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Chickenfoot - A Supergroup on Steroids?

Issue #8

As I mentioned earlier, Chickenfoot are definitely a supergroup but don’t write them off as a gimmick that will pass after just a few over-hyped albums.
Levi Clay

Jamie Humphries meets Chickenfoot's Joe Satriani and Michael Anthony while Levi Clay asks - just what is a "supergroup" and how does this one stand alongside the all-time greats?

Over the last 40 years the term “supergroup” has been used to describe a band which consists of members who have already achieved fame somewhere else. These titans of music come together to create something new and exciting. Few would dispute that Cream are often cited as one of the greatest supergroups of all time, but some would argue that Cream actually define Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker's career, overshadowing anything they did before - or even since. Much the same could be said of Traffic (possibly the first band to be hyped this way) Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and perhaps even ELP.

The other thing to be aware of in the supergroup genre is the syndrome of replacing the original singer and being labelled as a supergroup by the press. This is less of a bringing together of great minds and often just a way to remove a difficult personality. Would you consider bands like Audioslave, Velvet Revolver and Alter Bridge as supergroups? Or are they just incredible bands in their own right?

We live in a time where we're spoilt for choice on the supergroup front with Dave Grohl playing a part in Them Crooked Vultures, Blues sensation Joe Bonamassa doing well in Black Country Communion and even Tom DeLonge's project Angels & Airwaves - and those are just some of the more successful ones. But one supergroup stands out in the crowd: those Blues Rockers Chickenfoot.

Chickenfoot began to come into being in 2008 when Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony of Van Halen (or Van Hagar to you die-hard DLR fans) sat down for a jam with Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Now Sammy is no slouch on the guitar but this band needed that something special, so Sammy put in a call to the man he described to Classic Rock as “the best guitarist in the world”, one Joe Satriani, and Chickenfoot were born. A funky Van Halen with Blues Rock maestro Joe Satriani on guitar? That's a supergroup by very definition.

Now Joe Satriani should need no introduction as he's been at the forefront of instrumental guitar and blues rock for several decades. I won't go into too much detail here as we ran a feature on Joe in Gi 2 ( http://wwwiguitarmag.com/issue2 ) but for the uninitiated I would seriously recommend picking up Surfing With The Alien or Strange Beautiful Music (not a common choice but it's a sublime album if you ask me). It's also worth checking out any one of the the G3 DVDs to see Joe choose tasty Blues Rock licks time and time again over egotistical shred. Joe's name is synonymous on the guitar scene with slippery legato lines, whammy bar antics and an unparalleled ear for a good melody!

The bands' self-titled album was released in 2009 to great critical acclaim and charted well in the US, going gold in less than six months. It's not hard to see why, with singles “Soap on Rope” screaming Led Zeppelin and “Oh Yeah” mixing Joe's riffing with Smith's rock solid grooves, having everything a Van Halen fan was looking for, with Anthony's trademark staccato basslines. All this before looking at just how awesome Hagar sounds on top - it really is the perfect sweet icing to a world class bluesy cake.


The only problem anyone could foresee was Chad having to go back and record with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and fulfil touring commitments there. Many would have predicted this would be the end of the band, but Chad reassured the fans “Chickenfoot isn't a one-off thing for any of us. We're a band”. It seemed that the chemistry was great and that the clash of egos wasn't going to rear its ugly head and end this band as it had with countless other supergroups over the years. All that was left for the fans now was the long wait for a follow up.

Fast-forward to 2011 and it's finally confirmed by Anthony that the full line up would return to the studio and record the next album together and that the group would tour but with a replacement drummer when necessary. This is always a tough pill to swallow for any fan, but there really is no stopping the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, so we just had to endure that long wait for the next album.

Released in September 2011 Chickenfoot III (not the third album as the title might have you think) received positive reviews from the press. It differs greatly from the first album in that the band seem to be developing their sound a little more here, with slightly less of that Zeppelin influence and a little bit more of that trademark Satriani vibe. This isn't just a guitar fan's album as aside from having creamy drives and great licks, tracks like “Last Temptation” and “Big Foot” are just great Rock tunes. It would actually be a real shame if you were to dismiss Chickenfoot as “just another guitar band” because of the pedigree of guitar players you associate with each member. This album is full of incredible playing, but it never gets tasteless, it's full of song first and guitar second.

This brings us nicely back to that term - supergroup. As I mentioned earlier, this band are definitely a supergroup but don’t write them off as a gimmick that will pass after just a few over-hyped albums. It genuinely wouldn’t surprise me if in a few years, just like the greatest supergroups, the members will be known for Chickenfoot rather than where they came from. What's more, with everyone and their dog reuniting (including Van Halen) it's going to be great seeing these bands go head to head for our attention. I know who I'm going to be rooting for!

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