Mix Six: “Supergroup … or Superdud?”

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On paper, it sounds like a moneymaking formula: take individual members from successful bands, put them together in a supergroup to make music, record the magic, and watch album sales go through the roof.  Yes, the Supergroup can, at times, be seen as a crass money grab, and at times it is.  However, there are other times when the result of these ventures bears some tasty fruit. Now, people’s taste being what they are, it’s going to be an argument without end as to which of the groups represented here are Supergroups or Superduds.  I certainly have my opinions, but don’t let that dissuade you from defending or slamming the six in this mix.

“Sole Survivor,” Asia (download)

Back when Asia made their debut in the early ‘80s, they were touted as the next big thing that would define rock music for the decade.  Think about it: you take a little bit of Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and King Crimson, put them in a blender of sorts, serve up the contents  and … what do you think you’re going to get? Go ahead and insert a 40-Year-Old Virgin joke here.

“Sucker Train Blues,” Velvet Revolver (download)

Hey, remember where you were when you first heard about Velvet Revolver?  I do! I remember seeing “Slither” on MTV and running out and buying the CD the next day … only to be disappointed by most of the songs. It’s like Slash and Weiland were able to strike the right note on some songs (like this one),but other songs melted into a generic mush-up of style over substance.

“Tin Machine,” Tin Machine (download)

When Bowie announced that he was joining a group with Soupy Sales’ sons and Reeves Gabrels, I wasn’t convinced their partnership (which Bowie adamantly said was a long-term thing) would be any good.  And while the debut album wasn’t an absolute gem of a recording, it was great to hear Bowie shed his ‘80s style and just rock out. “Under the God” was, to me, great stuff, but their eponymous track was no sloucher, either.

“Oh Yeah,” Chickenfoot (download)

Jefito sent over the Chickenfoot mp3s when I requested them, and had one caveat:  lower your expectations.  With Sammy Hagar out front, Michael Anthony on bass and backing vocals, Joe Satriani on guitar and Chad Smith on non-funky drums, one would think this album would be loaded with rock hits.  Not really. Most of the songs are, as Jeff said, “Loud, dumb, and fun” (Like some of my high school friends), but they are not all that memorable.  Considering the talent involved in creating a party record for 2009, they missed the mark by going for bombast over great hooks.

“Mystified,” Damn Yankees (download)

Tommy Shaw was always the rocker in Styx, and it very nearly killed him having to sing “Babe” night after night while his heart yearned to be free from the long shadow of Dennis DeYoung.  When he finally got together with Ted Nugent, Jack Blades (Night Ranger) and Michael Cartellone he must have felt like he could really get back to the business of rocking.  And he did, but not with Chickenfoot bombast. Rather, they were able to strike a good balance between balls to the wall rock and melodic hooks — as they do on “Mystified.”

“When I See You Smile,” Bad English (download)

Babys + Journey = Awesome. Power. Ballad.  The rest of the album — while spinning off singles that charted — wasn’t as brilliant as “When I See You Smile.”  And maybe that’s because none of the members of Bad English wrote the song. That credit belongs to Diane Warren.  Maybe they should have checked their egos at the door and had Diane pen the other tracks.  Then again, maybe not.  After all, unless you’re Dennis DeYoung, you only need one power ballad per album.

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  • MichaelFortes

    When I first heard “When I See You Smile,” I nearly gagged. Was heartily disappointed when it finally reached number one. This was around the time I discovered that, if I dislike a song that much, it's probably going to be huge. “Forget Me Not” was pretty good though. Always enjoyed hearing that one whenever I my local rock station played it.

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    If forced to choose lame Bad English ballads, I'll take “The Price of Love” over “When I See You Smile” any day.

  • David_E

    Asia: Supergroup
    Velvet Revolver: Marketing ploy
    Tin Machine: Art project
    Chickenfoot: Frat reunion
    Damn Yankees: Lucky strike
    Bad English: .

    But yeah, “Forget Me Not” rocks.

  • http://popdose.com MatthewBolin

    Where's the Traveling Wilburys?

    Oh yeah, right. They had an entire album that was good.

  • addictedtovinyl

    I like this a lot…but I would have stuck the Tin Machine track at the end….so I can skip it :-)

    Sucker Train Blues was one of the better tunes from an otherwise forgettable group…

    PS – still love both Bad English albums….

  • http://garagerock.wordpress.com edmur

    so what you're saying here is that so-called supergroups are always lousy?

  • http://jellyjules.com/ J

    I wish Tin Machine had been a better band, but at least it was great, as you said, to hear Bowie do a bit of rocking. :)

  • Tim

    I couldn't agree more, Jefito. I always kinda loved the chorus — secretly, of course.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    C'mon, Jeff! You're being a ballad snob now.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    Gasp! How can you not like Tin Machine.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    No, but they usually don't live up to the hype.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    I wish they were better, too. But it seems they didn't have that “certain something” to remain a viable band. Bowie probably got bored with it.

  • Malchus

    “40 year Old Virgin” jokes aside, the first Asia album was a substantial hit (all the way to #1, I believe).

    Ted, Ted, Ted, are you seriously saying Damn Yankees are better than Chickenfoot? How can Damn Yankees be better than anything (I better watch my back cause I'm sure Nugent's aiming his crossbow at me). I'll take Sammy, Dave, Satch and Chad over Night Styx Nugent any day of the week.

    And how lucky is Deen Castronovo of Bad English? The guy lands a temporary gig as the Bad English drummer and winds up being Neal Schon's go to guy for the next 20 years.

    Speaking of Sammy and Neal Schon, they had their own “supergroup” in the mid 80's. Schon claims that playing the recordings of their album to Eddie Van Halen inspired Eddie to seek out Hagar when David Lee Roth went solo.

    Great post, as usual!

  • http://www.septenary.com Allen

    Where's Tinted Windows? 1/4 Hansen, 1/4 Pumpkins, 1/4 Cheap trick, 1/4 Fountains of Wayne = 100% derivative power pop goodness!

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    I'll send you the Chickenfoot album and you can hear how, in Maxwell Smart's phrase, they “missed it by THAT much.”

    Damn Yankees were more melodic — and that lines up with my tastes. And don't think I'm slamming Asia completely. I loved many of the songs on that first album, but they kind of lost it on the second one. But I gotta give 'em props for keeping at it. Have you heard Phoenix? It's okay, but I didn't hear anything that came close to the songs they wrote on their first album.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    They'll have to wait for a future episode of “Supergroup … or Superdud?” Their album isn't out yet, but I did hear four songs on their My Space page. “Kind of a Girl” and “Nothing to Me” are pretty good.

  • addictedtovinyl

    The Damn Yankees albums were great, but man, they sound dated. I don't think they hold up as albums. The hits still sound great though.

    Meanwhile, while they sound dated, I'd argue that the Bad English albums have held up quite well. Some of John Waite's finest work vocally and lyrically.

    RE: Deen. One of the most underrated drummers out there in classic rock, right next to Todd Sucherman of Styx.

    I really like the Chickenfoot disc – I think the one thing worth mentioning is how the Chickenfoot project presents Satriani for the first time as an actual guitar player in a band setting….it doesn't sound like a band with a virtuoso guitarist noodling in between lyrics – I'm hearing Satch in a completely different light on this album after years of being a fan of his solo stuff – I'm very impressed – I expected the opposite.

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    Still love “Sole Survivor.” Never gravitated to Velvet Revolver, though a lot of that was due to their record label F'ing their customers in the A with the anti-copy nonsense. I should probably listen to that Tin Machine record again, but that line “They're just a bunch of assholes, with buttholes for their brains” has scarred me for life.

    I'll take Chickenfoot over Damn Yankees any day of the week and twice on Sunday. The reason: no Styx alumni. And no Ted.

    Always liked “Forget Me Not.” I still think John Waite is a woefully underrated lead singer.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    Scott told me the album is out, so… my bad.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    I've always loved Satriani because his playing was so melodic in his songs. I don't think I've ever thought of him as a noodler — but maybe I haven't heard enough of this music to know.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    It's hit or miss on Tin Machine, but when they hit, it's pretty damn great.

  • addictedtovinyl

    I love Satriani for those same reasons…but he gets slammed as a noodler by some, and I think that this disc will open some eyes for people that hear it, that might not be Satch fans as you and I have been.

  • Matt

    I love Satriani for those same reasons…but he gets slammed as a noodler by some, and I think that this disc will open some eyes for people that hear it, that might not be Satch fans as you and I have been.

  • Matt

    I love Satriani for those same reasons…but he gets slammed as a noodler by some, and I think that this disc will open some eyes for people that hear it, that might not be Satch fans as you and I have been.