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As someone who likes massive amounts of Music I have a very wide taste that spans decades and decades right back to the 60s with plenty of material from the following decades. One of my styles of Music I am particularly into is Guitar Music and Deep Purple led by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore pioneered the British Rock sound which led to Heavy Metal and had a massive influence on Rock Music in general. Deep Purple Released their debut album in 1968 but my subject for review today is their 1972 release "Machine Head" which is their sixth studio release. The debut featured a Hard rock, psychedelic rock sound which develop over time and which led to their heavier sound for the "In Rock" release of 1970 which by then featured the most well known Deep Purple lineup of Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Jon Lord, Ian Paice and Roger Glover.
This is of course the sixth release from Deep Purple and was famously recorded in Montreaux, Switzerland. As well as having a massive influence in creating the Heavy Metal style, Machine Head was also their most successful album and features their finest lineup of Ritchie Blackmore - guitar
Ian Gillan - lead vocals, Roger Glover - bass, Jon Lord - keyboards, organ & Ian Paice - drums, percussion. The album was produced by the Band. After listening to the album you will understand why it's so highly rated in Heavy Metal and Rock circles.
1.) Highway Star
This track has a heavy metal jamming feel, Ian Gillan's soaring falsetto screams open the track and it's soon in full swing with some very melodic work from Lord on the Organ and Ritchie Blackmore on guitar. The highlights of the track are undoubtedly the guitar and organ solos from Blackmore and Lord respectively. Jon Lord later revealed that the organ and guitar solos were based on Bach-like chord sequences as the band had a big interest in Classic music. The guitar solo was rated 19th Greatest solo in a poll by "Guitar World" Magazine. It's a meandering solo which showcases the ability of Blackmore.
2.) Maybe I'm a Leo
This is a dynamic Rocking track which was covered by Government Mule. The Rocking melodies are extremely infectious and Gillan's vocals are well performed and are backed up by a fantastic musical melody which has a hard rock sound with gritty hooks and licks and taut well judged drums. The track slows a little with an excellent low volume guitar solo and it's followed by some great Organ work from Jon Lord. Blackmore and Lord really worked well together on their respective solos. This is an excellent track which has such an infectious melody.
3.) Pictures of Home
This track opens with a great drum sequence which leads into some excellent organ and guitar riffing. The vocals come in well from Ian Gillan and the song is soon in full flow. It's not one of the most memorable tracks from the album but has that trademark Deep Purple sound. The fantastic guitar work from Ritchie Blackmore takes things to another level when he just lets loose as he's backed with a relentless Bass hook from Roger Glover who shows his own Musicianship here. This is a very strong all round track which showcases their ability.
4.) Never Before
This is a funky blues rock track which has some catchy melodies and hooks and a simple yet infectious drum beat. The vocal melodies are almost Beatles like in places and work well alongside the music. I like the way the song develops and although it's not as memorable as some of these tracks it still has the great musicianship of a Deep Purple track. There are some really good melodies on this track from Ritchie Blackmore in particular and also Jon Lord too. Good stuff.
5.) Smoke on the water
Few tracks have ever been recorded like this one, It is one of the most descriptive songs you will hear about the place in which a band recorded their album. It's one of the most recognisable songs of all time and is regularly featured in greatest rock track lists. It's dynamic melodies and hooks are so instantly infectious and recognisable. The track tells the story of a fire at a concert when some idiot in the crowd fired a flare gun which led to the ceiling catching fire and everyone having to evacuate. After this changed their plans they scouted around the town for a new place to record and found an ideal spot in an old Grand hotel which was no longer used. The song was however the only one on the album that wasn't solely recorded at the old hotel as it had partially been recorded already before the fire. It's a classic track which features some fine musicianship.
This is a fabulously experimental track, It opens with a dark Organ sound which brings the classical influence and then the rocking nature of the track soon becomes clear with some really infectious licks and hooks. This is another very highly rated track indeed and also is high on most greatest solo lists which shows off Ritchie Blackmore's guitar talent really well. There is a very long Musical introduction before Ian Gillan's vocals come in on this track about a lazy person who has nothing to get them up and doing something worthwhile. There are elements of Blues Rock in this track and it really works well. The guitar solos are terrific. This is the longest song on the album at seven minutes & twenty three seconds.
7.) Space Truckin'
This is possibly the weaker track on the album, It still has some very good riffs and hooks and showcases great musicianship but doesn't quite have the spark and aura that the best tracks on the album have. That's not to say it's a bad track, far from it. There's some excellent guitar work which has a heavy sound and Gillan showcases his vocal range to great effect too. This is still an impressive track which certainly has it's appeal alongside the others. There's a great guitar solo towards the end of the track which is followed by some great bass hooks from Roger Glover and drumming from Ian Paice.
8.) When A blind man cries
This is a fabulous blues rock moment, It's the shortest track on the album but it has a sound that could make for a much longer song. The guitar work on this is just sublime, It starts off subtle alongside Ian Gillan's emotive vocals and then as the song builds the beautiful guitar tone really shines with a lovely solo from Ritchie Blackmore which is certainly amongst his best and most emotive guitar solos. This is a superb track which I only have a slight gripe about, It's just a shade under three and a half minutes and could easily work as a song twice that length. It's brilliant.
This is a fabulous album that rightly regulalrly gets put in the Top 100 greatest albums of all time. The musicianship of the band is legendary and the way the album defined a genre is a statement in itself. This is a really brilliant album which still works just over forty years on. They are still going strong with Steve Morse on Guitar and Don Airey on Organ and Keyboards after the departure of Ritchie Blackmore a few years ago and the recent death of Jon Lord. 2013's "Now what?" is a strong album indeed but Machine Head is a mark of what the best Deep Purple lineup were capable of. A fantastic genre defining album which easily stands the test of time.
Instrumental in the development and popularity of heavy metal, Deep Purple had deafened the world with their 1970 release 'In Rock', then confused it a bit by throwing some Elvis impersonations and bits of country and western into the mix on the subsequent 'Fireball'. 1971 saw them return to working in the heavy metal forge once more, noisily forgetting their sub-Pink Floyd proggy noodlings of the 60s, and the result was the aptly-titled 'Machine Head', their sixth album.
Deep Purple albums had a tendency to make their intentions known from the off, and this is no exception. 'Highway Star' bellows its intentions with its bragging about fast cars, faster women, all to the backdrop of some of Blackmore's fastest playing to date. It's an unashamed bit of macho posturing, and while it is quite a thrill to put the pedal to the floor on the autobahn to this (not the motorway please, those have speed limits) it must also take responsibility for the legacy of the most cringe-worthy examples that rock and metal had to offer in later years ('Ram It Down' by Judas Priest springs to mind). Everything about this screams excess, and it is quite a guilty pleasure...
'Maybe I'm a Leo' funks the pace up with some of Roger Glover's most prominent bass work ever, and Gillan cools his vocal cords for a bit, reminding us that he's not a bad blues singer by any means. It's also an unconvential bit of writing - it shifts and has all sorts of extra passages chucked in, and feels like quite a focused jam at times. Despite the overall heaviness of the drums and riffing, it has quite an upbeat fun, stoned feel to it, and is a bit of a head-nodder. Deep Purple Haze, anyone?
Another mood shift with 'Pictures of Home', which despite its galloping pace has a melancholy feel to it; subtle shifts to minor chords punctuate Gillan's confession of isolation as he mourns 'I'm alone here/With unfriendliness, eagles and snow/Unfriendliness chilling my body/Taunted with pictures of home'. Given Gillan's later confession that 90% of his lyrics are drawn directly from real life experiences, one wonders if the recording session in Switzerland was a bit too much for him. It features more of their trademark writing techniques with echoes of their prog roots, with more surprise fade-outs, time changes and keyboard runs.
'Never Before' is more funk-pop, and is almost a bit throwaway, but features a dreamy, almost Bowie-like middle eight that shows just how melodic they could be when they wanted. Up next is their most famous track, containg THAT riff that became irreversibly attached to the name Deep Purple. 'Smoke on the Water' has been played to death in almost every way imaginable; by the band (Gillan claims he dreads to think how many thousand times he's sung it), the radio, and countless bands including Metallica, Iron Maiden, Soulfy and even Black Sabbath when Gillan took a gap year with them. Its plodding staccato riff in perfect fourths also means it has become a rite of passage for novice gutiar players, just before they get onto the opening bit of 'Stairway to Heaven' (and stopping when it gets all difficult). It is a mammoth-sounding track, just as influential as 'Iron Man' as a lesson in how to be heavy-sounding, but its account of an arsonist at a Frank Zappa gig isn't quite as menacing, somehow...
The band's blues credentials come out again on 'Lazy', which is almost completely instrumental except for Gillan turning up to throw in a few lines of 'I'm so lazy/Just wanna stay in bed' after six mintues. It's quite a nice little joke, as he promptly vanishes from the song again, presumably to get a few more hours kip. The album then climaxes with an absolute break-down in restraint and sanity, as 'Space Truckin' screams its way into another dimension. All overdriven organ and pounding rhythms, it's a thoroughly spaced out boulder of stoner-rock and sounds like the sister piece for Sabbath's 'Faeries Wear Boots'. No doubt Orange Goblin were paying attention.
Included on the CD is the bonus track 'When a Blind Man Cries', which was originally released as a b-side. Given its careful compisition and atmosphere, it's a bit of a surprise and a welcome gem of a bonus track. The haunting sounds of 'Child In Time' are revisited, and while it is all a bit theatrical it ticks all the right boxes.
This album boosted the band's popularity no end, and the material provided much of the basis for the subsequent tour which yielded the live album 'Made In Japan', considered by some to be as essential in the Deep Purple catalogue (I'm not so keen, most of the songs are stretched out into live jams) but did show what a powerful stage presence they had, and still do have, as well.
Unfortunately, the handling of Deep Purple's reissues has been a messy affair. The 25th anniversary remastered CD features remixes which are interesting but not representative of the original; the SACD version is the 1972 quadrophinic mix. There's also a 1987 CD version floating around, which hadn't been remastered and sounds inferior to the original vinyl. Best to get it on both vinyl and remastered CD to hear the full range of sounds, which isn't as expensive as it sounds as the CD is available for £4 on Amazon, and there are vinyl versions on ebay for about £5 as it's common as muck.
If you like rock and/or metal, this is a great album from the first Gillan-era Deep Purple. 'Smoke on the Water' is totally overplayed, but there is more to Deep Purple than that one song. It is also somewhat dated by the sound of the Hammond organ, but these have become a bit trendy again recently, with the likes of Opeth messing about with them.
Oh, boy I'm pretty angry - having just written 500 words I somehow pasted the tracklist over this review!
Machine Head is Deep Purple's 6th studio album and was recorded in Montreaux, Switzerland and released in December 1971, it went on to become the band's best selling album and several songs went into the history books.
The album starts off with my personal favourite which is Highway Star, apparently written spontaneously to show a journalist how the band wrote their songs, this has become a favourite with petrol heads as Ian Gillan belts out a long ditty at a quick pace about a love for a fast speed car, it's the awesome guitar playing on this track that really does it for me.
Of course the most famous song of all on this album, the one that just about everyone in the world recognises is "Smoke on the Water", from the opening guitar riff and toying bass line, you know you are in for a treat. Gillan's vocals are awesome in detailing a pretty interesting story in its own right, the lyrics are spot on and the organ playing fantastic too.
The other majorly enjoyable hit is Space Trucking, the track finishes the album superbly which is probably just as well because Ian Gillan is losing the plot by the end, screeching into madness! It's an awesome tune though and a great example of Deep Purple's catchy slightly heavy classic rock tunes that are great for singing along and playing guitar too.
Maybe I'm a Leo and Pictures of Home are more heavily instrumental with less catchy lyrics and it's these songs on top of Highway Star that make a fairly adventurous introduction to the album. Anyone who thinks that the 7 songs the album has to offer, isn't good value in today's market will be eating their words by this point!
Never Before is a fairly standard rock tune, it's actually quite controlled by Deep Purple's standards and Blackmore doesn't get many opportunities to indulge in guitar solos but when he does, he doesn't disappoint. The best of the rest for me though is Lazy, it starts of with a mildly psychedelic sound before turning into a slow bluesy number which progressively speeds up which is when the vocals kick in with an apt voice. The only thing that really lets this track down is the mouth organ - is it really necessary?
This is a great album, some songs sound a bit like an extended jam and won't be everyones cup of tea but it's pretty unbeatable classic rock.
"Highway Star" - 6:05
"Maybe I'm a Leo" - 4:51
"Pictures of Home" - 5:03
"Never Before" - 3:56
"Smoke on the Water" - 5:40
"Lazy" - 7:19
"Space Truckin'" - 4:31
Most of Deep Purple's fans reckon they never surpassed 'Machine Head'. Appropriately it was remastered and reissued as a double CD on its 25th anniversary in 1997. One record contains the original album, the way the group always said they wanted it to sound. The other is made up of remixes which are much clearer, throw in some extra instrumental breaks, and let some tracks run their full course instead of fading out. ('Maybe I'm a Leo' also appears in quadraphonic mix form - so much for the grand 70s hype of getting FOUR speakers to play your music through instead of making do with two for the stereo!) But even in poor old stereo, killer cuts like 'Highway Star', with Ian Paice's drums almost frightening in their sheer attack, 'Space Truckin'', and the ultimate guitar riff 'Smoke on the Water', never sounded as great as they do here. Often overlooked is 'Never Before', a great song that came out as a single at the same time and sneaked quietly into the Top 40, and as a bonus this also contains the B-side, the haunting blues-based 'When a Blind Man Cries', featuring one of Ian Gillan's most sensitive vocals ever committed to record and Jon Lord's organ having rarely sounded better. The icing on the cake, if you need further persuasion, is a 28-page illustrated booklet of photos, memorabilia, and extensive commentary on the sessions by bassist Roger Glover. Among the pics is the alternative sleeve art, plus the original handwritten lyric to 'Smoke on the Water', accompanied by the full story of that fire at Montreux which inspired it. All in all, this package really is one of the essential heavy rock albums of all time.
Mention Deep Purple to anyone, anywhere and I guarantee they will go. Dow Dow Dow… Dow Dow Dow Doww… Dow Dow Dow…Dow Dow Dow.. I guess we have one of Frank Zappa`s mothers to thank for probably the best-known riff in the world. “Machine Head” was one of the first Quadraphonic albums recorded. It was cutting edge technology and it was recorded in a mobile studio. Taking all of that into account what we have is yet another ground-breaking album with another two classics. No Purple concert would be complete without “ Smoke On The Water, there would be a riot. The story of the making of the album. As for “Highway Star” the definitive macho anthem Car, Woman and Speed what more is there. The whole thing is autobiographical. It’s about what happened. What I think about what happened and what I am going to do about what happened. But it is more than that, It’s brilliant if it’s not in your collection go out and get it.