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Deep Purple - Machine Head CD (album) cover


Deep Purple



4.32 | 1134 ratings

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4 stars If I could offer only one piece of advice regarding this album, it would be this: DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS AFTER MADE IN JAPAN. While I certainly knew of "Smoke on the Water" well before I bought any Deep Purple, my first exposures to "Highway Star," "Lazy" and "Space Truckin'" came courtesy of that glorious live album, where the performances knocked me into next month. Unfortunately, when I bought the studio album from whence they came, i.e. this, they seemed, dare I say it, sluggish to my ears. Hence, as much as I liked Purple, I didn't really like this album anywhere near as much as one would think I should, given its popularity.

Fortunately, several listens eventually brought me to my senses. I still think it's a little overrated (in other words, it doesn't make it to In Rock level for me), but only a little. The biggest problem for me, as on the last album, is the production; it's an improvement over Fireball, for sure, as there's way more crunch and grit here, but nothing blasts out of the speakers the way the opening of "Speed King" did, and Ian's voice is still mixed annoyingly low for my tastes. Otherwise, though, except for the slight monotony of the sound (they returned to the "basics" on this album, which on the one hand means the band does what it does best, but on the other means I get worn down the way I eventually do even on In Rock), and a couple of slightly less inspired numbers, this is friggin' glorious.

The megahit, of course, was "Smoke on the Water," which even I knew plenty well before getting into Purple, which says something considering that, as a rule, I avoid classic rock radio like the plague. I suppose there's no real use in describing the song, as the great simplistic riff and the story-telling lyrics are as essential to 70's rock as the parting of the Red Sea is to the Old Testament, but I will point out something that was brought to my attention by the great online reviewer (no longer active, alas) CapnMarvel (ie Ryan Atkinson): Paice, Glover and Lord basically set the standard here on how to turn a midtempo rocker into an immortal classic. And, oh man, was Ryan ever right to go nuts over the ending fadeout, where those three start playing an entirely different groove from the rest of the track, which may rock even harder than what they'd been doing previously. Simply glorious.

That said, while "Smoke" is midtempo Purple bliss, I tend to lean more to the faster Purple numbers, which is why "Highway Star" shares the best song title with "Smoke." The Made in Japan version of this may be where I get most of my jollies, but let's not give short-shrift to the studio version of this, one of the most glorious speedy, heavy rock songs I've ever come across in my life. Lessee, we have brilliant singing, starting with an incredible scream. We have lyrics as unpretentious as can be ("Nobody gonna beat my car, gonna race it to the ground"). We have the instruments chugging along at a pace suitable to In Rock. We have insanely interesting solos (Lord's organ solo may be his peak moment with the band) from both key members, with Ritchie taking full advantage of the wonderful invention known as the whammy bar. We have heaven.

Almost rising to the same level is the album closer, "Space Truckin'." Holy cow, I don't know what I love most: the "main" riff that opens and drives the song (which I especially adore when Ritchie starts shaking the rhythm of it), the riff that pops when Ian's singing the chorus, or the great screams that Ian pulls out. Man, I know that most "classic" DP songs end up getting broken down into great Ian singing and great, tight riffage, which might make my DP reviews seem repetitive, but I can't help it - even when I know they're doing basically the same style every time, I'm just so floored at how well they do it that I can't help but mention it for the n'th time. So sue me - I'm too busy trying to figure out how the hell Ian hits those notes near the end of this song.

Beyond these three classics, the rest of the album kinda pales in comparison, but not terribly. I'm not that thrilled by "Lazy," which is just a bit too heavy on the "decent guitar jam" for my tastes (not to mention the keyboard introduction, where it sounds like Jon is channelling his Mk. 1 self), or by "Never Before," which is an ok slightly up-tempo rocker, but I don't hate them either. The former, after all, does have some good soloing, and the latter has decent enough rhythm work to make it worth not hitting the >> button to get to "Smoke on the Water." Besides, quite a few fans like these, so what do I know? I do, however, freely enjoy the crunchy mid-tempo riff of "Maybe I'm a Leo," as well as the vibe of desperation that comes out of the riffage and solos of "Pictures of Home." So yeah, they're fine contributions.

And there, once again, is a great slab of rock'n'roll done as heavy metal. If you are a headbanger that doesn't own this, you should be ashamed of yourself. If you're not, this can still turn you into one for about 40 minutes and not make you regret it in the meantime.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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