This compilation of the pop metal band's hits includes "To Be With You" and "Nothing But Love."
Personnel: Paul Gilbert (vocals, guitar); Pat Torpey (vocals, drums); Billy Sheehan (vocals).
Audio Mixers: Tom Size; Kevin Elson.
Recording information: Rumbo Studios; Studio Sound Recordings.
Photographers: William Hames; John Harrell; John Halpern.
When it came to classification, Mr. Big always posed a bit of a problem. On the one hand, the band had a big-league virtuoso lead guitarist (Paul Gilbert) who just loved to shred and a hotshot bass player (Billy Sheehan) who regularly topped guitar magazine polls. On the other, all of Mr. Big's hits were sappy (if tuneful) AC-lite through and through, thanks in large part to the mainstream pop sensibilities of lead vocalist Eric Martin. Big, Bigger, Biggest! captures this dichotomy fairly well. Songs like "Colorado Bulldog" and "The Electric Drill Song" are showcases for Sheehan and Gilbert to unleash their chops in a fierce flurry of notes, whereas "Be With You" and the cover of Cat Stevens' "Wild World" are pure ballad heaven. On occasion, like on "Take Cover" and "Green Tinted Sixties Mind," both impulses come together in something approximating harmony. And the three new tracks are not half bad either. The question never has been whether Mr. Big has the musical talent to play like Van Halen -- the band does (and on tracks like "Stay Together," one of the previously unreleased songs, the resemblance is uncanny). The pity is that the group hasn't been able to consistently match its playing talent with as strong a songwriting ability. As a collection of Mr. Big's finest moments, Big, Bigger, Biggest!, featuring a full four tracks apiece from the breakthrough albums Lean Into It and Bump Ahead, is pretty much the best you can do. ~ Leslie Mathew