The Supergroups: Can They Possibly Be Stopped?

Well of course they can’t. Earlier this week I reviewed the new Mister Heavenly album, and I was thinking about the best supergroups formed in the last fifty or so years. I’ve compiled a list of my favorites here. There have been some really great bands that just recorded once or twice, and some that are still together today.

10. Monsters Of Folk

This band has so far released one decent but ultimately unsatisfying album. Consisting of Conor Oberst, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, producer Mike Mogis, and M Ward, there’s no shortage of star power. I think the problem is that they feel too friendly with one another to say, “You know what Jim James of My Morning Jacket, this song kind of sucks.” I’ll look forward to their next offering, if there is one.

9. Hindu Love Gods

Warren Zevon and the three members of REM that aren’t named Michael Stipe got together with Bryan Cook and put out one recording of mostly blues covers. The recording took place while Berry, Mills, and Buck were the backup band for Zevon while he recorded his 1987 record Sentimental Hygiene. They had previously played a few shows together under the name Hindu Love Gods, and were joined on occasion by Stipe. The record came out in 1990 on Giant Records, and sold poorly.

8. Golden Smog

Is it really a supergroup, or a collective? The album has a consistent base, made up of Gary Louris (The Jayhawks), Kraig Johnson (Run Westy Run), Dan Murphy (Soul Asylum), and Marc Perlman (The Jayhawks).  They’ve also had Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Charlie Mars of The Replacements, and Noah Levy of Big Star as part of the band.

7. Them Crooked Vultures

At first I thought this was going to fail miserably. One listen to the song “New Fang” and I was convinced it could work. Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters, and the man, the myth, the legend, John  Paul Jones of Led “freakin'” Zeppelin. If you like your rock turned up to a million this is the supergroup for you.

6. The Raconteurs

Jack White doesn’t seem to be happy unless he’s working. So, when The White Stripes to their first big break, he got involved with The Greenhorne’s and Brendan Benson. Some consider this band even better than White’s original, but I tend to disagree. They are a great band, though. I’m looking forward to whatever it is they’re working on right now.

5. Broken Social Scene

This band is far too large for me to go through everyone, and it continues to grow. They refuse the label of “supergroup” so I hope they don’t read this. If you can think of an artist from the Toronto-area, chances are they’re in Broken Social Scene. Their last album, Forgiveness Rock Record, made my top ten for 2010.

4. The Highwaymen

Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson. I almost don’t think I need to say anything else. Between 1985 and 1995, they put out three albums together. They should have set the country world afire. Only their debut album hit number one in the country charts.

3. Cream (or Blind Faith)

Here’s a rule of thumb if you’re thinking about creating a supergroup: Consult Eric Clapton. Cream, Blind Faith, The Yardbirds, Derek and the Dominoes…I mean, come on. Give someone else a chance, Eric. It was a toss-up to pick Cream over the others, especially considering he isn’t the only member of the band that is also a member of Blind Faith along with Steve Winwood. Still, Blind Faith didn’t write “White Room” or “Sunshine Of Your Love.”

2. Crosby Stills Nash & Young

With members of The Hollies, The Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills and Nash is a supergroup alone. But, if you’re gonna play you might as well go big, so let’s throw Neil Young in there too. I really like CSN music, but when you add the guitar wailing of Neil Young into the mix, it becomes something else entirely (Stephen Stills is also a great guitarist, but more acoustic). One easy way to guage how good your taste in music is would be to ask yourself, “Where in my personal top ten albums of all-time does Deja Vu rank?” The higher it is, the better your taste.

1. The Travelling Wilburys

Ok. Enough mucking about. This is where we get serious. The lineup for The Travelling Wilbury’s is so insane it shouldn’t even be legal. Bob Dylan? Yes. Tom Petty? Yeah. Roy Orbison? Of course. Jeff Lynne? Who? George Harrison? You bet. With a lineup like this, I’d pay to watch them tinker around on their guitars and never really play anything. Their biggest hit, “Handle With Care,” is a pretty decent tune that let’s everyone play a little bit. Most of these guys had hit a bit of a career standstill in the mid 80’s, and I think getting together helped all of them push through and go on to bigger and better (well, except Roy who passed away in 1988). Only together two short years from 88-90, they never toured. After being out of print for years, the two releases the band put out, Vol. 1 and Vol. 3, were re-released as a box set in 2007.

Disclaimer: You’re probably saying to yourself, “This guy’s an idiot. Ten supergroups with no mention of The Dirty Mack?” Well, as I pointed out some time ago, I try not to ever repeat myself. It will happen from time to time, but if a band is on one list, I try to not include them again. This can probably happen in six-month intervals, so no more Dirty Mack until January.

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