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Deep Purple - Machine Head CD (album) cover

MACHINE HEAD

Deep Purple

 

Proto-Prog

4.28 | 833 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Raff
Prog Reviewer
5 stars How do you review the best-ever album by one of your favourite bands of all time? By saying perhaps that the album deserves six stars instead of five, gushing extravagant praise and ending with a wholehearted recommendation? Or rather, by trying to be as objective as you can, even going to the lengths of trying to find flaws which are not there? Difficult indeed, when you are confronted by about 40 minutes of absolute musical bliss - soaring vocals, fiery, crystal-clear guitar, rumbling Hammond organ, and one of the tightest rythm sections you can imagine... Not to mention songs that other bands can only dream of writing, each and every one a classic.

"Machine Head" is one of those records that cannot be ignored. Even more so than "In Rock", it is the album that launched a thousand bands, the blueprint every fledgling hard rocker had to take into account, the monumental landmark dwarfing everything else around. The sheer chemistry made evident by its predecessors - notably the incendiary live "Made in Japan", released just a few months earlier - comes to full fruition here, showing a band who, though on the verge of being pulled apart by tensions and freewheeling egos, have reached the absolute peak of their musical condition. The songs are crafted with skill and feeling, so that they never give the impression of being mere showcases of technical ability, but rather the result of an ongoing process involving the contribution of every member of the band.

Those who consider "Machine Head" to be a great hard rock album, though with very little progressive content, should give it a more than usually careful listen and think twice before saying anything to that effect. As a matter of fact, the structure of the songs is much more intricate than it seems, the interplay between the instruments flawless and at the same time so spontaneous as to seem almost casual - you never get that contrived feeling that is so common in the output of many contemporary prog-metal bands. The main feature, as in the case of "In Rock", but here at an even more advanced level, are the duels between Jon Lord's powerful, brooding Hammond and Ritchie Blackmore's dazzling, diamond-sharp guitar. "Machine Head" is actually one of THE great guitar albums of all time - not only because it contains the mother of all riffs in the immortal "Smoke on the Water". Blackmore's performance is textbook-perfect throughout, the notes cascading with effortless elegance from his Stratocaster - so deceptively simple, so difficult to imitate. Ian Gillan's supercharged vocals are the perfect foil for those two masters of their instruments, almost hysterical on classic concert opener "Highway Star" (the archetypal speed metal song) and in closer "Space Truckin'" (definitely the proggiest track of the album), more restrained and almost wistful in "Maybe I'm a Leo" and "Pictures of Home", with an experimental feel in the jazzy "Lazy" - another song which deviates quite sharply from traditional hard rock/blues standards.

I can't help concluding this review with what my Roman ancestors would define "in cauda venenum" - the sting in the tail. When Deep Purple were inducted into PA, many people were scandalised, objecting that they were not prog. Now, I wonder whether DP are really much less so than those bands who have been included on the sole grounds of using keyboards - when the structure of their compositions is much less progressive than many of the things DP have done in the space of their 38-year-long career.

A masterpiece? Without any doubt. A masterpiece of progressive music? Though no one would maintain that "Machine Head" is similar to prog cornerstones such as "Close to the Edge" or "Thick as a Brick", it is quite far from being the mere bludgeon-fest it is commonly held to be. Listen without prejudice, and enjoy to the fullest - this is rock music at its very best. Legendary is the only word that can do it justice.

Raff | 5/5 |

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