Friday, August 20th, 2010

The Second Worst Supergroup Of All Time

What if they did a track-by-track cover of Led Zeppelin 4?I remember the first time I heard the term "supergroup." It was 1981 and my older brother Kevin, an avid Styx and Kansas fan, had just brought home a copy of a record with a blue sea monster on the cover. He was sitting on the end of his bed checking out the lyric sheet, the album jacket resting on his stonewashed jeans, and nodding his head along to "Heat of the Moment." He kept a badminton racket beside the stereo for occasions that demanded heavy riffing. And this was most assuredly one of those occasions.

Me: What are you listening to?
Kevin: It's this new supergroup, Asia.
Me: What's a supergroup?
Kevin: It's, like, a band that consists of members from other groups. That's Steve Howe on guitar from Yes. I think someone from Emerson, Lake and Palmer is in the band too. [Picks up badminton racket]
Me: Awesome, can I borrow it when-
Kevin: Do you think you can shut up for five minutes, zit-fag? I'm trying to listen. [Shreds a power riff with badminton racket]

In the household of my youth, the name Steve Howe held deep significance. It was almost akin to bringing up the names David Ragsdale (violin, Kansas), Tommy Shaw (guitar, Styx), or Brad Delp (vocals, Boston). Mentioning these names was shorthand for saying "musical genius."

Of course, I've since come to understand that the most unforgivable thing my brother ever did to me was to convince me-at a very impressionable age-that Styx, Kansas and Boston (his trinity of rock) were good bands. They're not. How could he have done that to me, I have since wondered in dismay? I was just a kid. I looked up to him, for Chrissakes.

And here he was convincing me that Asia-the mutant stepchild of Yes (an okay band), ELP (a highly objectionable one) and a boardroom of A&R executives who'd lost grip with reality after exposing themselves to large quantities of coke, fondue, and Dan Fogelberg during the Seventies-was the best thing since Electric Light Orchestra, a band he happened to love as well.

So given my history with bad classic rock and wailing tenors, you can imagine my alarm when I recently heard about the abomination known as Yoso, a supergroup blending the "magic of YES with the voice of TOTO." Now you can hear "Rosanna," "Roundabout" and new songs from Yoso's debut record Elements all performed on one stage by veteran members of Yes and Toto! Who could ask for anything more?

was released by the Frontiers label last month, but Yoso remains largely beneath the radar. Thankfully, Wikipedia offers some useful background information:

Yoso is a melodic rock/progressive rock supergroup combining former members of Yes (former members Billy Sherwood-bass/vocals and Tony Kaye-keyboards) and Toto (Bobby Kimball-vocals)…. For touring in support of their debut release, Elements, on Frontiers Records, out July 2010, the band announced a new line-up. Joining Kimball, Sherwood and Kaye are drummer Scott Conner (of Genesis tribute band Gabble Ratchet) and guitarist Johnny Bruhns (of Yes tribute band Roundabout). In their live shows, the band plays a mixture of classic Toto songs, classic Yes songs (mainly from 90125, on which Kaye performed) and material from their new album.

The band sounds more like Eighties-era Yes than vintage Toto, which is the closest thing to a compliment I can offer. And the cover art from Elements is reminiscent of work by Roger Dean, the man responsible for artwork from Yes' peak period. If you want to check them out, lead singer Bobby Kimball, who looks like a cross between Freddie Mercury and Hank Azaria, will be on tour this month with the rest of the Yoso crew.

But I'll stop teasing. I know you're hankering for a taste of the Yoso magic now. Good news! The band has released a promotional video to whet your appetite:

If you can stomach it, here's a live version of the band's eponymous song "Yoso" from their debut.

And I'd be remiss if I failed to include a classic Toto tune. Here's "Africa:"

Thank God it's no longer 1981 and I'm no longer strumming dueling badminton rackets with my brother in his wood-paneled bedroom. We'd no doubt have been blown away by the sheer awesomeness of Yoso. And let's just keep our fingers crossed that Yoso doesn't spearhead a trend. The last thing I ever want to witness is Rush and Jethro Tull (my two most loathed classic rock bands) merging to form Rushthro. To quote Ghostbusters: "Don't cross the streams!" The thought of enduring the extended drum and flute solos that would follow the inevitable "Tom Sawyer/Aqualung" medley is really just too much to bear.

To their credit, Yoso isn't the worst supergroup to ever record an album. That title goes to Chickenfoot, a band that merges the talent of Van Hagar (Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony), Red Hot Chilli Peppers (Chad Smith) and Joe Satriani. If Stephen Ray Vaughan was still alive, he'd probably be in Chickenfoot too. As is, the foursome have created rock and roll's equivalent of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Of course, in this age of listicles, all this talk of supergroups raises a very serious question. Namely, who are the best and worst supergroups to ever unite? Wonder no more. Here's my very subjective list of rock's greatest and most horrible supergroups. I'm confident that my choices hit the mark, but I'm sure you'll take my selections with a grain of salt. After all, I did just admit to something that might cause the average reader to lose faith. I grew up idolizing Kansas, Boston and Styx.

1. Chickenfoot
2. Yoso
3. Damn Yankees
4. Emerson, Lake and Palmer
5. Don Dokken
6. Oysterhead
7. Mike and the Mechanics
8. Velvet Revolver
9. Audioslave
10. Power Station

1. Crosby Still Nash & Young
2. Cream
3. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
4. Broken Social Scene
5. The Traveling Wilburys
6. Bad Company
7. The New Pornographers
8. Blind Faith
9. The Postal Service
10. The Dead Weather

Robert Lanham is the author of the beach-towel classic The Emerald Beach Trilogy, which includes the titles Pre-Coitus, Coitus, and Afterglow. More recent works include The Hipster Handbook and The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right. He is the founder and editor of

92 Comments / Post A Comment

City_Dater (#2,500)

This is hilarious, but I'm angry at the reminder that Mike and the Mechanics ever existed.

hockeymom (#143)

All I Need Is A Miracle.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

All I Need Is You.

Dan Kois (#646)

Mike + the Mechanics, thank you very much.

City_Dater (#2,500)

Because "+" makes them sound better than "and"?

I'm rocking at my desk singing "Frosty the Snowman" to try to drive away the horrifying '80s earworm…

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Can you hear me? Can you hear me running?

Yes, Rushthro would be a crime, but BADMOUTH RUSH AT YOUR PERIL, PAL.

Dave Bry (#422)


(Though I liked this article and related to it very much. I had no older brother, but I was tricked in a similar way by a friend's older brother. Which is actually why I'm here sticking up for Rush.)

Ron Obvious (#351)

I have to say, I still feel a lot of guilt for turning my younger brother onto Rush. It was a quick musical interlude in my life, but he's never moved on.

TCJunior (#1,099)

I have to admit that my first concert was Rush, with Primus opening up for them. It. Was. Awesome. I didn't even do drugs back then, and I thought Rush had a great light show. Also, it was the Pork Soda tour for Primus, so we got the treat of seeing Les Claypool playing the stand up bass in a pig-in-a-tuxedo outfit.

I believe I began doing drugs shortly thereafter.

ericdeamer (#945)

Yeah it seems at some point 5-10 years ago rock critics and hipsters decided to re-evaluate Rush and now you'd have to hate Rush to be contrarian. They are really serious about this re-evaluation. It's a quasi Zeppelinesque change in critical stature that's really stuck.

LondonLee (#922)

Not to me, they're still shit.

HelloTitty (#830)

‎"If you didn't give it up for [Rush] before, you gotta give it up for them now or you're being a dickhead." — Matt Stone, Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage

Rutlefan (#8,096)

Rush was great during their late '70's prog-metal phase, when they had those (unintentionally) schticky sci-fi lyrics and long Lifeson digressions; but listening to them now is like being hit over the head with four minute journal entries from a philosophy 101 student who reads nothing but Richard Dawkins and the like. Despite my good feelings for Lee and Lifeson (Alex, along with Johnny Marr and the Radiohead three-headed monster, is my favorite guitarist), I find their new music intolerable. But I agree that the critical consensus seems to be shifting. That's good, they deserve it, despite Peart's ponderous self-disclosure, they deserve it.

roboloki (#1,724)

dammit! this kills my hopes for a gabble ratchet/roundabout tour. and i was gonna wear my parachute pants!

Art Yucko (#1,321)

Shortest Lived Awesome Supergroup: Dali's Car.

Holy shit, I OWN that record!

Art Yucko (#1,321)

Pull up a chair at the Beggars Banquet, Mr. Rosario.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

That WAS an awesome supergroup. Related: Mick Karn charity appeal.

barnhouse (#1,326)

I have it too!

Rutlefan (#8,096)

Still love Tones on Tail!

hockeymom (#143)

God, we had some awful music in the 80s.

Who sang that horrible song "I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight"? Was that an Asia thing?

petejayhawk (#1,249)

That would be Cutting Crew.

petejayhawk, keeper of bad 80s music knowledge, at your service.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

aaaaaaaaaaa. on my all-time-greatest BOWLING ALLEY CLAϞϞICS, that one.

hockeymom (#143)

Not only a terrible song…but also, worse use of a trench coat in a video ever.

hockeymom (#143)

that would be "worst".

Bittersweet (#765)

I'll see your Cutting Crew and raise you a Hooters and a Mr. Mister.

(cue 'Kyrie Elaison' earworm)

mat (#2,476)

I checked the "most awesome" list first and was shocked and appalled not to find Oysterhead. Then I checked the other list.

No Fantomas?

RocketSurgeon (#1,632)

I think they're on the list of the Loudest Supergroups. Reminds me of the time I saw Tomahawk and Mike Patton just screamed through a miked up gas mask for probably half an hour. Earsplitting.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

How is Them Crooked Vultures not on the "awesome supergroup" list?

Other groups that warrant consideration for the "worst of" list: Tinted Windows, Alter Bridge, Power Station.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

"10. Power Station."

But Robert Palmer's Simply Irresistable is forever.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

*irresistible /hacks pinky-finger off

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Some like it hot, though.

barnhouse (#1,326)

Maybe not that one, but certainly Johnny and Mary.

mrschem (#1,757)

When will there be a harvest for the woooorrrrrllllllddd…

Pandemic Endemic (#3,825)

But then again, some feel the heat and decide that they can't go on.

deepomega (#1,720)

The Postal Service stretches the definitional bounds of every word in "Most Awesome Rock Supergroups". Jesus christ, man.

Also I'm not really sure what to say to someone who scorns Stevie Ray (Stephen?!) in America. Isn't that outlawed in the Constitution?

The sky is certainly crying.

TCJunior (#1,099)

Well, Mr. Lanham is going to have trouble getting served here in Austin with that kind of an attitude. We have a statue of the man for God's sake!

deepomega (#1,720)

As you well should! I'd approve of a statue GARDEN.

DrJimmy (#7,037)

Y'all forgive Child Lanham this sin; he knows not what he writes of. All direct him to read up on SRV's interactions with David Bowie.

Matt (#26)

HA HA HA HA @anyone besides Chris Squire billing themselves as a Yes bassist. HA.

Your (Derek and the Dominoes)second (Derek and the Dominoes)listicle (Derek and the Dominoes)is(Derek and the Dominoes)actually (Derek and the Dominoes)a (Derek and the Dominoes)nonsensicle.

KenWheaton (#401)

Heat of the Moment was the first song I listened to in my first car. A Honda CRX. You can't take that away from me.

deepomega (#1,720)

My first song might actually have been a Gnarls Barkley track. So. Yeah.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

I feel old.

deepomega (#1,720)

I feel young. Gonna go start a Facebook group.

KenWheaton (#401)

Carry on, my wayward son.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

I too had an '80s Honda as my first car. Couldn't tell you what the first song I listened to in it was, though.

KenWheaton (#401)

Only reason I remember was because it had a CD player … in 1991! You had to put the CD in a jewel-type case then put the case in the player and it still skipped. The previous owner let me drive around with it for a day before deciding if I wanted to pay him $400 extra dollars. I declined.

TCJunior (#1,099)

I can't decide if I'm old or was just poor: I am certain that the first thing I listened to in my first truck was a cassette of Led Zeppelin III.

carpetblogger (#306)

I wrecked my mom's mazda GLC listening to Purple Rain.

Sakurambobomb (#1,722)

So, the English altnertive/dance supergroup 'Electronic' does not merit a mention on either list???

Electronic combined members, at various times, from New Order, the Smiths, ABC, the Doves, Pet Shop Boys and Kraftwerk, for pete's sake!

At first I missed the "either" there…

mrschem (#1,757)


ow that hurt (#3,919)


thank you!

(the cover photo for "Getting Away With It" pretty much says it all for me…)

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Hindu Love Gods belong on one of these lists, if only for the Raspberry Beret cover.

hman (#53)

The Golden Palom–eww, I don't even want to type it out.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Respect Arto Lindsay

Isn't 1981 is a little too early for stonewashed jeans? I'm not sure I trust the accuracy of your analysis.

NinetyNine (#98)

I think the Wilburys need to be on both lists.

Also, do Glenn Branca's early ensembles/orchestras count?

The Sportchestra! definitely counts, though.

s. (#775)

The second list is incomplete without Golden Smog.

ericdeamer (#945)

"Africa" by Toto is one of the finest pop singles of all time, totally unironically. As some critic or other once said "a song of longing for plenty in a time of deep want".

DrJimmy (#7,037)

Lanham, your Best/Worst Supergroup lists are about as accurate as a shotgun with a two-inch barrel…even allowing for youthful bias.
ELP could/can kick the ass of 7 out of 10 on your Best list; The Wandering Dingleberries represent a collective Dark Period for four visionary singer songwriters and one Beatle wannabe. As such, they should be #1 with a Bullet on your Worst list.

* "Wandering Dingleberries" copyright National Lampoon magazine, late 1980s. Yeah, there was Snark before the Internet, ya little bitches.

keisertroll (#1,117)

So what we have to look forward to in the next decade is "GAWKER MEDIA'S VAN WILDER".

Rutlefan (#8,096)

Alright!, I wondered if anyone would mention the only collection of visionaries that have ever merited the name "Supergroup" — Zamfir, Slim Whitman, Boxcar Willy, Yani, and Kenny Rogers of The Wandering Dingleberries. Gone but not forgotten.

ericdeamer (#945)

Also, a list of supergroups is remiss in not including the Shufflin' Crew.

mrschem (#1,757)

So that's who Brad Delp is. I drive by his name spray painted on some boulder on Route 128 every day. I kept picturing Brad Dourif.

Sadly, he committed suicide a few years ago.

One of my proudest (?) moments in high school was turning my Pavement- and Dinosaur Jr.-loving alternative friends onto the joys of Boston.

mrschem (#1,757)

What about Loose Fur? or the Raconteurs? Isn't Jack White pretty much his own supergroup?

iantenna (#5,160)

it is a fact (FACT! incontrovertible fact!) that eric clapton has only done one (1!) decent thing since leaving the yardbirds and that is to play with the most soulful white couple ever.

iantenna (#5,160)

listicle number 2 needs less, way less, zero in fact, broken social scene and more GRAVEDIGGAZ.

Pandemic Endemic (#3,825)

Oh, Yacht Rock.

iantenna (#5,160)

sorry to keep going, and i really did enjoy the article, but god is this list of "most awesome supergroups" twisting my knickers. the broken social scene does not deserve inclusion, and not only because they are awful. a bunch of assholes who also make records with other assholes does not a supergroup make. the world needs to have a) heard of your previous projects and b) given a shit about them before your next collaborative project can be a supergroup. those guys are just a bunch of guys who were in bands before BSS, and are in other bands during BSS, which is also known as being exactly the same as every dude in a band ever.

iantenna (#5,160)

oh, also, monsters of folk should be on the "most horrible" list. they are the worst supergroup of all time. hands down. no contest. somebody shut me up already.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Everybody's a listiclist.

Shouldn't we realize by now that the failure of any supergroup to come up with a half-decent band name means that a supergroup probably won't come up with half-decent music? Okay, yes, Bad Company is pretty rad, so I guess they're the exception to the rule.

Higgs Boson (#7,047)

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds? Broken Social Scene? How are these bands super? Super to whom? Five people including you? Go check on the definition of a supergroup before making your list next time. Also it's a bit ironic that you diss ELO and include the Wilburys on your "best" list.

munomi (#7,049)

No way is Chickenfoot the worst group. You've only picked a DLR popular pick. There is no way you listened to their album. The last 2 minutes alone of Soap on a Rope (Get Your Buzz On) is classic rock material! Chickenfoot makes vintage rock new again.

Sean Peters (#6,014)

What Higgs Boson said (and no one named after a god particle could be wrong). I mean, the Traveling Wilburys? Seriously?

Disagree on ELP. They had a loopy charm that still exists today. And the Egos!!! Don Dokken is a dude. Single dude cannot be a supergroup. Not only that, Bad Company was never a supergroup to begin with. Mott and Free were never that big. I think your best list is defective.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

> Mott and Free were never that big

Untrue, sir.

David Vawter (#7,062)

It is a tribute to your writing skill that you manage to be witty, outright hilarious and 150% wrong all at the same time.

Crosby Stills & Nash are perhaps the worst American export since the Chevy Vega. In fact I believe they were unleashed on an unsuspecting world at about the same time. And if you want to talk about the effects of "coke & fondue" you need look no further than David Crosby.

ELP on the other hand are merely the most talented three blokes to ever show up on a stage at the same time. They were five times more aggressive than any punk band, and they actually knew how to play their instruments.

missdelite (#625)

Anyone who considers Broken Social Scene a supergroup has no business passing judgement on the likes of Audioslave and Velvet Revolver.

It's like asking an Etch-A-Sketch artist to critique a Picasso. Like seriously, come the fuck on.

Well, Robert, you are entitled to your opinions. You write some judgment calls on some bands that make it clear you're not into progressive music and it's a pity that you missed out on understanding them. I agree that Yoso is a rehash of old glories but you mention, with a derogatory flair, bands such as Yes, ELP, Boston…those 3 bands, among quite a few others, helped to form an entire generation of musicians and inspire the best in progressive and arena rock for over 25 years. It's quite the pity that you missed out…I like Tom Petty and Steve Stills, too…but your call on some of these other groups is way off base, mano…

ArthriticPrince (#235,329)

You Jack A$$!! If you don't like progressive rock, why are you commenting on some of it's best groups??? You have no concept of what good rock music is!! You should be beaten, shot, stomped on, pissed on and left for the buzzards (who probably have enough class not to eat you)!! You are proof as to why the internet is a bad thing!! You should be fired and never allowed to write another word again!! You are that stupid!! Better yet, take your brothers tennis racket and beat yourself to death with it. The world will be a better place!! A$$hole!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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