Mr. Big - 'Bitter Streets'

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Mr. Big - 'Bitter Streets'

New album by the original Mr. Big.

Not to be confused with the popular US band of the same name, the original Mr. Big are a British band who weren't exactly unsuccessful themselves in their first incarnation between 1972 and 1978. They reformed for another run between 1990 and 1998 and now founding members Dicken and Eddie Carter are back with 'Bitter Streets', their first new release since 1996. Besides the irrepressible Dicken, who handles vocals, guitar, keys and drums, his other main collaborator these days is Paul Gibbon, co-writer of all the songs and a mean multi-instrumentalist himself, with Eddie Carter one of a few bit part players, helping out on backing vocals and harp.

In their mid-70s heyday they supported Queen on their successful 'Night At The Opera' tour and some of their own material at the time could be said to be in that vein, mixing hard rock and pomp with pop ballads, of which their 1977 hit ballad 'Romeo' was the most successful, reaching No.4 in the UK charts. These days it's that lighter side of their writing that's most prominent and there's far less variation in the material, although it has to be said that Dicken still has a remarkable voice and he and Gibbon know how to craft catchy pop songs. The single 'Georgia' is a great example, with infectious upbeat melodies and Dicken's soaring Jon Anderson-like voice. Most of the songs are based around the piano, with strings sometimes augmenting memorable tunes like 'Come And Dance', 'It's Over' and 'Sandy', each one with the kind of chorus that makes you think you've heard it before, even if you haven't.

Besides 'Georgia', other highlights include 'Die In Love', which adds strident guitar chords to their piano-based pop/rock, the more guitar oriented 'Baby Come Around', and the beautifully written 'Why Wait For Love', with 'God Save Me From The Blues' being the kind of light, bouncy rock and roll that John Waite has been doing of late. There's also a new version of their big 1977 hit 'Romeo' that still shows what a good song it was.

Ably produced by Jake Carter, Dicken and Paul Gibbon, 'Bitter Streets' is the kind of contemporary pop-rock that's recently enjoyed a resurgence at the hands of bands like The Feeling, and with no photos of the band anywhere on the CD you could be fooled into thinking the band were in their twenties rather than fifties. Maybe that's the idea, because when the songs are as catchy as this it shouldn't really matter.

Phil Ashcroft

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