Supergroups. The very name can send grown men running for cover and inspire wizened hacks to sharpen their pencils for one final attack on a genre which can often be anything but super.
In the past great musicians have come together only to discover the sum of the parts does very little justice to the individual talents involved. And by their very nature, gifted guitarists, sensitive singers and those retiring types who make up rhythm sections are notoriously poor team players outside the comfort zone of their regular gig.
On the face of it putting together Zinedine Zidane, Lusi Figo, David Beckham and Raul should have created the ultimate Real Madrid dream team. But football’s most recent version of the Supergroup – the Galacticos – rarely reached the heights their exceptional skills should have guaranteed.
And so it was with some trepidation that I slipped the new Chickenfoot CD into the stereo this week because, as supergroups go, this lot really should be more super than most.
As a recipe for success a pinch of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, a couple of slices of Van Halen and a liberal portion of the world’s greatest rock guitarist looks too delicious to be true. But like Velvet Revolver, Audioslave and Bad English before them, the ludicrously named, yet incredibly listenable, Chickenfoot have made a watertight argument for giving Supergroups a chance.
Sammy Hagar needed a hit record after the release of last year’s dull and uninspiring solo record Cosmic Universal Fashion. For a vocalist responsible for the best that Van Halen and Montrose can offer, that bummer of an album fell woefully short of his normally impeccable standards.
Thankfully the Red Rocker is reborn alongside fellow former Halen man Michael Anthony, the Chillis’ Chad Smith and the ever-reliable Joe ‘Satch’ Satriani.
So if Supergroups really can be super then why do so many fail? Is it a clash of egos – for all their cutting edge music and commercial success the mysterious case of Velvet Revolver would suggest as much. Or is it a case of too many cordon bleu cooks spoiling the rock broth? When Joe Lynn Turner joined Yngwie Malmsteen to record the latter’s outstanding record Odyssey it was a short-lived partnership torn apart by two massive but misguided talents.
Perhaps familiarity eventually breeds contempt and mutual respect gives way to a common frustration even among the most experienced of musicians. Even the mesmerising Audioslave finally fell apart after Chris Cornell could no longer satisfy his creative juices within one of the best metal bands of the modern era.
Chickenfoot, of course, are only in their infancy and with Hagar fast approaching his mid 60s it’s hard to imagine rock’s latest, and possibly greatest, Supergroup becoming a permanent fixture on a busy scene. But as long as this quality quartet keep the rock flames burning this is one genre which isn’t about to disappear fast.