Nine years after their previous studio album, Mr. Big return with "What if...". Right from the first listen it doesn't feel as if such a long has passed as the new material has the unmistakable Mr. Big sound - maybe it a bit more aggressive and technical in respect to previous outings such as "Lean Into It" (1991) and "Hey Man" (1996).
The 'sound' is a Hard Rock with strong commercial potential delivered with a high level of technical sophistication. Indeed all the band's members - with no exception- are musicians who in "What if..." demonstrate a lack of inhibition in flaunting their technical prowess. The line-up is the same one with which Mr. Big had started out: lead vocalist Eric Martin, guitar virtuoso Paul Gilbert, Pat Torpey on drums and of course Billy Sheehan - a living benchmark in quality bass playing.
Amongst the album's various highs is 'Undertow' - where a set of hard riffs merge with catchy melodies. 'Stranger in My Life' is one of the most interesting power ballads recorded by Mr. Big. The album's other ballad - 'ĎAll the Way Up' - sounded a bit too formulaic to me. 'Still ainít enough for me' is an exciting up-tempo Boogie Metal number dense with blistering guitar and bass solos (yeah, bass solos!). 'Nobody Takes the Blame' is one of the songs I liked least - possibly due to the vocal effects that are used.
It would be tempting for the average Metalhead to dismiss this album as commercial, 'sugary' or 'UN-true' but the undeniable truth is that "What if..." is a prime example of superior Melodic Hard Rock. Welcome back guys!