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The world's 18 biggest supergroups

With the arrival of the hard-rocking Chickenfoot (Joe Satriani, Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony and Chad Smith), 'supergroups' are back.

Hey, add the formation of Tinted Windows (including James Iha, Bun E Carlos, Adam Schlesinger from Fountains Of Wayne and Hanson's Taylor Hanson), supergroups are definitely back.

Star-studded collectives have been around since the mid-'50s, when Sun Records founder Sam Phillips assembled perhaps the first rock 'n' roll dream team of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis for an impromptu jam.

Supergroups have been around since the mid-'50s

Dubbed the 'Million Dollar Quartet,' the foursome kicked back and played mostly gospel tunes. Tapes of this one-day-only session were stashed in a vault until they were finally released in 1987.

Creme de la Cream?

However, it was in 1967 that the world's first working supergroup, Cream, came to the fore and paved the way for future musical X-Men. Throughout the decades, we've had supergroups both sublime and subpar - and some truly sucky.

Without further ado, MusicRadar rates the 18 most notable supergroups in rock history.

Who should you check out? And who should you avoid at all costs?


Cream

The world's first 'supergroup'? Quite possibly. Eric Clapton was already being called 'God' by the time he hooked up with fellow ex-Bluesbreaker Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker from the Graham Bond Organization. During their three-year run (1966-'69), the trio put out explosive albums (Fresh Cream, Disraeli Gears, Wheels Of Fire) that fused amped-up blues, psychedelia and tight pop tunes, too. They also had explosive fights that fused raging egos with enthusiastic drug intake. Finally, Clapton said "enough", and Cream bid farewell with an album appropriately called Goodbye.
MusicRadar rating 5/5


Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Take two Buffalo Springfields (Stephen Stills, Neil Young), a Byrd (David Crosby) and a Hollie (Graham Nash) and you have the world's first folk-rock supergroup. Young has always been an in/out member, but whether they're a threesome or a foursome, soaring harmonies abound. The band splintered into solo careers but always manage to come together. (Their longest period of inactivity was during David Crosby's stretch in the cooler for drugs and weapons possession, always a good career move.) They've released their share of latter-day clunkers (Live It Up, After The Storm), but 1970's Déjà Vu is an unqualified masterpiece.
MusicRadar rating 4/5


Blind Faith

Nine weeks after Cream went sour, Clapton had another supergroup on his hands, with Steve Winwood from The Spencer Davis Group and Traffic, Rick Grech from Family, and Ginger Baker, who somehow talked his way into the band despite Clapton's misgivings. The band's eponymous debut became famous for its songs (Presence Of The Lord, Can't Find My Way Home) and infamous for its cover, featuring a topless, underage girl holding a phallic silver space ship. In the US, the artwork was scrapped as record stores refused to carry it. The band barely lasted a year - after a US tour that sparked riots, Clapton, sick of being stuck in another supergroup, called it quits.
MusicRadar rating 4/5

Emerson, Lake & Palmer

It could be argued that ELP, containing members of The Nice (Keith Emerson), King Crimson (Greg Lake) and Atomic Rooster (Carl Palmer) started punk rock - their excessive, though technically astounding, mixture of classical music, jazz and rock begat prog-rock, which enraged the likes of Johnny Rotten, Joe Strummer, Joey Ramone and a host of others. Albums like Brain Salad Surgery were full of twisted humor, but other efforts (Tarkus, and the totally lame-brained Love Beach) were excruciating. ELP do get points for showmanship, however. That spinning piano? Pretty cool.
MusicRadar rating 3/5


Journey

To many, the epitome of corporate rock cheese; to others, the epitome of timeless radio favorites. Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon were vets from Santana when they clicked with Ross Valory (Steve Miller Band) and Prairie Prince (The Tubes; he was replaced by Jeff Beck, Bowie and Zappa alumnus Aynsley Dunbar). Nothing really worked until they added mega-octave singer Steve Perry - from there, the hits rolled in. Perry split in the mid-'80s for a solo career (and he's been MIA for a while now), but the band, with a continuing array of lead singers (the latest found on YouTube!) continues to this day.
MusicRadar rating 3/5


Bad Company

Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke already enjoyed great success with the band Free and their hit All Right Now. Signed to Led Zeppelin's Swan Song Records and managed by that group's guru Peter Grant, Bad Company (which also included Mick Ralphs from Mott The Hoople and Boz Burrell from King Crimson), were an immediate smash, with radio rockers like Can't Get Enough, Feel Like Makin' Love, Shooting Star and Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy. The band dissolved in the early '80s but have reformed on numerous occasions. As of this writing, another reunion is taking place. (Paul Rodgers also sings with Queen + Paul Rodgers, but don't get us started on that.)
MusicRadar rating 3/5

Asia

Although they sold boatloads of records, thanks to ceaseless exposure on MTV with hits like Heat Of The Moment and Only Time Will Tell, Asia were derided from the beginning by prog-rock fans who branded its members (Steve Howe and Geoff Downes from Yes, John Wetton from King Crimson and Carl Palmer from ELP) pop sell-outs. John Wetton split in '83 and was replaced by another ELP man, Greg Lake, but the band never regained its footing. In 2007, the original members reunited, recorded an album (Phoenix) and toured until major heart surgery forced Wetton to call it a day - in the heat of the moment, no doubt.
MusicRadar rating 2/5


Hindu Love Gods

Take three-fourths of REM (Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry) and one highly respected singer-songwriter (Warren Zevon) and you wind up with something strange, loose, exciting and impossible to categorize. Their only album was recorded on what was reportedly a drunken night (imagine that!) and contained mostly blues covers (Robert Johnson's Walkin' Blues, Willie Dixon's Wang Dang Doodle), although their alt-rock take on Prince's Raspberry Beret seemed to fit in just fine.
MusicRadar rating 3/5


The Firm

From the moment this supergroup was announced, cries of "All right!" to "Oh, no!" were heard across the globe. How could Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers possibly live up to the glory of their former bands? The simple answer was, they couldn't. Joined by Tony Franklin (from Roy Harper) and Chris Slade (from Uriah Heep), The Firm put out two albums (the eponymous debut and Mean Business), but only one song, Radioactive, garnered airplay. From the start, it appeared as if this was a more 'project' than a real band - the songs sounded cobbled together by committee, the playing was leaden - so when they wrapped things up after two years, nobody seemed to miss them.
MusicRadar rating 2/5

The Highwaymen

After they scored a hit with Jimmy Webb's song Highwayman, country outlaws Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson decided to form a band and record an entire album, which promptly shot to No. 1 on the US country chart. Here was the world's first authentic country supergroup, whose members had influenced one another greatly throughout the years (Cash jump-started Kristofferson's career in the early '70s with his cover of Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down). The band recorded two more cracklin' albums before Jennings' death in 2002.
MusicRadar rating 4/5


The Traveling Wilburys

Lineups don't get any better than this: George Harrison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne. Do we have to mention their credits? Of course not. Each 'Wilbury' assumed his own nom de plume (Harrison was Nelson Wilbury, Orbison was Lefty Wilbury and so on), and the music they made was pure heaven. Their first album contained hits like Handle With Care, End Of The Line and Last Night. Tragically, Orbison died just as the record was taking off (and before his fine solo album Mystery Girl could be released). The Wilburys recorded one more disc as a foursome, but the absence of ol' Lefty was sorely felt.
MusicRadar rating 5/5


Damn Yankees

Americana bombast at its most bombastic. Loincloth enthusiast Ted Nugent alongside Tommy Shaw from Styx, Jack Blades from Night Ranger and Michael Cartellone from we-have-no-idea…even on paper, this sounds bad! The band scored a big cheese ball hit with the power ballad High Enough, and sure enough, this is where their sights were set: at the lowest common denominator. Don't Tread, a follow-up to their self-titled debut, finished them off, mercifully.
MusicRadar rating 1/5

Westside Connection

Whaddaya know? A rap supergroup, this one consisting of Ice Cube, WC and Mack 10. The trio's first album Bow Down contained the hit title track not to mention Gangstas Make The World Go Round. (It also featured All The Critics In New York, a brutal East Coast put down). 2003's Terrorist Threats made Dick Cheney's Top Ten for that year. As of late, the group is on hiatus, and there is speculation that The Game could replace Mack 10. "Maybe," says Ice Cube, in what is supposedly a definitive statement on the matter.
MusicRadar rating 3/5


A Perfect Circle

With Tool releasing albums every 10,000 days or so, singer Maynard James Keenan found another creative outlet with A Perfect Circle, which includes Josh Freese (NIN), James Iha (The Smashing Pumpkins), Jeordie White (Marilyn Manson) and guitar tech to the alt-rock stars, Billy Howerdel. The band has released three albums that manage to bridge the gap between dense modern rock and pop. On their first tour, Maynard took to wearing a long blonde wig to distinguish himself from his Tool persona, a move that fooled no one, but as long as he had fun, that's all that matters. Currently on hiatus, the group is said to be thinking about recording "a song at a time."
MusicRadar rating 3/5


Velvet Revolver

Formed as one big 'fuck-you' to Axl Rose, Velvet Revolver counts three members of Guns N' Roses (Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum), along with ex- (and now current) Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland and one-time Wasted Youth guitarist Dave Kushner. The band broke out of the gate big-time with their debut album Contraband and its Grammy-winning single Slither. 2007's Libertad was a wobbly follow-up, and the group soon found itself without a singer when Weiland announced on stage that he was splitting - always a great way to end a set. Currently the band is searching for a replacement singer, and while numerous names have been floated in recent weeks, the official word is that "nothing is happening."
MusicRadar rating 3/5

BBM

Blues-rock axe grimacer Gary Moore had something of an identity crisis in the mid-'90s. He made an album of faithful but artless Peter Green covers, tried to go "drum 'n' bass" on Dark Days In Paradise and here formed Bruce-Baker-Moore - aka 'curdled Cream' - with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. One album, Around The Next Dream, was the only fruit of Moore 'being' Eric Clapton. Rumour has it their debut showcase gig ended in an almighty backstage punch-up before they could even encore. Hey, who says copies don't match the originals?
MusicRadar rating 1/5


The Good The Bad And The Queen

Blur's Damon Albarn has long-tinkered with 'outre' art projects, but for getting The Clash's Paul Simonon out of retirement, this project stands out. Fela Kuti's legendary drummer Tony Allen, guitarist Simon Tong (The Verve/Blur journeyman) and Danger Mouse join the ride. The self-titled album is impressively murky rock-noir that reeks of post-Millennial London gloom.
MusicRadar rating 4/5


Electronic

In which ex-Smith Johnny Marr and Joy Division/New Order's Bernard Sumner (plus a Pet Shop Boy and a Kraftwerker) have a dads' day at the disco that somehow lasts for 10 years. Sumner took Prozac to try and make his lyrics better. Fail! Marr occasionally dials in some decent tunes but appears to be on auto-pilot throughout. Collaborator Neil Tennant (of The Pet Shop Boys) illuminates Electronic's less than-conquering attempt of a US tour: "Bernard was lying on the bed with a sign on his chest: 'Don't wake me up until it's time to go on stage'. He used to have to drink Pernod to fire him up. And a bucket beside him to be sick into." Ironically, one of their better recordings was a cover of Blind Faith's Can't Find My Way Home…
MusicRadar rating 2/5


The Raconteurs

Jack White clearly lives by the ethos: I'll sleep when I'm dead. After making his name with The White Stripes, he worked with Loretta Lynn, then came as a Raconteur with lauded solo artist Brendan Benson, plus Jack Lawrence (of The Greenhornes and Blanche) and Patrick Keeler (also of The Greenhornes). Result? More pop-friendly hits, some Grammys, an astounding performance at Glastonbury 2008 and a Raconteurs career only on hiatus because White has now started yet another group, The Dead Weather (with members of The Kills and Queens Of The Stone Age).
Musicradar rating 4/5


Any other 'great' supergroups we've missed?

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