Post By: Katherine.Eleanor
Music's own version of an all-star team, the supergroup has captivated music lovers for decades. Unlike with sports, though, most supergroups never live up to their (seemingly astronomical) potential; those that seem too good to be true often are. So when a supergroup comes along that overcomes the challenge of egos and the novelty factor to create genuinely great music, it's worthy of recognition. Here we honor those supergroups that have earned their titles:
#10: Temple of the Dog
Temple of the Dog was only a one-off project but legendary in its pairing of Seattle grunge heavyweights Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. Conceived in 1990 for the sole purpose of recording a tribute album for the late Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood, Temple of the Dog brought together Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell and drummer Matt Cameron, Mother Love Bone bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard, and a then-unknown singer named Eddie Vedder and guitarist named Mike McCready. Temple of the Dog would only release one eponymous album, but Vedder, Gossard, Ament, and McCready would go on to form Pearl Jam shortly after.
#9: A Perfect Circle
Featuring Maynard James Keenan (Tool), drummer extraordinaire Josh Freese (Nine Inch Nails, Devo, the Vandals), James Iha (the Smashing Pumpkins), and mastermind Billy Howerdel, A Perfect Circle may not have the legacy of some of its members' other bands, but they made one hell of an album together with their 2000 debut album, Mer de Noms, which is the highest selling debut for a rock band ever.
Though initially appearing to be Rage Against the Machine with a new singer—Soundgarden's Chris Cornell in place of Zack de la Rocha (yep, Cornell is like the modern day Eric Clapton when it comes to supergroups)—Audioslave established its own distinct sound and entity by combining '90s alt-rock with '70s hard rock. Tom Morello was able to get more innovative with his guitar solos as the band explored slow and melodic songs, and Cornell dropped de la Rocha's fiercely political approach in favor of a more haunted, poetic lyrical style. During its run from 2001 to 2007, Audioslave enjoyed a string of successful albums, its first two achieving platinum status.
Formed in 1981 by John Wetton (King Crimson), Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), Geoff Downes (the Buggles), and Steve Howe (Yes), Asia had a major hit with its self-titled debut album. Released in 1982, Asia features the hits "Heat of the Moment," "Only Time Will Tell," and "Sole Suvivor."
#6: The Highwaymen
An outlaw country supergroup featuring four of country music's brightest stars—Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson—the Highwaymen released three albums together between 1985 and 1995. The first of these, Highwayman (1985), topped the charts with its hit title track and the group's popular cover of Guy Clark's "Desperadoes Waiting for a Train." The album's sequel, Highwayman 2 (1990), repeated this success.
#5: Foo Fighters:
By no means intended to be a supergroup, Foo Fighters accidentally became one after what was originally a Dave Grohl post-Nirvana solo project became a full-fledged powerhouse featuring bassist Nate Mendel (Sunny Day Real Estate), guitarist Pat Smear (the Germs), and drummer Taylor Hawkins (Alanis Morissette). Over the course of their 17-year run, the Foo Fighters have earned three Grammy Awards for Best Rock Album and produced some of the most well-known songs of the past decade. From their platinum-selling eponymous 1995 debut to this year's Wasting Light, which debuted at number one in 12 countries, Foo Fighters have proved to be one of the most successful and enduring (unintentional) supergroups of all time.
Three prog-rock superstars—Keith Emerson (The Nice), Greg Lake (King Crimson), and Carl Palmer (Atomic Rooster)—became greater than the sum of their parts when they joined forces as Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Can you believe that ELP was almost HELP, with the H referring to Jimi Hendrix? Sadly, Hendrix tragically died before HELP ever came to fruition. As ELP, they still managed to become one of the main flagship bands of British prog rock, and their album Tarkus (1971) remains one of the most influential prog-rock albums of all time.
#3: The Traveling Wilburys
When it comes to supergroups, the Traveling Wilburys take the cake for the amount of sheer star power and collective talent. Its members alone could top any "Greatest Musicians of All Time" list: George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra). Initially just coming together in 1988 to collaborate on a Harrison B-side, the group ended up recording a full album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, which featured the singles "Handle with Care" and "End of the Line." Had Orbison not died of a heart attack shortly after this release, who knows how super this group would have become. They did, however, release a second album without Orbison in 1990, Vol. 3, which also went platinum.
Composed of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers David Crosby (the Byrds), Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield), Graham Nash (the Hollies), and later Neil Young (Buffalo Springfield), CSN&Y was the ultimate supergroup of songwriters and one of the most prominent folk groups of the late '60s and early '70s. Between 1969 and 1999, they recorded a whopping eight studio albums, their most well-known being the multi-platinum, politically spirited Déjà Vu (1970), which Rolling Stone deemed one of the 500 greatest albums of all time. What puts Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young so high on this list isn't just their string of hit albums—it's the impact they had on American culture.
Featuring Eric Clapton (the Yardbirds), Jack Bruce (Graham Bond Organisation), and Ginger Baker (Graham Bond Organisation), this '60s British blues-rock band is frequently credited as the first rock supergroup (and was the first of many for Eric Clapton: The Dirty Mac, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominos...). With its main run from 1966 to 1968, Cream was short-lived but hugely influential. The band's heavy yet technical brand of rock set the stage for bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Rush, and it ultimately earned Cream a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Producing the world's first platinum-selling double album, Wheels of Fire, and some huge classic rock hits including "Sunshine of Your Love" and "White Room," Cream tops this list because they are often ranked among the greatest bands of all time—the ultimate achievement for any supergroup.
Supergroups from decades past clearly have the advantage here. New supergroups like Mick Jagger's Super Heavy (featuring Dave Stewart, Joss Stone, Damian Marley, and AR Rahman) that have yet to release an album may very well top a list like this 10 years from now. So while we can't say these are the best just yet, we can certainly say we have our eyes on them:
Atoms for Peace
Initially named ??????, Atoms for Peace is the ultimate modern-day supergroup featuring Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, superstar drummer Joey Waronker (Beck, R.E.M.), and percussionist Mauro Refosco (David Byrne). No albums yet, but holy moly what a lineup!
Them Crooked Vultures
Formed in 2009 by John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana), and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), the rock supergroup Them Crooked Vultures has already won a Grammy Award. (They took home the title of Best Hard Rock Performance for the song "New Fang" off their eponymous debut.) If all goes as planned, look out for a second album from these guys later this year.
The Dead Weather
The White Stripes' Jack White has had a hand in the supergroup world before with his band the Raconteurs, but the Dead Weather takes the cake thanks to lead singer Alison Mosshart (The Kills). Featuring White on drums, Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age) on guitar, and Jack Lawrence (the Raconteurs) on bass, the Dead Weather plays some killer dark, sludgy rock. With two albums already under its belt, who knows what more is in store for the Dead Weather now that the White Stripes have called it quits.
Gnarls Barkley producer Danger Mouse and the Shins lead singer James Mercer kicked up a flurry of excitement last year with their unexpected self-titled debut. They followed this up with the Meyrin Fields EP and talks of a sophomore follow-up.
Monsters of Folk
As their name suggests, this supergroup features the top indie folk rockers around: Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), and M. Ward (She & Him). Together, the Monsters released one classic rock-spirited eponymous album in 2009.
Perhaps the most curious of groupings, Tinted Windows features James Iha (the Smashing Pumpkins), Taylor Hanson (Hanson), Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne), and Bun E. Carlos (Cheap Trick). Their self-titled debut was released in 2009.
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