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Deep Purple - Machine Head CD (album) cover

MACHINE HEAD

Deep Purple

 

Proto-Prog

4.28 | 817 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Da da da, da da da-da!

"Machine head" contains two of Deep Purple's best know songs, "Smoke on the water" and "Highway star". I wonder however how many people other than true fans of the band, could name a third track from the album? As someone who loves a lot Deep Purple's work, with albums such as "Fireball" and "Perfect strangers" being particular favourites, I have never looked upon "Machine head" with the type of reverence afforded by so many fans of the band.

That said, "Machine head" is undoubtedly a very good album, the aforementioned songs being the highlights. "Highway star" opens the album in pulsating fashion, driven by Jon Lord's frantic keyboards. Always overshadowed by its illustrious neighbour, the song is in fact more satisfying overall.

"Smoke on the water" is of course legendary for its riff, to the extent that many guitar shops ban its rendition in their practice rooms! (OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but it's not far from the truth.) The album version here sound a touch subdued, undoubtedly because we have become so used to the power of the live renditions where the song has become the band's anthem. The songs lyrics are of course almost as well known as the riff. What they do not however fully reflect though, is the disruption and chaos the fire at the casino brought about in terms of the plans for the recording of "Machine head". This is covered in detail in the booklet accompanying the 25th anniversary re-master of the album.

Apart from those two tracks, there are other highlights. "Never before" is actually rather well constructed, belying its apparent simplicity. At first glance this is just another Deep Purple slice of guitar rock, but the mood changes and other structural embellishments are there for those who wish seek them out. The song was released as a single, the band being convinced it was a guaranteed hit but strangely, given the band's previous successes in that field, it sank without trace.

"Lazy" is a funky, almost jazzy instrumental interlude. It is quite out of context both for the album and for the band but it works, with both Lord and Blackmore contributing fine passages before Gillan finally introduces an upbeat blues vocal. The closing "Space trucking" may seem brief and harmless when compared to the "Made in Japan" version, but Lord's Hammond organ still drives the song forward at a frantic, compulsive pace.

It is "Maybe I'm a Leo" and "Pictures of home though" which for me render this album slightly disappointing. These two tracks are prosaic, by the numbers Purple, which bear many of the hallmarks of the songs which define the band, but offer little to distinguish themselves.

The 1997 25th anniversary CD re-release is a wonderfully packaged 2 CD collection. The original album in re-mastered format occupies one disc. There are no unreleased songs from the recording sessions for the album, so the bonus tracks consist of a couple of quad remixes.

Also included is the single B side of "Never before" titled "When a blind man cries", which finds Ian Gillan sounding more than ever like Uriah Heep's David Byron, indeed this could easily be a Uriah Heep outtake. Blackmore's guitar on the song is more Rainbow that Purple, the song being a fine reflective ballad.

The other disc contains the entire album remixed by Roger Glover from the original master tapes, plus "When a blind man cries" again. Apart from the odd alternative solo and brief studio talk, the recordings are identical, and the differences subtle. Glover however asserts that this remixed version is how the album should have sounded.

"Machine head" is undoubtedly a fine album, recorded at a time when the band's classic line up were at their most confident and competent. That atmosphere would quickly evaporate before the next album was recorded. Whether or not "Machine head" is Deep Purple's best album is entirely down to personal opinion.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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