What can the Rolling Stones, Eurythmics and the blockbuster Slumdog Millionaire possibly have in common? More than you think – at least that’s the bet behind SuperHeavy, a five-strong supergroup fronted by Mick Jagger who released their debut album this week.
Five stars from the worlds of rock, soul, pop, reggae and world music – Jagger, Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, soulwoman Joss Stone, Bob Marley’s youngest son Damian and AR Rahman, who scored the Slumdog soundtrack – have brought their eclectic styles together for the occasion.
The motley make-up of Jagger’s new supergroup – the term used when musicians team up on the model of Cream in the 1960s or Blur frontman Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz – has raised some eyebrows in music circles.
But Jagger insists the resulting album, titled simply SuperHeavy, is “not all weird”.
SuperHeavy was the brainchild of Dave Stewart, who said he was inspired by the mishmash of sounds he heard wafting through the window of his home above Saint Ann’s Bay in Jamaica.
“It’s kind of the jungle, and sometimes I’d hear three sound systems all playing different things. I always love that, along with Indian orchestras,” Stewart told Rolling Stone magazine earlier this year.
“I said to Mick: ‘How could we make a fusion?’”
A few phone calls later and plans for the troupe – who together claim 11 Grammy Awards – were in the works, with a first jam session held in Los Angeles six months on, in early 2010.
“We were just jamming and making a noise,” said the Eurythmics founder and co-writer of such 1980s hits as Sweet Dreams and Talking to an Angel. “It was like when a band first starts up in your garage. We might have a 22-minute jam, and it would become a six-minute song.”
Jagger – who plays the guitar and harmonica as well as sings on the album – has warned it is “a different kind of record than what people would expect”.
“It’s not all weird and strange though,” he told Rolling Stone of the result, a concentrate of musical styles drawn from around the planet.
The rhythms and vocals of Marley, who has worked with some of the top names in US hip-hop, leave a strong mark, along with Rahman’s Bollywood-tinged melodies, some of them sung in Urdu.
Stone’s deep voice adds a touch of glamour and emotion, while Mick’s own performance is Jagger to the hilt.
The first single off the album, Miracle Worker, went on sale online July 7, with the worldwide release through AZ record label, part of the Universal music group.
The idea of a supergroup stems back to the 1960s when Cream brought together Eric Clapton of the Bluesbreakers, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce of the Graham Bond Organisation in 1966 – becoming a rock monument in its own right.
Two years on, David Crosby of The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills and Graham Nash of The Hollies split from their bands and reformed as Crosby, Stills and Nash, producing its now-classic vocal harmonies and folk guitar, sometimes with Neil Young.
Less of a hit despite an A-list cast, the Traveling Wilburys were set up in 1988 by Bob Dylan, George Harrison, US rockers Roy Orbison and Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra.
The supergroup trend has resurfaced in recent years, spurred in part by the globe-trotting tastes of Albarn, the creative mind behind both the Gorillaz music project and the 2007 supergroup album The Good the Bad & the Queen.
Jack White of The White Stripes also helped found two supergroups in the past decade, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather.
And in 2009, Them Crooked Vultures brought together rock legend Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, with Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and the multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones, of Led Zeppelin fame.
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