The 20 Worst Supergroups of All Time
Chickenfoot: definitely on this list, but not the worst of all time
It's right there in the name: Supergroups are supposed to be "super." Too often, however, these gatherings of musicians already famous for other projects end up being less than the sum of their parts. Whether it's a lack of ambition, lack of chemistry or both, many so-called supergroups just leave fans wishing everyone would stop dicking around and get back to their regular gigs.
The supergroups listed below aren't all bad, necessarily; some just fail to measure up to the lofty expectations set by their loaded lineups. And OK, some are just downright terrible. These are the 20 worst supergroups of all time.
20. Tinted Windows
Tinted Windows are probably the most head-scratching combination of musicians on this list. You’ve got Smashing Pumpkins’ James Iha, Taylor Hanson of Hanson fame, Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger and Cheap Trick’s Bun E. Carlos. While everyone in this group is good at what he does, the result is some pretty beige power pop. It’s certainly not the worst thing you’ll hear embedded in this list, but it never really congealed into anything besides some basic rehashes of better bands — like, say, Cheap Trick. — Jonny Coleman
19. Monsters of Folk
A classic example of a supergroup adding up to less than the sum of its parts, this ironically named project features singer-songwriters Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) and M. Ward (She & Him), plus producer/multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis (Rilo Kiley, First Aid Kit). Their 2009 debut album was a pleasant-enough collection of whispery folk ditties with some nice harmonies, but most of it had the feel of leftovers from everyone's main bands and solo projects. They did a one-off mini-reunion at the Hollywood Bowl last summer during an M. Ward set, but otherwise have failed to deliver on occasional vague threats of a follow-up. —Andy Hermann
18. The Firm (rap)
Nas, Foxy Brown, AZ and Cormega (who was later replaced by Nature) with Dre and Trackmasters on production sounded like a perfect East Coast/West Coast super collabo to help quell the coastal rap rivalries and assassinations that in part defined mid-’90s hip-hop. The Firm’s album was highly anticipated but seemed to underwhelm expectations. It’s probably one of the better efforts you’ll find on this list, yet the project never lived up to its own hype. —J.C.
17. The Power Station
Despite sounding like a watered-down version of their component parts — singer Robert Palmer, former Chic drummer Tony Thompson and Duran Duran’s John and Andy Taylor on bass and guitar — this mid-’80s band’s self-titled debut wasn’t half bad, even producing one single ("Some Like It Hot") that holds up, mostly thanks to Thompson’s forceful yet funky rhythms. A decade later, they dropped the dreadful Living in Fear, anchored by a clunky single, "She Can Rock It," that was the quartet's attempt at strip-club hair metal, or something. They also did a seven-minute cover of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On," which still stands as the worst thing any of The Power Station's members ever contributed to. (Yes, even worse than that time Duran Duran tried to do Public Enemy — although, in fairness to John Taylor, he left before recording sessions for Living in Fear began.) —A.H.
16. Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band
A partial list of All-Starr Band members since the ex-Beatle started the project in 1989: Joe Walsh, Dr. John, Billy Preston, Clarence Clemons, Todd Rundgren, Bonnie Raitt, John Entwistle, Slash, Stevie Nicks, Ray Davies, Sheila E., Jeff Lynne, Steve Lukather, Edgar Winter and Colin Hay. I get that it's a glorified cover band, but with all the talent involved over the years, you would think the band's not-insignificant output (no fewer than 10 live albums and DVDs) would include something more memorable than the one time Paul McCartney showed up to sing "Birthday" to Ringo. But nope. That's about as good as it gets. —A.H.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include at least one super jam band. Primus’ Les Claypool, Phish’s Trey Anastasio and The Police’s Stewart Copeland came together in 2000 at Jazz Fest initially as a one-off proposition of the noodliest proportions. But that turned into an album, a tour and then a reunion at Bonnaroo a decade ago. This may not be the worst music ever, but if you were to strip off the famous names attached to this band and throw this music out into the world, no one would care ... unless they were hippie-flipping or something. But if you dig it, more power to you, I guess. —J.C.
14. The Firm (rock)
Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers on vocals, Zepp’s Jimmy Page, drummer Chris Slade of Manfred Mann's Earth Band (who would later join AC/DC), and bassist Tony Franklin put out two albums. But it seems like these tunes were all first takes and more of an excuse to get together and party. Lord knows Jimmy Page had done all the heroin in the world by that point in the mid-’80s. Funny that one of their singles was called “Satisfaction Guaranteed,” because the only thing certain about this project is that satisfaction will, in fact, not come at the hands of The Firm. —J.C.
13. Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe
Prog-rockers' tendency to name their bands like law firms reached its apotheosis (a word that, come to think of it, would be a great title for a prog-rock album) with this short-lived, late-’80s supergroup made up of former members of Yes. Their sole, self-titled album basically served as bathroom-break fodder between Yes tunes on the band's 1989 tour. Songs — sorry, song cycles — like "Brother of Mine" combine the aimless noodling of prog at its most self-indulgent with tinny, overly processed late-’80s production and embarrassingly corny, faux-inspirational lyrics. No wonder the other members of Yes sued to try to get all mention of their hallowed group removed from ABWH's promotional materials. —A.H.
12. Velvet Revolver
Velvet Revolver was STP’s exiled Scott Weiland joining with GNR’s Slash, Duff and Matt Sorum and Wasted Youth’s Dave Kushner to make what’s probably the most turgid, forgettable music of all of their lives. As musicians they’re certainly competent enough, but the songwriting is just so damn clunky. You can hear tinges of Slash's and Weiland’s brilliance, but they’re never given the opportunity to really shine. The result is muddy dross. —J.C.
Poor Tom Morello, Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford. I'm sure they'd rather do nothing more than tour forever with Zack de la Rocha as Rage Against the Machine. But their mercurial frontman keeps ghosting on them and forcing them into second-rate projects like Audioslave, their commercially successful but creatively stagnant early-2000s pairing with Soundgarden's Chris Cornell. Audioslave's post-grunge riff-rock wasn't bad, exactly — it just sounded like four talented guys treading water, unsure of where to go next. "The original fire has died and gone," Cornell sang on one of the band's last singles. Truer words were never howled. —A.H.
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