The album gets underway in fine fashion with the hard rocking Open Your Eyes, which opens with a Zeppelin-esque riff that makes the most of the album's rawer production. This gives way to a strident verse, backed by Sheehan's snaking bassline, and a somewhat AOR-inspired chorus with tight vocal harmonies and catchy melodies. This is one the songs on the album that best exemplifies the trademark interplay between Gilbert and Sheehan, with the two often locking into great bluesy grooves to great effect. The little pattern the follows the main riff is a great example of this, and shows their willingness to take a little risk and deviate from the norm. The album's title track seems to start off in a similar fashion, but the chiming guitar melody is surprisingly catchy and light-hearted which makes a nice change from a muscular riffing of the previous number. Once again, Sheehan's bass playing really dominates the verses with his heavily-overdriven instrument growling away to provide the main rhythms as Gilbert plays around him with his intricate leads. The chorus is another good one, but lacks the real killer hook that the previous song had. The highlight for me though is Gilbert's playing throughout, which includes a really tasteful solo and plenty of little licks. This song reminds me of the sound that Europe have been pursuing in recent years and, in fact, the bluesy overtones of this album mean that plenty of comparisons can be drawn. I think Europe did it better, but Mr. Big have also proved it to be a fruitful path to tread. Everybody Needs a Little Trouble is a mid-apced rocker that recalls the band's first couple of albums with a strong classic rock strut backed by a strong marching drum beat. Martin's vocals during the verses are quite different from his normal style, as they are delivered in an-almost snarling whisper, but he returns to his bluesy croon for the sleazy choruses which are packed with attitude. This song also contains Gilbert's first really lengthy solo on the album, which sees him cut loose with plenty of fast licks that are a good contrast to the methodical rhythm the rest of the song possesses. Damn I'm in Love Again is an acoustic-led piece with an-almost whimsical quality. Gilbert's acoustic guitars dominate throughout, and Martin sings the reflective lyrics effortless over the subtle percussion backing. Mr. Big have always done acoustic songs well, and in fact had a big hit with one back in the day, and this is another strong effort in that department. It is quite a short song, but helps to provide some diversity during the album's first half. Mean to Me is quite the opposite of the previous number and opens with a loose, but technically brilliant, guitar riff which sees the band's three musicians locking together perfectly with the unusual rhythms really standing out. The main body of the song is more typical, with a power chord-heavy verse which makes the most of Martin's vocal skills. The strange riff resurfaces in the chorus and somehow the band manage to make it work and fit a vocal melody over the top of it without it ever sounding forced. That has always been one of Mr. Big's skills, and this has helped them from stand out from the crowd over the years. Nothin' Bad ('Bout Feelin' Good) is another slower number, which sees Gilbert's acoustic guitars once again dominating, especially during the early part of the song. Unlike the previous acoustic number, this is more of a rocker and does feature the other members of the band heavily and once again recalls the raw style of Led Zeppelin. While not a bad song, it lacks the spark that many of the album's early numbers had and makes it one of the album's least interesting cuts.
Forever and Back sees the bluesy influence brought to the front again with a fuzzy guitar pattern and some lyrics about lost love sung perfectly by Martin. The song's chorus is a good one, which has a slightly jazzy beat and plenty of wordless backing vocals from the band to add a slight gospel feel. It is another relatively slow song, but it still packs a punch and really shows the raw sound the band aimed for on this album in a good light. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a great guitar solo from Gilbert here which, while following many of the bluesy clichés, really adds to the mood of the piece perfectly. The fuzzy sound continues on She's all Coming Back to Me Now, but the smooth melodies really recall the band's early days with Martin crafting some strong AOR-esque vocal melodies throughout which fit in well despite the rawer sound. Musically the song is less interesting than many of the others here, with a very basic guitar pattern throughout from Gilbert and Sheehan's bass is barely audible. The good chorus saves the song from real mediocrity however and has a light-hearted feel that is easy to get behind and sing along with. 1992 is one of my favourite pieces from the album and tells the story of the band having a hit with To Be With You and how quickly they fell from grace afterwards. The self-effacing lyrics are great and the song contains what is probably the album's best chorus. The opening guitar/bass riff is fantastic too, and really shows what Gilbert and Sheehan can do. In my opinion there is not enough of this kind of interplay on the album, but when it rears it's head it really hits the spot. This song however is really crying out for a smoother production more akin to the band's early albums, showing that their bluesy approach on this album is not without it's flaws. Nothing At All is another strutting mid-paced rocker, which is defined by an excellent drum performance. It is not clear whether the drums are played by Torpey or Starr - as both are credited with playing drums on the album - but I would assume that this is Starr's handiwork given Torpey's condition. The drums lay down a strong groove which is never really broken throughout, which is of course helped by Sheehan's thick bass playing. Songs like this really bring the best out of the album's production, and show that on the whole it was the right decision. The album's last, and longest, number Be Kind is a real bluesy workout with slide guitar sections, lengthy guitar solos, and walking bassline-led verses which sees Martin's croon put to good use. This is definitely not a typical Mr. Big number, but it fits well within the themes and sounds of the album and features some excellent guitar playing from Gilbert that is more restrained than his usual shredded style. Overall, Defying Gravity is another strong effort from Mr. Big that shows they still have plenty left to say and continue to make their somewhat quirky brand of hard rock work. While the rawer production might not be to everyone's taste, and definitely stops a few of the numbers from sounding as good as they could do, this is an album that flows very well and contains plenty of very enjoyable numbers that sit well alongside the more famous numbers from the band's past.
The album was released on 21st July 2017 via Frontiers Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Everybody Needs a Little Trouble.