Do supergroups work? From Cream to SuperHeavy, some of the best and worst

Members of Soundgarden, Nirvana and Pearl Jam join forces to form the latest rock supergroup

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It's the 1990s all over again, with members of three popular grunge bands getting together to form a new rock supergroup called 3rd Secret.

Dropping their debut self-titled album on Monday, the group boasts Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil, Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, and Soundgarden and Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron.

They are supported by Bubba Dupree, guitarist from the punk group Void and singers Jennifer Johnson and Jillian Raye.

The fact the group's album has received relatively decent reviews so far is a cause for celebration, as rock supergroups have typically had a mixed history when it comes to success and longevity.

From ego clashes to bizarre untested concepts, the groups that failed never effectively harnessed the sheer talents within their ranks.

Yet those making an impression found that sweet spot between creativity and comfort to release work that’s more than the sum of its parts.

While time will tell if 3rd Secret becomes a roaring success, they join a long history of supergroups releasing hits and misses.

Here are some of the best and worst.

1. Cream

Formed in 1966, the British trio is often viewed as the first rock supergroup.

Eric Clapton was renowned as the lead guitarist of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and, prior to that, also played lead to the popular Yardbirds.

Meanwhile, bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker also had their own brush with fame courtesy of their time with The Graham Bond Organisation.

The band went on to release three albums of fiery blues-rock originals and covers, including the seminal 1967 release Disraeli Gears, that were more important to rock ‘n’ roll history rather than commercially successful.

The group disbanded in 1968 because of the ongoing tension between Bruce and Baker, only to return for a short run of concerts in 2005.

2. The Traveling Wilburys

When it comes to great mega-bands, the key to thriving is for band members to leave their ego out of the recording studio.

Such was the case with The Travelling Wilburys, made up of rock behemoths Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Electric Light Orchestra frontman Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty.

While such talent could have resulted in relentless creative clashes, the truth is all five artists needed each other at the time.

When forming in the late-1980s, all of them — with the arguable exception of Petty — were going through a career slump.

Perhaps, it was the lack of expectations that resulted in the brilliant carefree songwriting and their debut folk-rock masterpiece, 1988's The Traveling Wilburys, Vol 1.

Led by the driving single Handle With Care, the album was immediately hailed as a career highlight for all concerned.

Sadly, Orbison died shortly before the album's release and the group continued with the laconically titled follow-up, 1990’s The Traveling Wilburys Vol 3, before disbanding.

3. The Highwaymen

Consisting of country music stars Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson, members of The Highwaymen are each known for their fierce independent streak.

Fortunately, they found a way to gel and released three albums full of dark balladry that went on to usher in the "outlaw country" subgenre of country music.

Despite dark tales of desperadoes and deportees, the group managed to crank out the relatively sprightly 1985 US chart-topping single Highwayman.

The Highwaymen quietly disbanded in 1995.

4. Hollywood Vampires

Just because it sounds like a good idea, it doesn't mean it is.

In the case of Hollywood Vampires, it wasn't even close.

The US group is a messy hodgepodge of rock influences with actor Johnny Depp, on guitar, leading a group that includes singer Alice Cooper and guitarists Joe Perry from Aerosmith and Tommy Henriksen from the German band Warlock.

From their 2015 self-titled debut, this motley crew were creatively dead in the water, with original tunes best described as subpar grunge and cover songs deprived of any real identity.

Hollywood Vampires continue to tour occasionally.

But these events now feel more like a gathering of the curious than a fan-only affair.

5. SuperHeavy

There is fusion and confusion.

It only takes the first minute into SuperHeavy's 2011 debut single Miracle Worker to recognise on which side the group lies.

It's not that they lacked skill and effort, it's just that the line-up doesn't make sense.

You have rocker Mick Jagger, the frontman of a group including soul music singer Joss Stone, reggae artist Damian "Jr Gong" Marley, Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics and Bollywood composer AR Rahman.

The end result is as you'd imagine: a turgid gloop of clashing sounds, rhythms and vocals that are more head-scratching than toe-tapping.

It is no wonder the project, resulting in one self-titled album, didn't last long.

Updated: April 15, 2022, 11:02 AM
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