The 50 Best Supergroup Albums of All Time

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The 50 Best Supergroup Albums of All Time

When Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus announced in 2018 that they’d recorded an EP together under the supergroup name Boygenius, we were thrilled. There’s something intriguing about seeing some of your favorite artists combine their talents into something new. The following list looks at the history of the supergroup, from Cream and Crosby, Stills & Nash in the 1960s to last year’s The Highwomen. We chose a single album from each supergroup—defined as a band featuring two or more established musicians. Compiling this list of the best supergroup albums, we realized that some musicians are habitual collaborators (Danger Mouse, Josh Homme, Jack White and Jenny Lewis jump to mind). These albums proved that the whole could be greater (or at least compellingly different) than the sum of its parts.

[Editor’s note: This list has been updated from its original publish in September of 2018]

Here are the 50 best supergroup albums of all time:

50. Giraffe Tongue Orchestra: Broken Lines

gto-broken.jpgAlice in Chains’ William DuVall, Mastodon’s Brent Hinds and Dillinger Escape Plan’s Ben Weinman joined all of their shredding forces in order to make a genuine heavy metal album. With a grunge influence from DuVall, the coterie of head bangers shred harder than each member’s individual bands when they join forces as a three-headed beast. Metal meets with grunge, grunge meets with rock with each member embracing each other’s influences as their own. Songs off of Broken Lines don’t sound like any one of the aforementioned bands. The album’s lead single “Crucifixion” sounds more like Iron Maiden meets In Living Color than any of the bands that have a part in the song. Some people choose to write off the phrase “supergroup” as a meaningless exercise of ego, but such a phrase is only fitting for a band this closely knit. Watch a special acoustic set they played for us at the Paste studio. —Kurt Suchman

49. Nice as Fuck: Nice as Fuck

nice-as-fuck.jpgAfter a strong circuit supporting 2014’s The Voyager and Rabbit Fur Coat’s 10-year anniversary, Jenny Lewis funneled her ever-growing momentum into the surprise debut (at a Bernie Sanders benefit, of course) of supergroup Nice As Fuck with Erika Forster (Au Revoir Simone) and Tennessee Thomas (The Like). The band’s 2016 self-titled LP dropped amid rising turmoil and gave us solace in simplicity. NAF is political without being overt, channelling the tactics of classic protest songs—straightforward, chant-worthy lyrics (“I don’t wanna be afraid / Put your guns away,” “What you’re gonna do / When he comes looking for you?” ) that are dead-on without being specific and model fodder for being screamed over and over. —Sarra Sedghi

48. Bonny Light Horseman: Bonny Light Horseman

If you Google “oldest known musical instrument,” you’ll find that the answer is the flute: 42,000-year-old fragments of the instrument carved from bird bone and mammoth ivory were discovered in a German cave a decade ago. But the cheekier, less scientific answer to that query, though, is the human voice. It makes logical sense: As long as there have been humans, they’ve surely used their voice to sing. In other words, it’s not just the material that’s timeless on the new self-titled album from folk supergroup Bonny Light Horseman. It’s the voices—of decorated singer/songwriter Anaïs Mitchell and Fruit Bats leader Eric D. Johnson, especially—that make Bonny Light Horseman more than just another rehash of traditional songs. The trio, which also includes multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaufman (The National, Josh Ritter), came together during two 2018 festivals connected to Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and The National’s Aaron Dessner—Eaux Claires in Wisconsin and the 37d03d Festival in Berlin. There, Mitchell, Johnson and Kaufman zeroed in on their goal: to give ancient songs a contemporary twist, and to surround the timeless feelings expressed in those songs with drop-dead gorgeous string and vocal arrangements. —Ben Salmon

47. BNQT: Volume 1

bnqt.jpgA supergroup as super as BNQT shouldn’t sound this good. But the project, comprising Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell, Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos, Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, Midlake’s Eric Pulido and Travis’ Fran Healy, plays to each member’s strength and somehow doesn’t overwhelm. On the horn-tinged single “Real Love,” the members all sing in unison, creating a ’70s kaleidoscope of harmony, trumpet blasts, psychedelic keys, and hopeful messaging: “So when the right side’s bringing you down/ And the left holding onto the ground/ We’ll still be right here making the sound we know.” —Rachel Brodsky

46. Electronic: Electronic

electronic.jpgElectronic were a duo of two of Manchester’s greatest indie legends, former Smiths lead guitarist Johnny Marr and Joy Division founding member and current New Order frontman Bernard Sumner. The pair released three studio albums, but their 1991 self-titled debut was their most enduring record and the lone Electronic LP to be released on the famous Factory Records label. The album also features Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant who co-wrote and contributed vocals to the album’s soaring lead single and the group’s best-known track, “Getting Away With It.” The album mixes dense hi-fi dance pop with alternative rock vocals and elaborate string orchestrations, and its use of synths and guitars are cleverly rhythmic rather than showy and overly riff-filled. On tracks like “Some Distant Memory,” “Get The Message” and “Feel Every Beat,” Sumner’s speak-sing vocals are luscious and utterly believable, Marr’s guitar swishes are crisp and the strings add a dark, majestic aura. It’s exuberant synth-pop, atmospheric party music and an answer to the often offputting impersonality of dance music. With the exception of The Stone Roses, it’s also a much more sensible, sophisticated choice than Manchester’s late ‘80s and ‘90s overblown, laddish dance-rock craze, “Madchester.” —Lizzie Manno

45. Filthy Friends: Invitation

filthy-friends.jpgSinger/guitarst Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), guitarist Peter Buck (R.E.M.), drummer Linda Pitmon (Minus 5), bassist Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows) and guitarist Kurt Bloch (The Fastbacks) got together to play live covers of David Bowie songs in 2012 before contributing an anti-Trump song “Despierta” for the 30 Days, 30 Songs project in 2016 and releasing its debut, Invitation, a year later. Invitation is a gritty rock record played with punk abandon by a bunch of musicians with nothing left to prove. Bill Rieflin, who’s drummed for King Crimson, Ministry, Revolting Cocks and at least one other supergroup on this list, took over for Pitmon on the album. Kicking off with “Despierta” (Spanish for “Awake”), it pulls from the ‘70s post-punk and ‘80s college rock that the members helped shape (think everything from Television to The Replacements). —Josh Jackson

44. Diamond Rugs: Diamond Rugs

diamond-rugs.jpgThe Diamond Rugs is the brainchild of Deer Tick’s resident caterwauler John McCauley, who recruited his bandmate Robbie Crowell, Ian Saint Pé of the Black Lips, Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, Hardy Morris of Dead Confederate and Six Finger Satellite’s Bryan Dufresne to form that slight oxymoron—the indie supergroup. Deer Tick’s sound is clearly the blueprint here, and the album exudes the brash, jangly, always raw and occasionally irreverent take on countrified rock that McCauley and Crowell’s band has made its calling card. Even so, the Diamond Rugs for the most part do not rehash that sound but expand upon it. “Call Girl Blues,” with its gaudy horns and straggly guitar, recalls the best of the Stones circa Sticky Fingers. The rolling melody and echoing drums on “Out on My Own” are downright Springsteen-esque, and it is a testament to the band’s ingenuity that six guys who you’d never really associate with classic rock can take some time-worn sounds and make them their own. Even better is when the Diamond Rugs throw genre out the window, as in “Country Mile,” which is certainly the most varied—and perhaps the best—track on the album. With Hardy on vocals, the song starts out as a swampy, gloomy jam before seamlessly transitioning into a twangy Nashville refrain. This back-and-forth continues for three minutes before the song dissolves into a reverb-laden guitar workout complete with spacey noise effects. ADD? Maybe. Engrossing? Absolutely. Dufresne’s bare-as-bones snare drum punctuates every song with proto-punk force and, more than anything else, brings a cohesive tone to the entire record. His rhythm section accomplice Crowell leads the charge on bass, and on a number of songs, especially the standout “Big God,” Crowell’s uncluttered but relentless notes are the driving element behind the music. Berlin, who is perhaps the least likely member of the group, makes his presence felt with horns that add texture and life to a number of songs, especially “Gimme a Beer” (which is the only song that truly rips off a Deer Tick tune, but it’s just as boisterous and enjoyable as “Let’s All Go to the Bar.” McCauley even states that one of his goals in life is to have a dog that pisses on his neighbor’s fence). Add that to McCauley, Morris and Saint Pé’s ragged guitars and lovable loser vocals, and the Diamond Rugs emerge as a cohesive, spirited country-punk collective that brings out the best in each member. —Eli Bernstein

43. Prophets of Rage: Prophets of Rage

prophets-rage.jpgWith members from Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill, Prophets of Rage (a name borrowed from a Public Enemy song) is the protest-fueled rap-rock supergroup we need now. After an EP of originals, covers and live tracks called The Party’s Over, the self-titled full-length included 12 new songs that showed that music can be one of the best tactics to, as they say, “Unfuck the World.” —Hilary Saunders

42. Mad Season: Above

mad-season-above.jpgAnother perfect example of grunge’s collaborative scene, Mad Season brought together heavy hitters like Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, Barrett Martin of the Screaming Trees and Layne Staley of Alice in Chains. Staley really shines on stand-out track “River of Deceit,” though, like the rest of the album, it’s credited to all four members. It’s so close to being triumphant, but Staley brings everything back to reality. “The only direction we flow is down,” he sings before cooing “Down, oh down.” It’s a performance that can literally pull you down, in the best way possible. —Shawn Christ

41. I’m With Her: See You Around

see-you-around.jpgTheir band name may remind you of a particularly turbulent election season, but their music, which is punctuated with warm harmonies and bare-bones acoustics, recalls a relaxed hootenanny rather than a televised debate. Nickel Creek’s Sara Watkins, Crooked Still’s Aoife O’Donovan and folk songstress Sarah Jarosz began collaborating as I’m With Her back in 2015—prior to the launch of Hillary Clinton’s identically named presidential campaign slogan—but See You Around is the bluegrass supertrio’s full-length debut. Their fortified voices, plus Watkins’ fiddle, O’Donovan’s guitar, and Jarosz’s mandolin, mesh in a familial way—it’s a wonder they aren’t sisters. Plucky and purposeful, See You Around is at once soothing and sweeping, a testament to practiced musicianship and the power of collaboration, a chief value in bluegrass/acoustic scenes. During performances, the three women gather around a single microphone, like a family sitting down for supper. On the record, similes and other clever lyrical nuggets are woven into a hearty 40 minutes. See You Around creeps to start with a gentle crescendo and resounds to a close with the hymn-like “Hundred Miles.” Though still in their infancy, I’m With Her are pros, and their ability to effortlessly freshen bluegrass sounds while maintaining musical mastery marks them as one of the best working supergroups, in Americana and beyond. —Ellen Johnson

40. Drag City Supersession:Tramps, Traitors and Little Devils

drag-city-duper.jpgHere’s a supergroup that feels and acts like a lark. Put together over the course of a couple of weekends at Steve Albini’s studio Electrical Audio, this project pulls together various artists from the Drag City roster, including Royal Trux member Neil Hagerty, Bill Callahan (aka Smog), Edith Frost, multi-instrumentalist Jim O’Rourke and the label’s manager Rian Murphy. Together, they assembled a ramshackle bunch of originals and off-the-cuff covers (Black Sabbath’s “N.I.B.” and Randy Newman’s “Old Man,” among them) that are all incredibly low stakes and incredibly fun to listen to. Don’t fret over the flubbed notes and loose relationship with rhythm. Just wish that you were on hand to join in the playtime. —Robert Ham

39. American Flyer: American Flyer

american-flyer.jpgAmerican Flyer was a country rock band led by ex-Pure Prairie League singer/songwriter Craig Fuller. The band was also a prime example of a “supergroup” (featuring members from PPL; Blues Magoos; Blood, Sweat, and Tears; and The Velvet Underground) that fizzled. But given the raw ingredients, it’s hard to understand what went wrong. Primarily this is Fuller’s show, and he writes and sounds a lot like he did when he was writing great tunes like “Amie.” Nothing wrong with that. Maybe there was only room for one big-time band in this slot, and The Eagles had already taken it. Too bad. This band was better than The Eagles. —Andy Whitman

38. The Desert Sessions: The Desert Sessions Vol. 9-10

desert-sessions-9-10.jpgThe musical collective who jams, heavy and heady, on the numerous volumes of The Desert Sessions are indeed a cool bunch. Founded by Josh Homme in 1997, the first two Sessions tracks are (allegedly) psychedelic-drug-fueled, heavily instrumental outings reminiscent of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. Over the last two decades, however, musicians including ex-Kyuss/Fu Manchu drummer Brant Bjork, PJ Harvey, Screaming Trees’ Mark Lanegan, Soundgarden’s Ben Shepherd, Chris Goss, Alain Johannes, A Perfect Circle’s Troy Van Leeuwen, have played music together just for the sake of it. Recorded at Rancho De La Luna in 1997, first two volumes of The Desert Sessions are trippy, drippy and hippy. The first session, titled Instrumental Driving Music for Felons, pretty much sums up the musical journey. It was later re-released in 1998 with Volume 2: Status: Ships Commander Butchered as Volumes 1 & 2. So far, the Sessions stretch out to 10, and “Crawl Home” is a key track that appears as part of that last collection. Although Homme, Johannes and their talented Desert denizens provide stellar backing, sexy-voiced chanteuse Polly Jean Harvey stars in “Crawl Home.” In the video, the incredibly charismatic faux couple Harvey and Homme have a heated argument in a classic car, while playing out the push-pull narrative of the song—“No more, it’s done, crawl home, get gone, your love is evil.” —Katherine Turman

37. The Last Shadow Puppets: The Age of the Understatement

age-understatement.jpgArctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner dreamed up an improbable side project with fellow 22-year-old Miles Kane (of Brit band The Rascals), featuring youthful takes on the melodramatic ’60s pop once proffered by Shirley Bassey, Anthony Newley and James Bond composer John Barry. Composed by the little-known Owen Pallett, production numbers like sultry tune “The Chamber,” Brecht-Weill-style drinking song “Calm Like You” and the over-the-top title track come across with the playfully surreal grandiosity and twisted charm of 2007’s The Good, the Bad and the Queen, Damon Albarn’s project with similarly string-crazed trickster Danger Mouse. (My suspicion is that Pallett is Danger Mouse, and that Kane is Turner.) This record is not for everybody—including, I suspect, the majority of Arctic Monkeys fans. Nonetheless, Turner deserves props for unleashing his inner Bowie and embracing artifice with such nerve and verve. —Bud Scoppa

36. Ty Segall & The Muggers: Emotional Mugger

emotional-mugger.jpgFor all of the incarnations and quasi-supergroups that Ty Segall has put together, it’s hard to top the savage cast of characters put together for the the live lineup of Emotional Mugger. While the album version of the songs were largely enacted by Segall himself, it was the touring band and the antics they employed on-stage that in those moments, made this one of the best rock and roll bands on the planet. With Segall’s latex baby mask-wearing alter ego Sloppo, playing an elaborate ruse at the helm of the band, they just plain shredded everywhere they went. Along with Ty…errr…Sloppo, it was a who’s who of the garage rock scene: King Tuff and The Cairo Gang’s Emmett Kelly on guitar, Mikal Cronin on bass and Wand’s Evan Burrows and Cory Hanson on drums and keys, respectively. This was the grittiest, most ridiculous rock and roll shit show and no finer moment did they enact than this live performance of “Squealer” on WGN’s morning news show (watch it til the end, trust.) —Adrian Spinelli

35. Blind Faith: Blind Faith

blind-faith-2.jpgProviding the template by which every so called supergroup is judged, Blind Faith defined and inspired the term “supergroup” itself. Even so, the band members were hardly strangers. Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker were two-thirds of the recently splintered Cream, while singer and utility player Steve Winwood had played with Clapton in the fleeting ad hoc ensemble Powerhouse (which also included Clapton’s future Cream mate Jack Bruce). Only bassist Ric Gretch was new to the fold, and while his name didn’t always make it on the marquee, his tenure with the British group Family added further credence to this all-star ensemble. Blind Faith only recorded one LP—an imperfect one at that—before splintering due to the pressures of superstardom. —Lee Zimmerman

34. Atoms for Peace: Amok

amok.jpgLet’s, for a moment, move past the surreal notion that Thom Yorke—that pasty, cerebral saint of British rock—and Flea—the crazed, man-child/bass god of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame (and Back to the Future II scene-stealer)—actually decided to form a band together. What ultimately matters is the music that came from it. After adopting the name Atoms for Peace (much improvement over their original name, “??????”) and booking the occasional venue and festival gig, the band—consisting of Yorke and Flea as well as longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, R.E.M. drummer Joey Waronker and additional percussionist Mauro Refosco—released an album called Amok. Songs like “Default” demonstrate a sound that favors King of Limbs-esque-Radiohead, with its intrinsically layered, staccato electronic beats augmenting Yorke’s reliably haunting tenor. —Mark Rozeman

33. Audioslave: Audioslave

audioslave.jpg“Cochise,” the thunderous first single that announced Cornell’s alliance with former members of Rage Against the Machine, heralded the dawn of Audioslave. More of an aural assault than a mere song, the opening track and first single of the supergroup’s self-titled debut harnessed the maximum force of Cornell and RATM, elevating the term supergroup. Tom Morello’s guitar cuts like the rotor blade of a chopper, providing just enough force to support Cornell’s powerhouse wail. Heartbreaking in hindsight, Cornell’s lyrics convey pained generosity despite the song’s hard-rock instrumentation. He cries, “And so I drink to health / While you kill yourself,” before pleading: “Go on and save yourself / And take it out on me.” The album’s second single, “Like a Stone” is painful to listen to now, especially knowing the circumstances surrounding lead singer Chris Cornell’s death. Though the song’s meaning has been heavily debated, with some theorizing that Cornell was referring to the late Alice in Chains singer, Layne Staley (he wasn’t), “Like a Stone” was actually about waiting for an idealized version of the afterlife — but then, like Cornell has said, “going to hell anyway.” Despite its all-too-telling imagery, this sludgy, mid-tempo radio staple will be forever immortalized in the supergroup’s canon. —Madison Bloom and Rachel Brodsky

32. Black Star: Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star

black-star.jpgReleased in 1998 — squarely in the final peak of hip-hop’s Golden Age — the lone Black Star album vaulted the careers of two Brooklyn rappers who would go on to be among hip-hop’s most prolific and recognizable voices. Mos Def’s breakthrough Black on Both Sides was a year away from being released, and Talib Kweli & DJ-Hi-Tek’s seminal Reflection Eternal project wouldn’t be dropped until 2000, but the pair’s bombastic lyrical prowess and majestic afro-centric songwriting was on full display here. The record featured bonafide classics like the shout-out-loud “Definition,” the satin-smooth romance of “Brown Skin Lady” and the era-defining personification of the inner-city in “Respiration” featuring Common, one of of the most well-shaped expressions that hip-hop has ever yielded. Black Star largely featured production from Hi-Tek, but also saw contributions behind the boards from demigod beat conductors including J.Rawls, 88 Keys and Da Beatminerz, rounding out a time capsule worthy hip-hop supergroup effort. —Adrian Spinelli

31. Middle Brother: Middle Brother

middle-brother.jpgVery rarely does a supergroup manage to come up with something as good as the sum of its parts. Just like a movie starring a crowd of A-listers doesn’t necessarily equal anything Oscar-worthy (we’re looking at you, Ocean’s 12), it isn’t a given that a band with three frontmen will be able to effectively pool its talents. But the men of Middle Brother sound as if they’ve been playing together for years. John McCauley (Deer Tick), Matt Vasquez (Delta Spirit) and Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes) take turns singing lead, and from the first harmonies on “Daydreaming” it’s clear that we’ve got a true collaboration on our hands. At times they sound so in tune with one another that Middle Brother starts to feel like a concept album, like a time capsule crafted by the trio of rock troubadours to document their rise to fame. We get the sense that in addition to their shared influences, the members of Middle Brother have plenty of common experiences in their pasts. —Bonnie Stiernberg

30. Broken Bells: Broken Bells

broken-bells.jpgThe collaboration between Shins frontman James Mercer and Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) is a slow grower. In their inimitable ways, the singer and the wandering beatsmith have always hit for average rather than power, which isn’t to say they don’t knock it out of the park every so often—see The Shins’ “New Slang” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” two of the last decade’s most resonant hits. Still, languid is their natural pace. And as Broken Bells (a full-fledged band, both men insist, and not just a one-off team-up), there are times when they seem to have recorded from twin Barcaloungers. This isn’t a bad thing—that instant comfort is the reason these dudes have such devoted followings. And it turns out that Mercer and Burton are compatible in other ways, both fond of slowly unspooling melodies, mellow rhythms and sonic gewgaws that let you come to them. Like his ’90s counterpart Dan the Automator, the Danger Mouse of Broken Bells’ self-titled debut makes tracks that are mildly woozy—“The High Road” and “Your Head Is on Fire” (their ’70s analog synths bemusedly wowing away); “Mongrel Heart,” with its spaghetti-Western bridge and dusty-plains horns, high-noon strings and twangy guitar—but never disorienting, colorful without veering totally into the psychedelic. Mercer’s vocals sound looser than usual against these careful backgrounds, whether leading a falsetto chorus on “The Ghost Inside” or alternating between pinched filter and husky chorus on “Sailing to Nowhere.” Despite the scrappy rhythm guitar of album closer “The Mall & Misery,” this project rarely resembles a rock band. It does, however, really feel like a group. —Michaelangelo Matos

29. Lo Tom: Lo Tom

lo-tom.jpgLo Tom is comprised of scene veterans David Bazan (Pedro the Lion, Headphones) on vocals and bass, Jason Martin (Starflyer 59, Bon Voyage) on guitar, TW Walsh (The Soft Drugs, Pedro the Lion) on guitar and background vocals and Trey Many (Velour 100, Starflyer 59) on drums. Their eight-song self-titled debut captures the sound of four friends (and frequent bandmates) using the collective tools of their shared trade as the ruse to hang out and have a little fun over two weekends of recording sessions. While the “let’s just get together, press record and see what happens” schtick can be overly romanticized and often guilty of delivering diminishing returns, Lo Tom proves that in the right hands, it can produce pure magic reminiscent of the alt-rock-fueled ’90s and glossed-up, genre-shifting ’00s. —Will Hodge

28. This Mortal Coil: It’ll End In Tears

this-mortal-coil.jpgCalling this a supergroup feels like a bit of a misnomer, since its membership was fluid depending upon who was signed to 4AD Records or whose music was fascinating that label’s founder Ivo Watts-Russell at the time. So when the project kicked off in 1983, it included Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Modern English front man Robbie Grey and former Magazine/Buzzcocks member Howard Devoto, among many others. Their collective work on this 1984 release produced a dream pop album extraordinaire that was sleek and wistful, dark and seamy. It was also a chance for Watts-Russell to force some of his favorite songs upon his charges, which resulted in some of the album’s best moments, particularly the devastatingly beautiful version of Tim Buckley’s “Song To The Siren,” with a vocal turn by Elizabeth Fraser that feels like it can stop the world from turning. —Robert Ham

27. The Dead Weather: Dodge & Burn

dodge-burn.jpgEvery bit of music Jack White lays his hands on seems to sound so rigid. For someone who aims to be the savior of rock and blues, two styles with the loosiest-goosiest of spirits, he attacks each song as if fearful he’s going to knock even one hair out of place. This is even more evident listening to White play drums in his side project, The Dead Weather, featuring The Kills’ singer Alison Mosshart, Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Dean Fertita and The Raconteurs’ bassist Jack Lawrence. The sound is stiff and mannered, almost fearful. But the element that keeps the band from coming off as completely robotic-sounding is frontwoman Mosshart. She is a marvel on the band’s third album, Dodge & Burn, wrapping her powerful whiskey-tinged pipes around these tunes with a vise-like grip. She sends White’s agitated vox packing on the bluesy call-and-response of “Rough Detective,” wails like a hard-rock goddess through “Lose The Right” and “Be Still,” and gets her soulful Shirley Bassey on as part of the string section-aided album closer “Impossible Winner.” She just might be the perfect foil for the Third Man Records impresario’s goal of saving rock music from itself. —Robert Ham

26. The Highwomen: The Highwomen

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for The-Highwomen-albumcover-main.png On The Highwomen, the group’s debut album and flagship statement in a female-forward country movement that’s stirring up chatter in Nashville and beyond, these four artists dare to imagine every kind of life for themselves. Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, Amanda Shires and Brandi Carlile, easily four of the most talented people in the greater Americana sphere, explore every facet of femininity and humanity and how they exist alongside each other, from the beautiful and hard-won to the ugly and downright messy. Work, family, children, straight romance, queer romance, shitty men, imperfect women—it’s all there, made more impactful by the expertly played fiddle, drums, electric guitar and the voices of many. These are songs that scream, “We are here, and we have something to say,” but The Highwomen isn’t just some topical social statement that won’t hold up in a few years—this album was not built uniquely for 2019. While it’s absolutely and unapologetically meant as an addition to the discourse on inequality and lack of diversity that’s been ruling Nashville and country music (country radio in particular) for decades now, it’s also a country classic, no matter which way you spin it. —Ellen Johnson

25. The Baseball Project: Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails

baseball-project.jpgI love baseball, the most human of all sports. It’s slow. You can watch the grass grow between pitches. And you can watch that never-ending duel between pitcher and batter unfold cinematically, watch the mannerisms of the players, discern a little bit about who these people are as they go through their gyrations. That’s the spirit captured on The Baseball Project’s Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails. That’s baseball terminology for the non-initiated, but don’t sweat it. The band is Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate), Scott McCaughey (The Minus 5), Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Linda Pitman. The guitars buzz loudly, the drummer (Pitman) slams the kit, and Wynn and McCaughey unfold 13 tales (both tall and short) of real-life major league baseball players. Some of them are legendary (Ted Williams, Willie Mays). Some of them you’ve probably never heard of (Big Ed Delahanty). All of them are characters, in the best and most three-dimensional sense of that term, and the magic of this album is that these two songwriters manage to find the flesh-and-blood human beings behind the statistics and the Hall of Fame careers. There’s sturdy rock ’n’ roll and Pete Buck’s chiming guitars to back it all up, and if the hooks aren’t quite as memorable as I would like them to be, these are still solidly conceived and solidly executed songs. So call it a double into the gap. —Andy Whitman

24. Monsters of Folk: Monsters of Folk

monsters-of-folk.jpg
Monsters of Folk features four of the most influential indie musicians of the decade, whose combined forces may spell apocalypse: M. Ward, Jim James, Conor Oberst, and producer Mike Mogis. Rather than make a staid, serious statement album, the foursome keeps things loose and low-key, content to sound like postmillennial Traveling Wilburys (“Whole Lotta Losin’”) but generally just being themselves. “Temazcal” overlays Oberst’s grave vocals over James’ background whoops and hollers, creating a sound that neither of them could have made without the other. Ward’s virtuosic range allows the Monsters to incorporate country and early-rock elements on “Say Please” and “The Right Place,” and while Mogis may not have the cache of his bandmates, his production keeps things light and rambling. Plus, his guitar solo on “Say Please” is one of the album’s best and most unexpectedly bracing moments. —Stephen M. Deusner

23. The New Basement Tapes: Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes

new-basement.jpgEvery culture and generation creates its own mythology, and for baby boomers or fans of classic rock music, Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes sessions from the summer and fall of 1967 have assumed an importance that rivals the mystique of the Ark of the Covenant or the unearthing of The Dead Sea Scrolls. When Dylan’s publishers had discovered a drawer full of handwritten lyrics dating from the same period as the Basement Tapes recordings, they sent an email to producer T Bone Burnett and asked him whether he’d “like to do anything with them.” Once Burnett found out that the project had Dylan’s blessing, he agreed and contacted musicians he thought would be compatible with the spirit of Dylan’s original creation. He sent them each 16 lyric samples to work with. The invited musicians—Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens, Taylor Goldsmith, Jim James and Marcus Mumford—were given some time to play with the lyrics before they met at Capitol Studios in Hollywood. Some of the musicians were working with the same lyrics and had composed completely different melodies. Some of these melodies echoed Dylan and The Band’s style from that period, while others sounded like a blend between Dylan and his interpreter. Just before the sessions started, eight additional sets of lyrics were found, and everyone who had gathered contributed to giving these songs life. Good vibes seem to have been the order of the day from the beginning to the end of the Lost On The River sessions. Some tracks like “Kansas City” as sung by Marcus Mumford follow the very simple blues structures favored by The Band during the original Basement Tapes sessions, while others like Giddens’ version of “Spanish Mary” hearken back to Dylan’s work from the early ‘60s when he was first enamored with the American folk traditions. Elvis Costello captures the world-weariness suggested by the title track with one of his best recordings in some time, while Giddens transforms the same lyric into a regretful, torchy lament that closes the album. Even Jim James’ voice—which can sometimes dominate with little more than a whisper—has been dialed down a few notches for his takes of “Down On The Bottom” and “Quick Like A Flash,” resulting in some of the most nuanced and impressive performances of his career. —Bonnie Stiernberg

22. Temple of the Dog: Temple of the Dog

temple-dog.jpgTemple of the Dog was so much more than a “supergroup.” It was one of those rare occurrences that takes place at a certain point in time when a music scene is bubbling over with talent, collaboration and support. Featuring members of Soundgarden and almost all of Pearl Jam, the resulting self-titled album gave us “Hunger Strike,” one of the most melodic and beautiful soundscapes to come out of the grunge movement. Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder on one track together is pure bliss. —Shawn Christ

21. Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris: Trio

trio_thumbnail.jpg After years of scheduling conflicts and label squabbles, friends and larger-than-Dolly’s-hair legends Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris recorded together in 1987—“Nobody else thought it was a good idea except for us,” joked Ronstadt—and the subsequent product is Trio, an album filled with harmonies that only genuine connection could produce. The unlikely lead single off the album, “To Know Him Is to Love Him” (originally popularized by Phil Spector’s first vocal group, The Teddy Bears) was successful enough that the ladies would record two more albums together. Watch the music video (directed by Ronstadt’s then-boyfriend George Lucas — I know) below.—Katie Cameron

20. Big Red Machine: Big Red Machine

big-red-supergroup.jpg Big Red Machine was a decade in the making, starting with the sketch of a song The National’s Aaron Dessner sent Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon for the Dark Was the Night charity compilation. The duo enlisted more than two dozen collaborators, including vocalists like Lisa Hannigan, Phoebe Bridgers, This Is the Kit’s Kate Stables and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry, and string arrangements from Rob Moose and Dessner’s twin brother Bryce. Side projects like this often seem tossed off, but Big Red Machine feels like the opposite—something remarkably ambitious, a labor of love that sees two of indie rock’s most talented and creative minds pursuing a passion without pressure, or limits. The resulting music can sound at times like a National album with Vernon’s echoing, manipulated falsetto serving as a stark contrast to the warm, intimate baritone of Matt Berninger, and at other times like a Bon Iver album with more complex and inventive chordal patterns and rhythmic structures. It’s experimental but affecting with Vernon’s snippets of heart-on-sleeve vulnerability popping up screaming from a cloud of otherwise opaque lyrics. —Josh Jackson

19. Pistol Annies: Interstate Gospel

pistolannies_countryalbums.jpg The cover art for Interstate Gospel, the third album by country supergroup Pistol Annies, couldn’t be more perfect: a picture of our heroines, dressed in their finest frocks, holding hands and striking a defiant pose in the woods—glamorous and unafraid to get their hands dirty when it comes to shaking loose of bad relationships or running through men “like a watering can” to get their needs met. As long as they have each other, the ex-husbands, sugar daddies and sundry other bad boys of the world have no chance of survival. Ashley Monroe, Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley are standing strong and providing messages of hope to the women languishing in shitty situations. Even if they can’t remove themselves and head for greener pastures, each spin of Interstate Gospel will help soothe their soul and ease their troubled mind. —Robert Ham

18. boygenius: boygenius

Thumbnail image for boygenius packshot.jpg The debut from rock supergroup boygenius has only one real flaw: It’s much too short. Its length (still on the longer side for an EP, at six songs) is forgivable, though: The women behind boygenius—Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus—are busy. They each released a critically-adored solo LP in the year prior to this EP and have thusly been swamped with promotional duties and live performances. On boygenius, the three become one, miraculously and pristinely so. Bridgers, Baker and Dacus pack a novel’s worth of narrative and as many masterful melodies (not to mention harmonies) into just 21 minutes that will leave you feeling as if you’ve had the wind knocked right out of you. The album ends on an especially magical note. On “Ketchum, ID,” Bridgers, Dacus and Baker assume soprano, alto and tenor and churn up a harmony so handsomely melancholic you’ll find yourself snatching tissues without even knowing why. It’s a fitting epilogue, too, that chronicles the band’s shared experience as touring musicians, and the emotional heaviness following those long nights in unfamiliar places. “I am never anywhere / Anywhere I go,” they sing in unison. “When I’m home I’m never there / Long enough to know.” Those are devastating words, but, at the same time, you get the feeling Bridgers, Baker and Dacus have found some sense of home in one another. Their mutual experiences are what unite them, and that bond bleeds through this music in every buzzing, beautiful bar. —Ellen Johnson

17. Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

emerson.jpgIt wasn’t simply Greg Lake’s booming voice that enshrined him among the greatest rock singers of all time. It was his authority, his ability to play a supporting role in the bands he was a part of, while still maintaining an undeniable presence that placed him front and center no matter what. Although he first came to prominence on that first groundbreaking album by prog rock pioneers King Crimson, his name became forever entwined with those of the supergroup he shared with virtuosic keyboardist Keith Emerson of The Nice and drummer Carl Palmer of Asia—Emerson, Lake & Palmer. And no album with would surpass their self-titled six-song debut. While no single song on the album could have foretold the success that the band would achieve once they became stadium-ready superstars, “Take a Pebble” did demonstrate the band’s ability to cross stylistic parameters all within the space of a single song. Lake leans into the song with a muscular authority that’s anything but the timid toss-off the title otherwise suggests. Going from the jazzy flourish of Emerson’s keyboards to Lake’s folk-like flourish, it demonstrated the trio’s ability to effectively blend their individual instincts. The album closes with the beautiful ballad “Lucky Man.” Sung with striking eloquence and sincerity, the song was written by Lake at the tender age of 12, demonstrating that his talents as songwriter emerged fully formed. Emerson’s burst of synthesized staccato notwithstanding, it remains one of the most stirring rock ballads of all time, a concert staple that sadly serves as an epitaph to a musician who was more than lucky, but fortunate enough to be well positioned when opportunity came calling. —Lee Zimmerman

16. The Highwaymen: Highwayman

highwaymen.jpgWaylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson found a natural fit with their collective handle as the Highwaymen, especially given their outlaw origins and natural synergy both individually and collectively. Nevertheless, when formally bandying about as a whole, the sheer star power alone suggested a renegade-country version of the Rat Pack, where each player seemed so formidable in his own right, it seemed simply too much of a stretch to believe that one band could contain all their talent and tenacity. The group released three albums in their decade of existence between 1985 and 1995, and though two of its members are no longer with us, they leave a legacy that defines the best of authentic Americana. —Lee Zimmerman

15. The Breeders: Pod

breeders-pod.jpgWhen the first album by The Breeders was released in 1990, it was considered something of a lark. A little side project for Kim Deal and Tanya Donelly who were otherwise employed by Pixies and Throwing Muses, respectfully. No one was suspecting that it would creatively outdo the work that their day job bands had recently released (Bossanova and Hunkpapa) due to its sharp edges and minimalist attack brought to live by Steve Albini’s punchy production sound and able assistance by two other musicians with regular gigs: bassist Josephine Wiggs from The Perfect Disaster and Britt Walford of Slint. And little did anyone know that this little supergroup that could would become Deal’s full-time endeavor, scoring a surprise Top 50 Billboard single and losing everyone but Wiggs along the way. A supergroup turned into a regular ol’ group, and we’re all the better for it. —Robert Ham

14. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib: Piñata

freddieboy.jpg The best hip-hop of the last decade still paid homage to the jazz and soul that shaped its identity from the beginning. Madlib has always been respectful of the classics and a chance to work with the Beat Conductor is an opportunity for any MC to shine. Freddie Gibbs seizes the moment with confident flows and comes across like the narrator to a Rudy Ray Moore Dolemite movie. Gibbs is tough with lines like “But fuck my enemies what you looking for bitch I got ‘em.” Which can read sorta hollow, but when layered over Madlib’s soul beats and horn samples on a song about fried chicken among other things, it’s mad fluid. Gibbs and ‘lib loop in Ab-Soul & Polyester the Saint for LA-anthem “Lakers,” with Saint’s hook “My home, my home L.A. I ride for you/ When I am gone, just know that I owe you” that’ll surely play in your head the moment you land on the tarmac at LAX. —Adrian Spinelli

13. The Raconteurs: Consolers of the Lonely

consolers.jpgAlthough Jack White had previously played the part of both the coy adolescent and the Southern-gentleman-on-the-skids, the lead White Stripe’s work with the Raconteurs is perhaps most akin to late musical puberty. Given the former Jack Gillis’s preoccupation with stage character, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to hear the Raconteurs as an acknowledgment that White needed a new creative persona to deal with the tingly arena-rock feelings he’d been having. With a machine-gun groove, parts of the opening title track on Consolers of the Lonely, sound like the “love gun’s loaded” bridge to Spinal Tap’s “Big Bottom.” And while one can easily imagine smoke machines spurting during many of the album’s 13 other tracks, there is no irony in the mix. Just fun. After all, it’s Jack White and the dudes: indie-pop charmer Brendan Benson and the Greenhornes’ Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler. Sometimes, White and Benson play off each other in pleasingly predictable ways. On “You Don’t Understand Me,” they pull a Lennon/McCartney: White digs into a typical put-down ballad before they alight into a rich, obvious Benson chorus, eventually combining to echo one another. There’s also the spitfire joy of “Salute Your Solution” and plenty that sounds like it could’ve been on a Stripes disc, like the Stonesy refrain of “Hold Up.” The negative space White carved between the Stripes’ peppermint swirls remains such a strong gravitational force that it all but carries the record. The Raconteurs make big, joyous songs with all the trappings of delicious summer jams. —Jesse Jarnow

12. Gnarls Barkley: St. Elsewhere

st-elsewhere.jpgThe purpose of St. Elsewhere, was to capitalize on the enormity of hip-hop, pop and soul audiences, and for that, it’s the perfect addition to this list. Producer Danger Mouse brings an eclectic music mix to the table, that paired fluidly with Goodie Mob MC, Cee-Lo Green. On the strength of the global-smash single “Crazy,” Gnarls Barkley and Cee-Lo himself, became household names. From a “Gone Daddy Gone” Violent Femmes cover, to the signature cymbals of “Just A Thought” and the happy-go-lucky “Smiley Faces,” St. Elsewhere extracted the Southern soul of Goodie Mob, and presented it in a package that welcomed new audiences to one of hip-hop’s most gregarious MCs and one of it’s most prolific producers. —Adrian Spinelli

11. Them Crooked Vultures: Them Crooked Vultures

them-crooked.jpgIgnore the legacy of Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and Nirvana’s Dave Grohl, and Them Crooked Vulture’s lone self-titled album is fun and catchy with a light heart and heavy grooves, featuring extremely capable musicians each bringing his equal third to the pie. It sounds exactly like you might expect: Grohl’s drums are gigantic and ferocious, Homme’s guitar sprays unrelenting enemy fire, and Jones’ bass squirms like a hyperactive toddler in a carseat. The three pieces together make for solid, often punishing blues-based rock ’n’ roll—wonderfully grimy and served fresh and hot from the garage. The trio sounds best when they don’t toy with that formula, as on “New Fang,” four minutes of endlessly churning bass and pummeling percussion; a “Black Dog” for the new millennium. Tunes like “Dead End Friends” and the shape-shifting riffing of “Elephants” simply make sense—each musician doing what he does best in harmony with the others; nothing more, nothing less. —Justin Jacobs

10. The New Pornographers: Brill Bruisers

brill-bruisers.jpgAnyone who has been following the work of the New Pornographers since their 2000 debut LP Mass Romantic has to know what to expect from the Canadian supergroup by this point. Every one of their albums has been sequenced using the same precepts that Nick Hornby set up for mixtapes in the book High Fidelity: they start off with a corker of an opening track, rein it in on the next song and then move forward in incremental steps up or down in terms of energy to keep you (at least upon the first spin) guessing. What you listen closely for are the subtle shifts: the moments when Dan Bejar drops his toothsome power-pop gems into the mix, and how songwriter/leader AC Newman uses Neko Case’s pliable and powerful voice. All of that is in full flower on Brill Bruisers, but what subsequent listens reveal is the startling evolution of Newman’s songwriting. More than ever before, the 46-year-old is emphasizing his love of ‘70s pop and rock. Bejar, on the other hand, peaks early with “West Coast,” a rager that features the kind of lyrical twists only he could get away with (“Blondes, brunettes/paper jets/star power, star power/the king bends over to smell a flower”). You can take in this album in little nibbles or one big bite. Either way, you’ll end up feeling entirely satisfied. —Robert Ham

9. The Good, The Bad & The Queen: The Good, The Bad & The Queen

good-bad-queen.jpgLegend has it that Damon Albarn wasn’t intending to start an entirely new band back in the early ’00s. He had originally conscripted producer Danger Mouse to help put together a solo record. The next thing anyone knew, the Blur/Gorillaz leader had roped in some of his hugely talented mates: former Fela drummer Tony Allen, The Clash bassist Paul Simonon and Simon Tong, a one time member of The Verve. And what came out of their collaboration was a glorious concept album that took an unblinking look at the state of modern-day London, including Albarn’s own place within it, using the language of dub reggae, psychedelic pop and shape-shifting funk. —Robert Ham

8. Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2

rtj2.jpgFunctional hip-hop duos are a rarity these days. It takes work to balance out strong personalities that have a lot to say. It makes you respect what a group like OutKast accomplished, and it explains the appeal of Killer Mike and El-P on Run The Jewels’ ambitious debut. Hip hop hadn’t been this fun in a long time. Their second album, RTJ2, was even fiercer. The opening track, “Jeopardy,” is the ultimate “LISTEN UP!” moment. And if you didn’t get the message on the first track, then it’s surely chiseled into your core on “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry.” It’s one of the rawest and hardest hip-hop beats to come out in years with Mike and El-P trading bars. The bass is so encapsulating, and Mike’s “oh my” peppered into the background makes it a haunting experience. They test each other’s hip-hop fluency often. It’s almost as if they’re competing to see who can rap faster, better and more articulately. But there’s a darker undertone to this record than the first time around; they’re happy, but they’re also pissed. Run The Jewels borrows from a range of hip-hop techniques, but they always deliver. You can feel the effort with every syllable, that this music is coming from their very core. It’s a comprehensive essay on the style and vernacular of hip hop. —Adrian Spinelli

7. The Postal Service: Give Up

give-up.jpgThe gulf between electronic music and indie rock was seldom crossed before Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard sang on a track for the presciently titled Life Is Full of Possibilities from Jimmy Tamborello aka Dntel in 2001. The contrast of Gibbard’s clear vocals rising out of fuzzy electronic beats on ”(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan” made the song a relative hit and led the duo to collaborate remotely on a full-length, trading DATs through the mail, since Gibbard was in Seattle, Tabmorello was in LA and both were busy with other projects. They enlisted Jenny Lewis and Jen Wood for additional vocals and called the project the Postal Service. The album, Give Up, married electronica’s syncopated beats and glitches to Gibbard’s earnest indie vibe on tracks like “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight,” “Such Great Heights” and “We Will Become Silhouettes.” It became Sub Pop’s biggest seller by a band not named Nirvana, encouraged English lit majors across the U.S. to dance and launched a thousand new electro-pop bands in its wake. —Josh Jackson

6. Cream: Disraeli Gears

disraeli-gears.jpgOne of the first supergroups, Cream—composed of Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton—moved from blues to psychedelic rock with their second album Disraeli Gears, even though the blues of Albert King and Robert Johnson can still be felt under the wah-wah pedal. Cream delivers a distinctly late-’60s psych sound on Disraeli Gears, as seen in songs like “Sunshine of Your Love,” yet they went on to become influential in the forming of metal, prog and jam bands. It took Disraeli Gears 26 years to go platinum in the U.S., but that only goes to prove the importance it continues to have over the decades. —Ross Bonaime

5. Wu-Tang Clan: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

enter-wu.jpgThe undisputed greatest hip-hop supergroup of all-time. Sorry, but this debate was over before it even began, because even the Wu didn’t know how illustrious their careers would be at the time of the album’s release in 1993. The Wu-Tang Clan’s debut is a complete collection of timeless cuts that yielded multiple timeless moments for every member of the crew: There was Method Man’s solo opus accompanied by the track’s ubiquitous interlude. There were Raekwon’s opening bars on C.R.E.A.M and then tag-teaming with Ghostface Killah on “Can It Be All So Simple” (the first of many collaborations between the legendary pair.) There was the first rhyme Masta Killa ever wrote featured on “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’.” There was the Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB!) proclaiming that he had “styles unbreakable!” on “Shame On A Nigga” over RZA’s epic production highlighted by one of many Syl Johnson samples he would immortalize in the Wu-Tang canon. There was Inspectah Deck and GZA shining on “Protect Ya Neck”. And above all, there was the Shaolin style that sparked dozens of solo albums for the Clan and a cultural movement that we’re still fucking living in. —Adrian Spinelli

4. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: From Her to Eternity

nick-cave-fhte.jpgIt takes some chutzpah to launch your new project with a cover, but that’s exactly how Nick Cave introduced us to The Bad Seeds after The Birthday Party’s demise; From Her to Eternity, his first album with the group—which included German industrial experimenter Blixa Bargeld of Einstürzende Neubauten, Magazine bassist Barry Adamson and frequent Cave collaborator Mick Harvey—kicks off with “Avalanche,” a Leonard Cohen cover, and you know what? It’s stunning. So is the rest of the album—the title track’s driving bass and disconcerting piano; “Saint Huck”’s blended tales of Huckleberry Finn, Ulysses and Elvis Presley; the bleak, epic lament of death on “A Box for Black Paul.” With From Her to Eternity, Cave not only assured fans that he wasn’t going anywhere after The Birthday Party’s breakup, he delivered a classic. —Bonnie Stiernberg

3. Crosby, Stills & Nash: Crosby Stills & Nash

crosbystillsnash_update.jpg The self-titled debut album from this supergroup made up of former members of The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The Hollies starts with the flooring and intricate harmonies on “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” and doesn’t let up. While their musicianship—blending the rootsy sounds of blues, jazz, country and folk—was undeniable, Crosby, Stills & Nash’s legacy is also heavily politically vibrant. Later albums would include responses to police brutality during peaceful protests, but their involvement with activism stems from “Long Time Gone”—a response to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. The reflection of their bold viewpoints begins on this friendly pop-medley album that became a cornerstone and a launching point for many musicians’ activism. —Adam Vitcavage

2. Traveling Wilburys: Volume I

wilburys-vol1.jpgA band like The Traveling Wilburys doesn’t just happen. Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers had toured with Bob Dylan as Dylan’s backing band in 1987. Jeff Lynne had co-produced George Harrison’s successful album of that year, Cloud 9, with its infectious hit “Got My Mind Set on You.” Lynne was also working with Petty on the latter’s first solo album, 1989’s Full Moon Fever, and the two were busy writing a few songs for Roy Orbison’s 1989 album, Mystery Girl. That, more or less, is how you arrive at what is probably the greatest supergroup in history. Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 is an expertly crafted and produced record (how could it not be?), but the genius of the final product is how relaxed and effortless it all sounds. Everyone involved was in one way or another past the peak of his respective glory years, yet instantly winning songs like “Handle With Care” and “End of the Line” felt immediate and vital, the rock stars’ rebuke to the prevailing electronic and histrionic sounds of the era. Vol. 1 has a star turn for each Wilbury while packaging all of their signature sounds into one folk-rock artifact. —Matthew Oshinsky

1. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: Déjà Vu

csny-deja-vu.jpgWith the follow-up to Crosby, Stills & Nash’s critically acclaimed debut, the group decided to enlist the talents of Canadian singer/songwriter Neil Young. All of the group’s members, including Young, had already established themselves as musical powerhouses through their work with previous bands Buffalo Springfield (Stills and Young), The Byrds (Crosby), and The Hollies (Nash), and all were on the verge of launching successful solo careers as well. With the addition of Young, CSN gained an extra voice to add to their already complex tidal waves of harmony as well as another unique songwriter. The result turned the band that is often cited as one of the first supergroups into something even better. Despite the tensions within the band that stunted their potential over the following years, the fusion of country/folk songwriting with psychedelic/hippie flair and pop sensibility caused Déjà Vu to become a standout record of its time and the diamond of the group’s catalog. —Wyndham Wyeth

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