CD Review: SuperHeavy Is Way Too Much Marley, Not Enough Jagger and Stone

From the moment I first heard that Dave Stewart, Joss Stone, and Mick Jagger had formed a supergroup called SuperHeavy, a part of me has been dreading the prospect of listening to the group's first album.

It isn't because I harbor any ill-will or dislike for any of this group's members, but because, on paper, their disparate styles are a recipe for disaster. Or worse, boredom.

Since the first announcement of this band's formation, Damian Marley and "Slumdog Millionaire" music composer A.R. Rahman have been selected to round out the line-up as if it were a Benetton advertisement.

Sadly, it is the influence of Marley that seems to hang over this album like a dirty shirt. Of course, we're talking Bob Marley. One need only listen to the album's reggae-drenched title cut to realize that this bunch should never again come within 50 feet of a reggae groove.

Considering that it's only the album's third track and we've heard only the occasional vocal vamp from Jagger and Stone, but much too much of Damian Marley's tirelessly by-the-book reggae vocal stylings, you can actually hear the listeners of the world turning off their iPods.

This is what happens when you put the horse before the cart, or, in this case, the supergroup before the songs. The group admits to hitting the studio without hardly any material at all. When such things happen, it is the person who comes in most prepared who ends up guiding the direction of the sessions. That person would obviously be Damian Marley.

Thing is, nobody but a few dedicated followers of reggae royalty want to hear a Damian Marley album. Sorry to say it, but it's true. Why go to the trouble of hyping a supergroup featuring Mick Jagger and Joss Stone if they are but bit players in this musical tour de farce? All things considered, there shouldn't be this much Damian Marley on a Damian Marley album!

On the rare moments when Jagger or Stone are given a chance to shine, the material is so laughable as to render any performance completely inconsequential. If that weren't bad enough, up pops Damian motherfucking Marley's reggae warblings. Seriously dude, feel free to sit out a track or ten.

It isn't until the album's seventh cut, "Never Gonna Change", that we get any sense of an original identity worth keeping. That it's a mostly acoustic ballad accentuated with orchestral flourishes, sounding not unlike a cut from Goat's Milk Soup or Let It Bleed should have sent a very clear message to producer Dave Stewart. And that message would have been, "Play to your strengths, Dave. If you have a band with Mick Jagger in it, let HIM fucking sing."

"Beautiful People" follows and immediately returns us to the trainwreck, trying to make the varied styles of Jagger, Stone and Marley co-exist seamlessly within the same song. Strike one. Next follows "Rock me Gently", which does nothing more than add some unimaginative metal guitar to the mix. Strike two. "I Can't Take It No More" seems to be listening to the same album we are and decides now is the time to wrestle victory from the jaws of defeat. While Jagger steps to the fore, turning in an defiantly bluesy vocal, the song itself is sooo lame as to almost be embarassing. One can almost hear Keioth Richards having a chuckle at that one. Strike Three.

Hey, where do you think you're going? There's still seven songs to go.

That's right. Ten songs in and we haven't heard Joss Stone do anything but yowl in the background. Thankfully, "I Don't Mind" seems to be intent on changing that. Jagger's singing on the vocals is sad, lonely, a la Ray Davies on "Art Lover". Joss sweeps in and steals the show on the chorus, which is how it should be. Guess who drops by around the 3:18 mark to spoil the whole damn party? Hint: His last name rhymes with "gnarly".

"World Keeps Turning" is built atop a wonderful chorus; one you can probably imagine being sung at the opening ceremony for the next Olympics. Thing is, that's all it is.

At this point, I'm going to be perfectly honest and tell you I put this promo CD in the box of CD's I sell to the used music store near my house. I just hope they'll take it.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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