|Influences & Connections Volume 1 - Mr. Big||Universal Japan|
Influences & Connections was previously reviewed a few months ago after its release in Japan. Frontiers Records have picked it up for Europe and will release it at the much fairer price January 19.|
I've had a while to live with the album now and I am happy to keep all initial comments regarding the release. The below text is my original review.
There is one change to the European release from Frontiers and that is the addition of a bonus track.
Thank God someone was wise enough to add Alive & Kicking, featuring the supreme vocal talents of Glenn Hughes. This is without doubt the best track of the entire album and a welcomed addition. When I heard Glenn was doing this song, I was gob smacked to learn it was left off the Japanese release. I still don't understand why, but thankfully it's included here and is well worthy to be called the album's best track.
It remains faithful to the original, but with the addition of the usual Hughes vocal acrobatics. Great stuff.
And I still feel that it's a slight on the name Mr. Big to leave Eric Martin totally out of this project.
This is a very interesting release. A little curious also.
I was really looking forward to it and now that I have lived with it for a week, this review will reflect a lot of positives, but also a few negatives, as I was a little disappointed with the overall result.
I'm a huge Mr. Big fan, so the idea of the guys in the band re-recording their own tracks with outside guests was somewhat appealing.
The fact that singer Eric Martin has been totally cast aside though does leave a bad taste. He could easily have re-recorded one lead vocal or provided backing vocals along the way. But no…the obvious personality issues within the band are all too evident with his absence.
The choice of guests was also interesting. Some inspired, some not so. I'll comment on those within each track description.
While the album as a whole is enjoyable, the track selection could possibly have been better and the running order also altered. It starts off slow and struggles to get out of first gear for the first few tracks.
Major credit however, must go to producer Pat Regan. The music itself sounds a million bucks and sounds every bit the major label production job it is.
The base band for most of the album is Lanny Cordola on guitar and Chuck Wright on pass, with Pat Torpey on drums. They do a great job.
Track by Track:
The album opens with one of the slowest tracks on the album. I would have though this would be better placed in the middle of the running order. Mr. Big is a very slow track and doesn't start the album with the usual pizzazz Mr. Big records are treated to.
Having said that, there's nothing wrong with the track. Guest singer is the rather brilliant Paul Rodgers, who of course was responsible for the original song with Free.
The rest of the band is comprised of the guys of Mr. Big, which make the track sound massive, with Billy Sheehan's bass all over this track. The track was never written by Mr. Big, therefore is a cover of a cover, but being the band's namesake, I'll let that slide.
Take Cover is one of my favourite Mr. Big tracks ever. So it was always going to be tough going to improve on the original, which features a magic Eric Martin vocal.
Here the songs features the guys of Kings X. Doug Pinnick is singing and at least does an admirable and unique interpretation, but it's a long way from the passionate vocals of Martin. The intense vibe of the track however, is kept in place.
The first uptempo rocker of the album is Colorado Bulldog. Featuring Joe Lynn Turner up front, this version is a little flashier than the original, thanks largely to Marty Friedman and Lanny Cordola's guitar parts. Joe does his usual solid performance, making the song his own.
I have a problem with the track Wild World. Firstly, it's the worst song Mr. Big ever recorded and is another cover of a cover. I really hate this song. I didn't even like the Eric Martin version of it! John Waite is featured vocalist and it's a shame to waste his contribution on this track. Would have much rather heard him sing Just Take My Heart or To Be With You or Take Cover even….now that would have been something special.
In any regards, this is a nice and pleasant version, which is maybe better then the previous Mr. Big version. Like on his album Temple Bar, Waite has a unique and enjoyable way of interpreting covers. Still hate the song though…
Price You Gotta Pay features a ripping bass line from Chuck Wright and the always awesome Glenn Hughes on vocals. Guitars are by Lanny Cordola and the solo by Steve Lukather. Yes, this track rocks! The version is more stripped back and blusier than the original – which I still prefer – but it's always great to hear Glenn sing like this.
Promise Her The Moon is an album highlight. This sweet ballad was another favourite of mine, this time featuring the always on song Ann Wilson. A sweet pop ballad.
Time to rock again with another Mr. Big classic - Addicted To That Rush. The guys have turned this into an uptempo swampy blues rocker, with Billy Sheen on lead vocals and Chuck Wright shredding away on bass. The rest of the band is the last Mr. Big line-up.
An interesting version, which varies from the original quite nicely.
Just Take My Heart features another classic melodic rock voice – Mickey Thomas. He plants his own stamp firmly on the track, which again features Wright/Cordola and a solo from Gene Black. This doesn't vary from the original much, but Mickey Thomas fans will love it.
Shine is a step backwards. It's a classic track, but hearing Dogstar (Keanu Reeves, Bret Domrose) rework it is hard on the ears. Comparing the lead vocal to Eric Martin is like comparing Lemmy with Steve Perry. Skip…
Crawl Over Me is another track that was included on the last Mr. Big studio album. This version sees drummer Pat Torpey take lead vocal and Matt Sorum take over the drum stool. Like Addicted, this is more a good fun version. A good rock track.
To Be With You is another bluesy version of the original. Richie Kotzen takes over lead and Steve Salas provides the solo. A cool version that's enjoyable, while not overpowering the original.
Green Tinted Sixties Mind is another personal Mr. Big favourite. The original was a perfect slice of melodic pop and helped the band sell a truck load of their breakthrough Lean Into It album. But this version is bloody awful. Donnie Vie is responsible for the horrendous vocals and the song is overall rather lifeless and bland. Take out original songwriter Paul Gilbert and vocalist Eric Martin and the major is gone.
Daddy Brother Lover Little Boy ends the album on a high note, with Joe Lynn Turner back for another go. Faithful to the original, this uptempo rocker differs only with the inclusion of Yngwie Malmsteen on guitar, who – not surprisingly – shreds throughout. Good fun.
Included in the first pressing is a bonus DVD of behind the scenes 'making of' footage. Sadly, it's only 7 minute long. Yes…7 minutes. The interviews are brief, but interesting, but it's all over before it starts and there is no actual footage of in the studio performances.
I hear a full length DVD is planned, with extra music included, but I'll be wary of buying it based on this extract.
For the most part the performances are first rate, aside from a couple of dodgy vocalists.
The production is also first rate and execution is also very good, but a few tracks just don't have the life and vibe of the originals and a couple of tracks might have benefited from better placement.
And points off for not including the other Glenn Hughes track that was recorded for the album. The great man doing Alive & Kicking would have been even better than Price You Gotta Pay and a mile better than Green Tinted Sixties Mind.
Enjoyable, but overall - considering the quality of the originals and my love of all things Mr. Big – a little disappointing.
include("f-review.p3"); retrieve("ic-mrbig",0,1); ?>