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Machine Head

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★★★★½
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  • Machine Head (1972.), Deep Purple’s sixth studio album

    Deep Purple are one of the all time great classic rock acts, and sadly probably one of the most underrated. After a relatively obscure start, producing 3 albums in the late 1960’s which were good but sadly commercial failures, the band changed its line up. From here, the classic MK2 line-up of Ian Gillan (vocals), Richie Blackmore (lead guitar), Roger Glover (bass), John Lord (keyboards) and Ian Paice (drums) strung together a number of great albums. The first was ‘In Rock’, a bit raw but a masterpiece none the less and the second was 1971’s ‘Fireball’, a bit experimental but thoroughly classic Deep Purple. Following this, the band went to Montreux in Switzerland (for tax exemption purposes) to cut their next studio album. However, tragedy struck when the band’s proposed recording spot burnt down in a Frank Zappa show. Undeterred however, the band set up a place to record in the Grand Hotel at Montreux and put together the songs that would make up the ‘Machine Head’ album. Since then, ‘Machine Head’ has grown to be Deep Purple’s most praised and popular album. This afterall is the album which features ‘THE riff’ in ‘Smoke On The Water’. So how good does this album turn out to be?

    Deep Purple’s ‘Machine Head’ deserves all of the respect it gets, it is a masterpiece of an album. Eventhough this is not my favourite Deep Purple album (‘Fireball’ pips it at the post IMO) there is no denying that this album features the band at their technical best and their most fluent. The quality of this album is all the more remarkable given that the band had to record the whole thing in a Hotel corridor and to pull off a near perfect album speaks volumes for the band’s ability. Since the album’s release, it has gone on to be remebered most of all as the work that features ‘Smoke On The Water’, the song with perhaps the most famous riff of all time, known even to those who aren’t into rock. However, in many ways this is an unfair reflection on the album as all 7 tracks are great. I think personally that ‘Smoke On The Water’ is matched by songs like ‘Lazy’ and is probably bettered by ‘Highway Star’ and ‘Space Truckin’. The album is THAT good! The album is catchy, without being inherantly commercial. Indeed there is plenty of complex stuff on here; the riffing is fast and inspired at times and the keyboard blended sound is something special. All of the band give stellar performances. Ian Gillan’s vocals have their usual unique style to them and he gives a diverse performance. Richie Blackmore’s riffing is great and his solos are effortlessly executed in style. Roger Glover’s strong bass play adds that extra heaviness to the music and John Lord’s nifty work on the Hammond organ gives the unique Deep Purple sound. Ian Paice’s drumming is fast, complex and rhythm perfect; he is definitely the most UNDERRATED drummer of all time and is up there with the best. All in all, ‘Machine Head’ features the band at their peak producing timeless hard rock songs that have become influences for plenty of bands to follow – and at the same time the music has that uplifting ‘good time’ feel to it!

    Currently you can obtain the ‘Machine Head’ album in two versions. The first is the standard album remaster featuring the original remaster. No fuss there, your getting a classic album anyway. However, if you want to pay out the extra cash, get the anniversary edition which features a complete new sounding master of the album, with extended sections to the songs and a bonus out-take track in ‘When A Blind Man Cries’ which is a bluesy styled, slow track which develops into a heartfelt performance from the band.

    The ‘Machine Head’ juggernaut kicks off with one of the band’s great songs. ‘Highway Star’ is a fast paced rocker with a very metal sound to it … trust me, my friends, speed metal has its roots in songs like this! Gillan aggressively flies though the vocals like a man possessed alongside plenty of racing guitar sections from Blackmore. This is the way to start an album! ‘Maybe I’m A leo’ follows, a great song although it’s the weakest on this very high standard album. The riffing again is great and inspired. ‘Pictures Of Home’ is another brisk rocking song, with Gillan singing on a theme of longing for your homelands. Next is one of the more catchy songs on the album in ‘Never Before’. The band really thought this would be their biggest hit off the album and released it as a single. Obviously it became overshadowed. Its a brilliant song though, with a funky keyboard solo from Lord with some creative drumming. Again the riff is timeless.

    The second half opens up with the famous track on the album. What a riff Richie Blackmore stumbled on here; ‘Smoke On The Water’ is deservedly famous; its an awesome song. The lyrics are based on the theme of the fire at the Frank Zappa show and Gillan executes them fantastically. Blackmore jams out another great solo and Lord’s keyboard undertones are inspired throughout, as they are also in the next track ‘Lazy’. This 7 minute masterpiece is the most underrated song on the album. Another dramatised keyboard opener sets the tone for a classy track which is a real driving song. Gillans laid back vocals with harmonica alongside make this track a great one. Richie Blackmore’s guitar sections are the ultimate technical perfection on this song. Finally though, we come to ‘Space Truckin”. This is my favourite track on the album. The song has so much energy and fire. The grinding descending riff with bass is awesome and Gillan’s growling vocals, with lyrics about completely random things such as ‘Music In The Solar System’ make this one a classic. Especially great is the instrumental section on the song where Ian Paice plays a mind-blowing drum solo; I’ll say it again, he is the most underrated drummer of all time. What a song!

    ‘Machine Head’ is a landmark album. Deep Purple completely refined their hard rocking, keyboard driven sound to come up with a collection of songs that really deliver. Best of all, the album is always enjoyable to listen to and you never get bored of the songs. Although it’s not my favourite DP album, it is many ways, their most perfected work and shows the band at their peak. For any newbie to the band, get this album as it is a perfect introduction. Deep Purple are one of the most underrated bands of all time and they deserve much more respect than they get. Amazingly enough, this band are still together after 37 years (now into their 8th line-up) and are still producing great music (just look at their recent ‘Rapture Of The Deep’ album). Deep Purple are one of the greats and their music is influential, timeless and unbelievably memorable.

    MY RATING: 9.5/10

    Posted on December 3, 2009