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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Big Trouble - 20 Years And A Million Beers Ago: The Very Best Of Big Trouble

Big Trouble - 20 Years And A Million Beers Ago: The Very Best Of Big Trouble
2011, Retrospect Records

Popular music is often about being in the right place at the right time.  This lesson was not lost on James Schmitt, Mike Wilkes, Dan Call (The Villains) and Chuck Strawhand, who bands, Big Trouble, were the darlings of the heavy rock scene in Atlanta in the early 1990's.  Opening for bands such as Skid Row, Jackyl and Extreme, Big Trouble built a large following and looked to be on their way to the heights of the rock world.  Then a little song called "Smells Like Teen Spirit" took over the radio.  Grunge was here to stay, and hair metal was a thing of the past, soon relegated to retrospectives by a new generation of rock fans.  Two decades on, all four members of Big Trouble are making music in various capacities, but thought it would be neat to dust off the old masters and see what they had.  The result is 20 Years And A Million Beers Ago, a collection of eleven studio and three live tracks from the band's heyday, and one newly recorded track that looks back on it all with a decidedly different sound.  20 Years... is due out on May 10, 2011.

20 Years... opens with "No Stopping Now", featuring the big guitar sound and full frontal vocals characteristic of 1980's hair metal.  The band rocks out in grand fashion, although the vocals are a bit weak.  There's a fair amount of formulaic material here that fits well into the era but fails to stand out.  "Way Out" is an exception, sounding like a wayward cross of Poison and Van Halen.  Released five years earlier on a major label, this song would have been a huge hit for the band.  Big Trouble shows its chops on power ballads with "Accidental Angel", which would have been a favorite at junior high dances in the late 1980's.  "Lost In Your Love" takes another crack at the power ballad style, but with a bit less success.  Big Trouble revives such fan favorites as "You Might Get Lucky", "Now You See Me", "Hot Shot" and "Seeing Is Believing" along the way.  The band closes with a new track, "Popcorn, Whiskey and Beer".  This is a huge sonic departure, more of an alt-country number that reflects musical growth and change in the individual members over the last two decades.  It's an ode to glory days and the sustenance of the time.

Big Trouble includes, as a bonus, three live songs.  "Candyland" is a pleasant surprise, sounding radio ready for the day and perhaps even now.  "Life Rolls By" reflects the other end of the spectrum, with vocals that just don't sound up to par.  The band's cover of Van Halen's "Somebody Get Me A Doctor" is middle of the road, but buoyed by a wealth of enthusiasm.

Sometimes it's best to let the past stay buried; others it's hard to know which way to go.  Big Trouble fits into the latter category.  There's certainly some material here that stands the test of time, but without label backing and mired in 1980's technology, 20 Years... reflects a band good enough to open for some of the big boys of rock n roll on a local basis, but never quite accomplished enough to make it themselves.  20 Years... will be a great bit of nostalgia for folks who perhaps saw the band play in the early 1990's, but won't build a significant second life for a band whose members have all moved on.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Big Trouble at Years And A Million Beers Ago: The Very Best Of Big Trouble drops on May 10, 2011.  You can get the album now from as a Download.  Keep checking for availability on CD if that's your thing.

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