Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Deep Purple – Machine Head

Another one of the hugely influential albums of my youth, Machine Head, is rightly revered as one of the best heavy metal albums and one of the best Deep Purple records of any line-up.

Opening with the anthemic “Highway Star”, this takes off right from the start! Like an engine revving up, the intro builds - with some variations from Lord and Blackmore - until its explosive release. Gillian comes in with his car/girl/racing/sex analogy and while the words are a little silly, it still evokes a wind-in-your-hair freedom. A fantastic harmony solo from Ritchie and powerful keyboard leads top off this near-perfect rocker! An obvious sequel to “Speed King” from In Rock, this even surpasses that super tune and became a 70’s giant.

A little slower rocker is “Maybe I’m a Leo”, which creates a terrific groove with a super catchy lick. Ian Paice starts off “Pictures of Home” and Ritchie’s memorable guitar sections keeps this fresh. A good song, but not one of the standouts. There’s almost a funky feel to “Never Before” and still more cool licks traded between the band. Apparently, they thought that this was the most commercial tune from this batch and were surprised when it flopped as a single.

Of course, their massive smash, “Smoke on the Water” came from this album and yes, this has been overplayed beyond all belief, but it is a helluva song and is worthy of its accolades. This riff should be enshrined in a r’n’r riff hall of fame!

Purple’s blues influences come through in “Lazy”, but they can’t make it easy! Lord’s dramatic Hammond/phaser introduction sets a mood as Blackmore throws in wild riffs to lead the band through the changes as they stomp through a jumpin’ number. According to the liner notes, Ritchie was influenced by Clapton’s version of “Steppin’ Out”, and his part does sound like his take on that tune! Everyone gets to show off their stuff, including some good harmonica work from Gillian. No one would mistake him for Little Walter or anything, but he’s not bad!

“Space Truckin’” is amazingly shorter on the album than on their live excursions, but is another pounding riff that is instantly recognizable. In this abbreviated version, this could have easily been a single from this record, as well.

The first CD has a couple of bonus tracks – quadraphonic mixes (!) of “Maybe I’m a Leo” and “Lazy”, as well as an outtake, “When a Blind Man Cries”, a nice bluesy ballad with restrained guitar work from Ritchie that was the flip to the “Never Before” single.

CD 2 consists of remixes from Roger Clover. This is fun stuff for the fans, with fake intros as well as “fall apart” endings to songs that faded out on the vinyl. The sound is quite good and sharp and while not radically different, you can hear the changes that Roger made. Some of the cuts have very different solos, including “Smoke on the Water”, which makes it quite interesting. The drawn-out ending of “Smoke” has radical changes as well!

All in all, one of the highlights of 70’s hard rock has actually been improved! Get is if you appreciate the majestic power of the Purple!