Mr. Big - Mr. Big

Fans are excited over the reissue of Mr. Big's scorching self-titled debut album from 1989. This iconic record introduced the world to the unparalleled talents of this rock "supergroup," boasting an impressive lineup including vocalist and songwriter Eric Martin, bassist Billy Sheehan, formerly of David Lee Roth fame, guitarist Paul Gilbert, formerly of Racer X, and the incomparable drummer Pat Torpey, known for his collaborations with music legends like Ted Nugent, Belinda Carlisle, The Knack, and Stan Bush.

Upon its initial release, Mr. Big's debut garnered instant recognition, earning the band a reputation for their jaw-dropping technical prowess, and electrifying live performances, which included sharing stages with prog-rock legends such as Rush and others. Now, with this reissue, fans both old and new can experience the sheer brilliance of the quartet's alchemic ability to seamlessly blend technical wizardry with exceptional songwriting.

The explosive tracks on this renowned album showcase Mr. Big's musical dexterity, including the perennial crowd-pleaser "Rock & Roll Over," the beloved power ballad "Anything for You" (still a topic of discussion among devoted Mr. Big fans), and the rousing opener "Addicted to That Rush," hailed as one of the definitive Mr. Big anthems among a multitude of subsequent classics. Moreover, the reissue features rare gems worth revisiting, such as the soulful yet raunchy "Wind Me Up" and the infectious party-starter "Blame It on My Youth," penned by the incomparable Billy Sheehan.

Of greatest interest to high resolution surround enthusiasts is likely the Hybrid-SACD that contains both a 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo mix, which is reviewed here. Listeners may initially be concerned that this would be a front-centric surround mix, but very quickly will notice that this is not the case. While Eric Martin’s lead vocals soar from the center channel, underpinned by Billy Sheehan’s bass and Pat Torpey’s drums, Paul Gilbert’s double guitar parts spread across the main channels creating a very wide stereo field. Tom-tom hit from the left and right front channels while backing vocals emanate from the rears. A scorching lead guitar solo squelches out of the back left channel, giving the opening track “Addicted to That Rush” a very immersive feel.

The sonic clarity is fabulous, thanks to original audio engineer Kevin Elson and remix immersive engineer Chris Bell. Throughout the disc one will find muscular guitars that are bright and cut through with vigor along with a snappy and thick snare. The bottom is filled out with a round kick and guttural tom-toms, which spread widely across the sound field. For ear candy fanatics, the ending of the opening track is incredibly fulfilling with rolling tom-toms and guitars that crunch into the rear channels.

“Wind Me Up” opens with a reminiscent strong gated snare that hits from the center channel which is soon accented by a transparent and very open overdriven guitar that enters from the front left. Take notice how the sound of the room expands from the guitar amplifier. vocals strongly penetrate from the center channel with such realism that one feels Martin’s presence in the room. One may notice that even though the subwoofer is lightly used, the base is still fortifying the bottom. Once again, backing vocals are spread across the back left and right channels, strongly providing for an all-encompassing feeling, along with the subtle reverb and delays that hit off the back wall.

For fans of Foreigner and Journey, I sense listeners could easily find a home with Mr. big. “Merciless” strikes hard with a bold guitar riff which follows the baseline, a style that reminds me of Aerosmith. The drums add strong support with a counter guitar part that squeals to the groove, in turn opening up the track into the surround scape. Strident vocals delay into the back right channel from the center with additional ambience from the front guitar part falling to the back. I continue to find that the overall balance is excellent, making for a fantastic listen.

There is no way I have “Had Enough” which opens with a very bubbly bass solo that gives the impression of a real onslaught, However, the song initially settles into a ballad with an arpeggiated chord structured guitar part stepping out from the back left and vocals flowing from the front center channel. Listeners will soon realize that instruments have been strategically placed in their locations and have not effectively changed from song to song. It is as if the band has taken seats playing in your living room. The song develops into a power rock ballad with drums and crunchy guitars that hit across the front channels taking fans deeper into the stylings of Mr. Big.

The ambient openness that surrounds the main guitar part on “Take a Walk” elevates the powerhouse feel of Mr. big. The gated snare hits off the back wall, giving the drums an extremely large sound with a heavy kick and extremely solid bass filling out the lowest regions. More than any of the previous songs, “Take a Walk” creates a wall of sound that is firmly built in the front channels with the rears offering ambient depth.

A few of the songs kick it up a notch with a heavier rock edge that leans on metal driven rhythm parts and searing guitar solos such as heard on “How Can You Do What You Do.” Also, unlike most of the other mixes, the guitars are weighted to the front speakers with ambient delays and reverberance emanating behind the sweet spot. It is worthy to note again how the distance of the guitar offers ample space in the mix as it strikes out the rhythm with a metallic brilliance in true rocker form with a pop edge.

Sonically Mr. Big plays very well into the massive sound, which is abundantly evident with the reverberant space that falls directly behind the snare drum on the final cut “Rock & Roll Over.” As it should, each song stands clearly on its own with slight balance adjustments between the bass, drums, guitars, and various vocal parts. Lead vocals soar out from the center channel over top of the musicians all while the guitar powerfully finds its place again on the left channel with backing vocals once again taking their seat in the rear speakers.

As a special bonus on the SACD an additional track has been added both in stereo and 5.1 surround. This is a live recording of the band performing “30 Days in the Hole” making for an excellent nightcap to this fabulous reissued and remixed album. Of course, the aural tone of the bonus live track does not match the album. That is not to say it is bad, rather it stands on its own sonically featuring a very lively feel that provides collectors and fans a good sense of the band performing on stage back in the day. While I didn’t exactly feel that I was at the venue, this bonus track is extremely congruent, demonstrating the musical connection among all the band members.

Unfortunately, I do not half an earlier copy of the stereo mix on hand to compare the DSD edition against. However, I can say that compared to the surround version, the upper-mids are certainly notched up a bit and of course the sound field is flattened into a stereoscape. Musically the stereo mix comes together extremely well, thrusting its power with plenty of punch, good depth, and crystal transparency. When I consider how an overall stereo mix sounds, this certainly ranks up there as a worthy listen for audiophiles. I found no harshness, just pure audio bliss.

Heading up above the sweet spot, the Dolby Atmos mix brings additional space to this already immersive mix. Available on Amazon and Tidal, the Atmos download from Immersive Audio Album remains the best option for high-resolution audio listeners since streaming is compressed. Listeners will primarily find guitars have been elevated and the snare reverberates into the back heights. A smidge of vocals is also reflected above, giving listeners a spatial experience that heightens one’s aural experience of the album. It is important to note that depending on the configuration of a listeners’ room, their experience may differ from my own. I am set up for 5.1.4 Atmos, and those with 5.1.2 or moving up to 7.1.6 are likely to experience this mix in a totally different way given that it is object oriented versus channel focused! I did not experiment with listening to the Atmos mix in 5.1 surround as I was already very satisfied with the SACD multi-channel mix.

Bell also made some subtle balance and location changes on the Atmos mix, making it unique versus a simple expansion of the surround mix. I noticed that the bass was slightly fuller, and the backing vocals carried more weight up front compared to their placement in the rears on the surround version. In fact, the Atmos mix seems to be a bit more weighted to the fronts, while guitars and reverberant delays are abundant in the back and height channels. Without steering listeners one way or another, there are aspects of each mix which I appreciate, yet I find myself leaning toward the 5.1 surround mix, and of course your immersive preference may be different.

While I have reviewed the SACD and Atmos download versions here, the album is also available on MQA-CD, which features the previously unreleased 1989 Kevin Elson produced-track "Want to Be Wanted" along with the original version of “Next Time Around.” The album has been remastered using high-resolution digital transfers from the original analog master tapes. Speaking of analog, colored vinyl editions were first sold on Record Sales Day 2023 in different colors depending on the region.

With all of these choices, prepare to embark on a sonic journey when spinning Mr. Big's groundbreaking debut album in your preferred format, enhanced and revitalized for a new generation of hard rock enthusiasts. Experience the fusion of technical brilliance and irresistible melodies that solidified Mr. Big's status as one of rock's finest. The reissue of Mr. Big's debut is a testament to their enduring legacy and a must-have addition to any music aficionado's collection. Don't miss out on this momentous release that brings the past into the present with enhanced brilliance and renewed vigor.

Released April 23, 2023.

 Format Info

SACD with 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo mixes, Dolby Atmos download as MKV or MP4, also on MQA-CD and Audiophile Colored Vinyl.  Stereo edition available via streaming platforms.

 

 

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 About the Author

Wesley Derbyshire Profile Image

Wesley is a lifelong music enthusiast. He started his career in the recording industry in New York City as an audio engineer, producer, and studio manager. Subsequently he toured across America as a guitarist with the short-lived band Land's Crossing. After many years in the technology sector and amassing a substantial vinyl and CD collection, he delved into immersive audio and created Hi-Res Edition to share with other listeners about the sound quality and discrete mixes available on many formats. He recently upgraded his system to 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos and continues to seek out and share about the best sounding releases.

 

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