September 25, 2011 by Dan Swinhoe
Can you imagine it? Mick Jagger and former Eurythmic Dave Stewart, sitting in their Jamaican homes, one turns to the other and says, “How about we make a reggae album? We could get Damian Marley and Joss Stone involved, and how about the guy that wrote the Slumdog Millionaire Soundtrack too?”
As preposterous and unlikely as it sounds, it actually did happen, not word for word mind. And what the listening public is treated to is the ludicrously named SuperHeavy, an all star mash up that has eleven grammies between them, yet no concept of restraint. According to Amazon this is “a 21st century version of Travelin’ Wilburys.” This is infact a lie. What’s on offer is varying mix of reggae and pop with tidbits of rock, bangra and 80s electro thrown in at random. It’s quite impressive how so many names can be involved without any major ego clashes and from what we’re told everything gelled so well this is merely the tip of the creative iceberg that was recorded. Thank the lord for small mercies then.
Reggae is the predominant sound, the big lion on the cover giving a strong hint, and Marley stands head and shoulders above the rest. He sounds enthusiastic and his sometimes ridiculous rhymes entertain. But there’s never enough of him to really get the songs going. Take the opening track, between every verse and Marley’s chants of ‘Sooper ‘Eavy’ you have either Stone or Jagger warbling along without ever really getting anywwhere, and the pattern repeats itself throughout the record. Three completely different singers competing for the mic over the course of hour is exhausting, the stark contrast in each voice means they can’t harmonise or compliment each other, and with the attempts to make the music suit at least one member it ends up sounding like a musical royal rumble.
Stone just belts out those big notes she’s built a career out of, and does it very well, but it all feels a tad unneeded . Aside from a couple of electro keyboard parts Stewart remains firmly behind the scenes and AR Rahman’s contributions show up mainly in ‘Satyameva Jayathe’ and ‘Mahiya’. While not awful, why these Indian flavoured numbers show up on the album is a mystery. There wasn’t much in the way of flow on the rest of the album, but these tangents stick out like two Indian tracks on a reggae album.
Jagger has been playing down possibility of a 50th anniversary Stones reunion, and if it’s in favour of this it might be time to send him to a home. And if he was hoping this would be a declaration to Keith Richards that he didn’t need the Stones anymore, he failed miserably, and Richards is probably at home, laughing.
He doesn’t overbear as you would expect, but he doesn’t’ impress when he does show up. Jagger’s appeal was based on charisma, confidence and being lyrically clever, now he sounds like an old man in a cruel characterture of himself. The song where he impresses the most his the rocky ‘I Can’t Take No More,’ but most of time he’s an unwelcome distraction. And on the quieter ballad tracks (‘Never Gonna Change’ and ‘I Don’t Mind’) he’s just plain awful.
Is Superheavy the worst album you’ll ever hear? No, it’s not terrible, but the broth has been spoiled by too many cooks and the result is a bit of a mess. If proof was ever ever needed that Jagger should stick to singing ‘Brown Sugar,’ it’s here. And after all this the album still appeals to you, Your best option is to buy ‘Exile On Main Street’ and a Damian Marley album.