Without doubt, one of the most recognisable hard rock albums of the 70’s, a must in any serious collection.
Written by: gdmonline
ARTIST: Deep Purple
ALBUM: Machine Head
LABEL: Purple Records
SERIAL: TPSA 7504
CD REISSUE: 1987, EMI, 7 46242 2 * 2010, Audio Fidelity, AFZ065 (numbered edition, gold disc, remastered) * many other reissues
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
LINEUP: Ian Gillan – vocals * Ritchie Blackmore – guitars * Roger Glover – bass * Jon Lord – organ, keyboards * Ian Paice – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Highway Star * 02 Maybe I’m A Leo * 03 Pictures Of Home * 04 Never Before * 05 Smoke On The Water * 06 Lazy * 07 Space Truckin’
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Depending on which version of Deep Purple you prefer, it wouldn’t be outrageous to suggest that their signature studio album of their entire career is captured on this album thanks to the MkII version of the band. Either side of this album, Purple littered their discography with ordinary efforts (think ‘Fireball’ and ‘Who De We Think We Are’) then left us with some gems too (think ‘In Rock’, ‘Burn’ etc).
Perhaps it suggests the band weren’t as consistent as some would have you believe, but the fiery personalities within their ranks, substance abuse issues, and different individual influences being bought to the mix, it’s no wonder Purple went through several iterations of personnel. Recorded in Montreux on the shores of Lake Geneva Switzerland during the December winter of 1971, it’s clear the stars had aligned for Deep Purple, as the seven tracks onboard have captured the band at one of their peak moments.
Of course, the events leading up to and during the recording of the album can only be described as ‘stuff of legend’. The burning down of the Montreux Casino (where the band were due to record) was written into the lyrics of ‘Smoke On The Water’ (hence the title). You can read more about it over at the corresponding Wikipedia page (click here).
It’s hard to say whether they ever recaptured such form (others would suggest they did), but whatever the case, ‘Machine Head’ contains a clutch of famous tunes that stand tall in the hard rock kingdom, even some forty years later as I write this review.
Who can forget the incredible opening track ‘Highway Star’, a track that still sends shivers down my spine when I hear it in its full glory. The resplendent organ work from Lord plus Blackmore’s dizzy solo coupled with Gillan’s tough vocal makes this a true rock classic for the ages. Given a run-through the lyrics, could it be the ultimate fast car rock song?
‘Maybe I’m A Leo’ chugs away dutifully in a bluesy manner but things gear up for the tempo driven ‘Pictures Of Home’, from the rolling drum introduction by Paice to the galloping guitar and organ interplay. ‘Never Before’ is the next offering. Sounding a lot more commercial than the previous tracks with melodic appeal and a shorter delivery. It leads us into Purple’s tour de force, the timeless ‘Smoke On The Water’. Hasn’t every aspiring guitarist under the age of 10 learnt the riff to this song? I don’t think anything more needs to be said about this one.
Jon Lord leads the way on the seven minute epic ‘Lazy’. It has all the makings of an improvised jam in the studio. By the time Ian Gillan joins in, the song moves into blues territory amid what sounds like a medley arrangement. The last of the seven tracks is the Purple chestnut ‘Space Truckin’, a relentless groove laden rocker that has weathered the storm of forty years.
So what can one say about an album that hasn’t already been said? Only to embellish what critics, media and fans already knew. ‘Machine Head’ would become Purple’s most successful effort, spending 118 weeks in the Billboard 200 album charts while four of the tracks would find its way onto the popular ‘Made ln Japan’ album released at the end of 1972, including a 19 minute version of ‘Space Truckin’.
By the time the next studio album ‘Who Do We Think We Are’ came out, the MkII version had run its course with Gillan leaving to head off to a successful solo career as the leader of the Ian Gillan Band. So, Purple headed into 1974 as the MkIII version with David Coverdale at the helm.
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