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Highly anticipated 2011 album from this supergroup featuring Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart, Joss Stone, Damian Marley and Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack composer A. R. Rahman. This diverse and eclectic line up who share 11 Grammy Awards between them, have been recording together in various studios around the world, with the majority of the tracks on the project laid down over three weeks in Los Angeles earlier this year. Tracks include the first single `Miracle Worker', plus `One Day One Night', `Energy', `Unbelievable,' `SuperHeavy,' I Can't Take It No More,' `You're Never Gonna Change' and `I Don't Mind.'
About the Artist
Mick Jagger has teamed up with Eurythmics founder Dave Stewart, soul singer Joss Stone, Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack composer A.R.Rahman and reggae star Damian Marley to form a band cooperative project called SuperHeavy. This diverse and eclectic line up who share eleven Grammy Awards between them, have been recording together in various studios around the world, with the majority of the tracks on the project laid down over three weeks in Los Angeles earlier this year. The album will be unveiled in September and tracks include the first single `Miracle Worker', plus `One Day One Night', `Energy', `Unbelievable,' `SuperHeavy,' I Can't Take It No More,' `You're Never Gonna Change' and `I Don't Mind.'
A promo video for `Miracle Worker' will be shot later this month and will feature Jagger, Stewart, Marley, Stone and Rahman.
It's little wonder that Stewart refers to SuperHeavy as, "A mad alchemist type experiment". Fusing the talents of one of the greatest front-men of all time, a two time Academy award winning Indian composer, a soul vocal prodigy, a three time Grammy winning reggae star, and one of the most sought after producers in the world, you would expect the explosive results to defy categorisation.
SuperHeavy came together after Jagger and Stewart considered what a band comprising of musicians from different genres would sound like. Jagger explains, "Dave really wanted to make a record with a different group of musicians, in other words, with different backgrounds of music. Instead of everyone being a rock musician, or basically a blues musician, or some other genre, he wanted to get as many genres together that would fit. I said it sounds like a good idea, I never thought it would actually happen."
Yet soon enough Jagger found himself back in the studio with Stewart and Joss Stone, having previously worked together on the 2004 Alfie movie soundtrack. Stewart says Stone was, "an obvious choice for us. She's such an incredible singer and spirit." Stewart and Jagger's dream team took further shape when they were inspired to bring Damian Marley into the mix, says Stewart, "We'd always wanted a Jamaican musician because Mick and I are crazy about Jamaica and Jamaican music. Stewart has worked with legend Jimmy Cliff while Mick has duetted with Peter Tosh from the Wailers on the Tempatations tune "Don't Look Back" in 1978.
We were listening to loads of stuff and suddenly a light bulb went off and we thought about Damian Marley." Jagger had long been a fan of Marley's, fresh from another cross-genre collaboration with American rapper Nas, citing his strength as a lyricist and toaster along with his penchant for experimentation and collaborative spirit. Marley brought on board his rhythm section, bassist and composer Shiah Coore and drummer Courtney Diedrick, while Stewart introduced the band to his long-term collaborator Ann Marie Calhoun, a rock violinist who had previously worked with the Foo Fighters.
Recording in LA meant the band's path crossed with legendary Indian composer A.R. Rahman, in the City of Angels fresh from his Slumdog Millionaire Oscar glory. Jagger explains, "We didn't know what kind of music we'd make, we didn't know if it would be any good, but we hoped we'd have fun." They were thrilled to have Rahman on board, Stewart says, "He brings so much musical knowledge, amazing musicianship, melody and singing power from a different culture."
Despite their disparate backgrounds, they instantly connected and hit the ground running, writing twenty-two songs in the first six days. Stone was thrilled with the results, "That's what you need, all these opinionated people who have been brilliant in their own field, shove them together and see what comes out. It's really unexpected, it's mind blowing" she enthuses. Similarly enthused was Rahman, "The first day I was in a daze thinking, `What am I doing? What's my role?' and then slowly we started writing with each other, and it was great. It took me way back to my high school days when I was playing in a rock band, but this one was a real one!" Jagger says of the writing process, "We ran the gamut of all our different styles mixed up, so we got Joss singing, Damian doing toasting, and me singing different styles."
However, despite the free flow of creative juices and the easy rapport they established, getting the band together in one place became very difficult, as Stewart explains, "It's the most complicated record ever made. Imagine, some of it's recorded in LA, some of it's recorded in the South of France, some of it's recorded off the coast of Cyprus, some of it's recorded in Turkey, some of it's recorded in Miami, some of it's recorded in the Caribbean, and some of it's recorded in Chennai, in India."
The project needed a name. Marley had been riffing the term "SuperHeavy", inspired by Muhammad Ali being the super heavy weight champion of the world and the phrase became the band's catchphrase, "It was Mick who said, `Why don't we call it SuperHeavy?", recalls Stewart, "We all thought about it for ages and then it sort of stuck."
SuperHeavy is a new and spontaneous way of working for all the collaborators as Jagger explains, "I said to Dave, normally [with the Stones] we'd always have written songs before we go into the studio, but the jam sessions resulted in some great work believes Stone, "It felt better when we were just jamming, that way we made it up as we went along and it was easy."
The band found a harmonious way of working together, "With five of you everyone has to give and take quite a lot. We tried to understand everyone wouldn't be too egotistical, start throwing things around the studio, we wouldn't have fights!" says Jagger. However they weren't averse to telling each other to be better either, Jagger continues, "We were writing a lot of stuff and throwing it away. I would say, `That's rubbish, another cliché Joss', and she'd say, `Well you come up with something then!'" The experience was refreshing and exciting for the band, "We're four vocalists, we've never worked like that before. It's great because the whole burdens not on you, and that made it fun." Jagger enthuses.
Back to that alchemical experiment, Jagger, Stewart, Marley, Rahman and Stone appear to have created a new genre. It's a new kind of music, it's a new genre, one that cannot be placed" says Stone. Yet, Jagger is keen to point out the music is accessible, "It's very approachable. If you're a Rolling Stones fan there's definitely stuff you can relate to. Other stuff that you can't relate to so much, maybe if you listen you'll enjoy it."
A first for Mick Jagger is singing in Urdu, on a song composed by Rahman, entitled "Satyameva Jayate", meaning, "the truth alone triumphs", Rahman wrote the song after some gentle teasing from the others. Rahman explains, "In the daytime I was playing with them, in the night time and evenings I was gigging" "Then", says Jagger, "He didn't come into the studio one day, so I said, `Where's A.R?' and he came in really late at night, really pleased saying, `I've got my song!' I manage one line in Urdu, only one!"
Marley's way of working was different to the rest of the band. Stone reveals, "Damian is kind of quiet but he has some brilliant ideas. He works on stuff at night. Sometimes he'll just go away and sit with the lyrics and bring something to it. His rhythm section brings so much. He has his own thing going in the next room so I pop in and out." Marley would work on toasting over the record by himself and re-join the band when he was happy with it.
As far as the future of SuperHeavy goes, "We haven't planned to do a tour or anything, but if people really like it maybe we will. We'd love to get out and play some of it live," says Jagger humbly. "As soon as we started playing together in the studio it gelled, and all these different styles didn't seem to be a problem to make them fit together... I hope people will like it...."
Main Credits on the `SuperHeavy' album are - Mick Jagger (vocals, guitar and harmonica), Dave Stewart (guitar), Joss Stone (vocals), Damian Marley (vocals) and A. R. Rahman (vocals plus a variety of keyboards).
The SuperHeavy album is co-produced by Jagger & Stewart.
Universal Music will release the album worldwide on their A& M label imprint.
Digital Booklet: Super Heavy
Digital Booklet: Super Heavy
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I never heard of Joss Stone either, but her voice is so strong and flexible I am becoming a fan of hers, so I am going to check out her previous records. So Dave Stewart is from the Eurythmics. I wasn't paying attention, as Annie Lennox stole my heart. He's an excellent guitarist. I confess I wasn't familiar with any of his post- Eurythmics work. I work too hard. Okay, so I love this band as being better than the sum of its parts and I hope they generate enough interest to support a second CD.
Where do I begin? With the now-almost-embarrassing quality of Jagger's voice? Maybe the total and utter waste of Stone?? Or how about the boarder-line karaoke/cartoonish feel of Marley's "rasta" vibe???
We could also talk about the routine arrangements, the lackluster instrumentation or the rather spotty (and, in some cases, downright creepy!) lyrics. All in all, it's pretty safe to say that most of this disc just doesn't work.
SUPERHEAVY opens with....."Superheavy." The song has a nice enough groove, with a slightly Third World vibe to it. However, the track is marred by a group of vocals that are all over the map, ranging from Marley's slurred, incoherent words to Jagger's flat ones, while Stone comes across shrill and grating. NOT an auspicious start!
"Unbelievable" is an even bigger mess. This track is proof positive of why the Stones haven't made a new album in ages....Jagger's voice is shot, a shadow of it's former self, while Stone is nothing more than window dressing. Add in Marley's sophomoric vocal, a lackluster arrangement and silly lyrics and you have the first of many missteps.
"Miracle Worker" works when Stone and Marley are front and center, but things get a little creepy and leering when Jagger takes center stage ("There's nothing wrong with you that I can't fix/I come a runnin' with my little bag of tricks"....REALLY???). The arrangement is easy-going and relaxed, and Stone just shines, so I guess we'll call this one a draw.
"Energy" is just that...high voltage, powerful in your face. Back in the 80's, this killer track would have spawned an AMAZING 12" remix! The vocal push and pull between Jagger and Stone is spot-on, as is Marley's opening rap. One of the disc's true unadulterated bright spots!
"Satyameva Jayathe" has a nice enough vibe going on, though it's almost impossible to tell what anyone is saying. This song is a prime example, though, that Jagger didn't need to sing on EVERYTHING ~ Stone, Marley and Rahman more than have things under control...even if you can't tell what they're saying! (The cut also sports one of the disc's best lines: "If you want to be a winner/Play friends with the truth").
"One Day One Night" is just downright painful. Jagger's ragged vocal is like a mangy tom cat yowling on a late night fence...why didn't they shake things up, and give this lead to Stone? She would have NAILED it, and, with Marley's strong co-lead vocal, this track would have really stood out. A totally missed opportunity.
With it's weary acoustic arrangement and observant lyrics ("With your father's money and your mother's taste/And your sister's wardrobe/All cinched in at the waste"), "Never Gonna Change" has a classic Stones feel to it. Not surprisingly, the cut also boasts Jagger's best, most unaffected, vocal. (Special kudos also to Phillip "Winter" James and Mike Rowe for their gorgeous keyboards!).
Not nearly as strong is "Beautiful People"....pretty much everything about this song is one big cliche....the simplistic arrangement, the innane lyrics, the phoned in vocals (please, Mick....don't EVER go all breathy and whispery on us EVER again!). No doubt about it...one of the album's true low points.
Things rebound nicely with "Rock Me Gently"....everything just gels, working SO well together here. The arrangement is relaxed and unhurried, allowing the vocals to just flow at their own pace. Marley, Stone and Jagger all shine on the disc's most organic, REAL cut. SUPERHEAVY's high point, hands down.
"I Can't Take It No More" WANTS to be a classic Stones song, what with it's snotty, up your's attitude, but it only partially succeeds. I would have loved to have seen Stone take a co-lead vocal here and really rock it, vs. being regulated to her (opening) standard wail. (Oh, wait.....she also gets to cuss at the beginning of the song...ooohhh!!!). A good one that could have been a great one.
"I Don't Mind" is absolutely gorgeous....a captivating arrangement, delicate instrumentation, lovely vocals from one and all....it's all good! But it's the lyrics that really shine here....we're talking sheer poetry! Another one of the album's few true bright spots.
"World Keeps Turning" is sort of hit and miss....on the one hand, you have some nice vocals from Stone, as well as the album's best line ("Nice to be important/But it's important to be nice"), but, overall, the track just doesn't go anywhere. Maybe if it had just built up in intensity a TAD bit more...!
So...would I recommend SUPERHEAVY? That depends...if you're a die-hard fan of any of the artists involved...maybe. If you're just a casual listener, looking for something new? Uh....no, babe. Will I buy another SUPERHEAVY album (if there ever is one!)? That remains to be seen. I'd probably have to hear it first. One thing for sure....it's going to need to be a little more "heavy" and A LOT more "super!" (As with all my reviews, I'm docking the disc an additional half a star for not including the lyrics....in this case, a MAJOR mistake!).