont be able to get enough of it. Paul Gilbert's tone sounds SO good in this one, and he gives you a little neo-classical shredding during the solo, but it's really the ending that will get you. The doo-wop "whoas" just makes you want to clap your hands. I pray they play this one in concert when they go on tour. I'm totally addicted to this track. 2011 is going to be an Outstanding year for AOR, especially thanks to these guys! You can only hope it inspires new bands to adopt melodic rock and continue this on long after these guys have played their last show.