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Deep Purple was never really one of my favorite bands, to be completely honest. I've listened to multiple records of theirs and have a hard time getting into any of them. For some reason though, Machine Head stands out significantly unlike the other ones. I'm really unsure why I can only dig this one, and parts of others. But to my limited knowledge of this band, I will likely only review this one for now.
Ah yes, I remember this being a blind buy for me, I got it because it was a dollar at the record store. One thing that needs to be addressed immediately is the fact that it withholds one of my favorite songs in rock n roll history, that being "Highway Star". Everything is brilliant. The intro is suspenseful, as it's a fast driven riff without a lot of variety, and high pitched vocals fade in. Then, busting into the first verse are masterful, clean and polished vocals delivering an excellent amount of enthusiasm behind the voice. It's melodic, catchy, and keeps the attention. Following that is the solos, which never get boring, though lengthy. They are complex and greatly composed. The whole track brings this album up big time. Much like here, the guitar work stays consistent through the whole album and maintains its high standards created here. The riffs keep the music going, with few slow parts to offer. There's a significant amount of keyboards on this album. As used in just about every track, it plays a huge role in these songs. "Pictures Of Home" is another one of my favorites, and they have very effective use of it here, as it gives it a nice background to go with the guitar work. This was before keyboards were used frequently in music, so the band didn't overuse them or let them take over the guitar's role in the music. Sadly that would come in the future for some bands. The bass works very well with the keyboards, as they seem to both give it that groovy effect that should back up the guitar work.
Most should have seen this coming, but I really don't care for "Smoke On The Water". I grew up with that song and have known it almost all of my life, and am flat out tired of it. It's not awful, but I don't see why it gets so much damn praise from mainstream society. Then again, how does anything in mainstream society get that? Anyways, it's probably one of the tracks that brings it down a little in my opinion, but without a doubt it was still very influential, as well as this entire record. I can see this record being an influence to a lot of thrash metal, as there are many speedy riffs and aggression behind Ian's voice. On the flip side, there's a lot of groovy parts, such as on the track "Lazy", where a harmonica is used, and the guitar is played in a much happier tone. This would probably just influence future rockers of the late '70s. Regardless of what it is, this record provided a lot of influence for bands to come, with lots of variety in the playing and song composition.
Not being a huge fan of Deep Purple myself, I think that every fan of metal should still appreciate this band, for helping shape the genre and being an icon of the early '70s for hard rock, especially this record. Every time I listen to it, it reminds me of That '70s Show, when they're rocking to "Highway Star" in the car, pissing off Red Forman (I hope at least one person gets the reference). It's a great jam, and a big piece of history.
The brilliant Mark-II line-up already proved its potential with the killer heavy metal masterpiece “In Rock”, which was definitely the most intense violent album of the early 70’s. The following release “Fireball” was solid and pretty decent, but totally underrated and not appreciated enough. So, for the next record, Purple needed to make something big and ambitious to consolidate their status of heaviest British metal band and achieve their own distinctive sound...and they did it! I’m not surprised this one is considered by most of fans their greatest in their huge discography catalog. We got here a classic legendary masterpiece with the band on his finest moment, absolutely inspired and ready to make history.
The band already made impressive records before, but this one features a completely unique characteristic sound, a bunch of unforgettable classics and instrumental brilliance. From the very first track, Purple’s music is so intense, raw and immaculately performed. The immense early speed metal of “Highway Star”, with that incredible baroque influence on both Blackmore and Lord pickin’ parts, or “Space Truckin’” are a magnificent exhibition of straight heavy metal, pure energy and talent. The aggression and velocity are notable, the exquisite arsenal of riffs take control and lead the pack. But everything isn’t hanging on a single riff, the musical basis of each composition is completely elaborated and consistent. Probably, some other band would have put all emphasis on the riff and a couple of predictable breaks with a song like “Smoke On The Water”. Not Purple, though! They made clear simplicity isn’t part of their policy, constructing a remarkably polished anthem with certain difficulty from that riff (the biggest ever, by the way). They provide their music of skilled arrangements, properly chosen alternative structures and a lot of remarkable technique. “Lazy” and “Pictures Of Home” feature all those elements that provide them of sense and solidity. Among the splendid variety of tunes, we can also find more casual moments like “Maybe I’m A Leo” or the melodic catchy “Never Before”, which aren’t probably as epic and ambitious as the rest of numbers, but include the particular instrumental perfection of Purple. The result of years and years of practice and an admirably creative song-writing process, so every cut seems to be planned with precision. There’s also time for some improvisation and spontaneous jamming. These experienced professional guys could do no wrong and these songs became instantly 70’s metal hits with all honours.
What makes this album so special? The creativity, virtuosism and fresh ideas of each band member, with no exception. Deep Purple were a superband, formed by 5 outstanding musicians that were already veterans in the business. So there’s no lack of direction, maturity or control in these compositions. I insist on the impressive skills of Blackmore and Lord, whose fast fingers define a total shredding technique, with omnipresent precision. Each guitar/keyboard line isn’t out of tune or tempo at all. Both virtuosos provided Purple’s music of a very explicit classical music nature you can notice on the sophisticated way they execute their parts. Their performance is very polished but also passionate, aggressive and rough. The opening cut, for instance, has some straight fierce guitar lines that attack hard, combined with those delightful harmonies of Lord’s Hammond organ. These 2 guys definitely made one of the most technical talented combinations of 70’s classic rock. The rhythmic section Glover-Paice never get the credits they deserve, far from generic and dumb. Their contribution is absolutely efficient, powerful, slightly complex but not impossible. Paice’s drum rolls are constantly vibrant, avoiding repetition, not clumsy or inexperienced. His drum work is magic, special and difficult in his own way, a distinctive style that made a difference from the bunch of ordinary rock drummers back then. Gillan’s voice is also special, remarkably melodic, elegant, going wild and screaming like crazy when it’s time, though. The lyrics he wrote along with Glover refuse to focus on the tedious topics of the decade to offer something more serious, cool and interesting, away from other’s cheesy love, peace or drugs issues.
In conclusion, this is an essential masterpiece that defined the glorious sound of 70’s hard rock, along with Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” and Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth record. The most popular influential album Purple ever did, although still kinda forgotten compared to the recognition other minor mainstream rock records achieved by that time. It’s one of those classics that after many years since they were recorded, still sound so fresh and amusing. Time definitely affected a lot of veteran groups music that nowadays sound rather comical and terribly old-fashioned. That didn’t happen to Purple’s magic music, this still rocks as much as 42 years ago.
Just when you think that with 'Fireball', Deep Purple were slowly going downhill, they release 'Machine Head', which is just as good as 'In Rock' and maybe even better. This is also the home of the most iconic guitar riff of all time in 'Smoke On The Water' and while you can call the song overrated, you certainly cannot get it out of your head. Considering the popularity of the song, it's hard to believe that it wasn't released as a single. Instead, the leading single off of the album was 'Never Before', which is a great attempt at a more mainstream song than what they did before, but sadly didn't get enough attention to be massively popular like 'Smoke On The Water' was.
The high point of the album is neither of those. It's the opener, 'Highway Star' which solidifies 'Machine Head' as a truly classic album with its simple-but-effective chugging into leading into a driving hard rock masterpiece combining simplicity with intricacy. 'Space Truckin'' also deserves a mention for the unique guitar-esque organ sound and the screeching vocals in the second verse of the song which had to be in influence on vocalists such as Rob Halford.
Ritchie Blackmore stepped up his game in a huge way on this album, as he has mastered the trinity of heavy metal (example: the verses to 'Pictures Of Home'), blues (example: the intro to 'Maybe I'm A Leo') and classical music (example: in one of the 'Highway Star' solos ( at 2:35)) and used these three influences in various doses in different songs. Ian Paice shows some incredible skill as usual, with moments such as the opening drum solo to 'Pictures Of Home', Ian Gillan and Roger Glover both have some stand-out moments, like the gritty verses of 'Never Before' and strong bass-line in 'Maybe I'm A Leo' respectively. Jon Lord's approach to organ-playing was in a different context on this album, due to him plugging his organ into a Marshall amplifier, giving a weightier quality to the organ's sound, which paid off tremendously.
In conclusion, this is the last Mark II Deep Purple album which could be considered an essential listen and 'Machine Head' could also be the definitive Deep Purple album due to how it combines the positive qualities of all their albums up to this point, before they started to deteriorate in meritable material. Unfortunately, it only goes down from here.
This record is what you want it to be. For many people, it's the first metal album ever (in terms of performing, sound, and production). For others, it's a simple hybrid attempt of trying to look different. Nonetheless, the influence of this album in the development of metal music is gigantic. I'll do a review, song per song, but won't stop too long in details for irrelevancies. I'll go straight to the point.
The fillers (I consider them "fillers" because, even if they are pretty good songs, their influence is not quite as remarkable as the ones I'll review carefully): Maybe I'm a Leo, When a Blind Man Cries, and Never Before do their duty in every sense. The first one is a straightforward rocker that's punchy, heavily passed and a beater. It does no more than that and it works well. The second one is a traditional ballad like many bands have done before and keep on doing. The third one tries to be a groovy song and somehow manages to survive correctly between several masterpieces on this record.
Now, Deep Purple's everlasting legacy (on this album) begins with the opener, Highway Star, and say no more. Speed and power metal are meeting right between the power chords and soloing, blasting rhythms, and virtuoso singing. Dude, don't lie to me, headbanging is a must with this piece, so be it, and remains to this day Deep Purple's most powerful song.
After Maybe I'm a Leo, you will find an underrated song. Nonetheless, it's a personal favourite and another metal-developer piece: Pictures of Home. The drumming intro plus the guitar tune plus the symphonic arrangements added by the keyboard plus the lyrical theme takes this song to the higher positions in Purple's repertoire.
Many things were said about Smoke on the Water: overplayed, way too simple, way too light sounding, whatever, but every rocker in the world played this thing at least once on a guitar. Nuclear warfare shall come and after our extinction, roaches will learn to play the guitar, and guess which song will be the first one they will cover? Yeah, you are correct! Go ahead, try to create a catchier and, at the same time, heavier riff than the one created by Ritchie. You can't, can you? So please, a little bit of respect here.
And now we find two stage staples by MKII: Lazy and Space Truckin. Both are very different songs and at the same time are the field for long jamming and improvisation. The first song, if this is possible, is a "heavy blues" attempt. Blackmore's guitar struggles against Lord's keyboards while Gillan tries to make way with his harmonica. With Glover and Paice giving a great background, you should enjoy this song a lot and you will never get bored of it. Every life performance by Deep Purple is a little surprise with this piece. The second song is another spillover of light metal development; a powerful riff, powerful singing, powerful beating, everything is very powerful. Power, dude!
Machine Head gives you everything: catchy songs between powerful tunes. A total machine, able to do whatever you expect from it. It's so metal and so traditional at the same time. A necessary masterpiece in your collection, no doubt about it. This Machine REALLY works.
A classic! That's what this album is, a classic in every sense of the word. The influence this piece had in other bands is also enormous, many of today's speed and heavy metal acts wouldn't play if this record hadn't came out. Yes, it's that influential.
First of all, the ability and skills of the musicians are unquestionable.
Ian Gillan is one of my favourite singers ever and is a major influence to so many vocalists – ask Bruce Dickinson, for example, about his influences and you will see. The guy can hit almost any note he wants to; a pretty good example is the pre-chorus of Highway Star, where he screams like he is going to die. Albeit the fantastic performance, I still prefer the one on In Rock. In fact, I'm having a hard time deciding the percentage that I will give to this piece - I mean, I love this record, but I also love In Rock, so it's hard for me to decide which album I will give the best rating. Meh.
About the guitar playing... I think everyone here knows who is Ritchie Blackmore, the guy is an idol to thousands and thousands of guitarists, his solos are pretty damn impressive and about the riffs... Well, he is one of the best “riff-makers”, if you ask me - just hear the unforgettable first one on Smoke and Water... Priceless. Many times, the guitar solos are accompanied by some keyboard ones, very much a la Dream Theater, courtesy of Lord, another legend.
The bass playing is very good too and audible, that's the most important thing, as I can't hear the bass guitar on the majority of the records I know.
And now, another legend and one of my favourite musicians ever... Ian Paice. Yes, I play the drums so I can tell you that that guy influences me a LOT. He isn't playing anything ultra-complex on the record, but his playing has “feel”, you know, he doesn't sound like a robot trying to play hard things (like the majority of the skilled drummers of today). Each line he plays adds something more to the song, from the fast fills of Space Truckin' to the drum solo sections of Pictures of Home. He is also very PRECISE - yes, precise is another word that perfectly fits his style. I'm also having a hard time choosing his best performance: if it is on Machine Head or on In Rock... I think I'll decide for the latter, where he adopts a more progressive approach to the tracks in spite of the more straight-forward one (but good, nevertheless) on this piece. I still don't know which one is the best, Machine Head or In Rock.
And what about the songwriting? Well with In Rock the band composed more progressive songs, with lengthy solo sections, lots of tempo changes and such. With Machine Head, the tunes are simpler and catchier, but awesome too. The songs are divided into two categories: the mid paced ones, comprising tracks like Never Before and Smoke on the Water, and the faster ones, like Space Truckin'.
The first one, Highway Star also falls in the latter category; this is one of the most well known songs of Purple's catalog and for a damn GOOD reason. It begins with a crescendo and then Ian Paice begins to play a simple beat. After that, Gillan screams like a madman and begins to sing in a very raw, aggressive way. What a versatile singer, indeed. After the infectious chorus, we reach the highlight of the track: Lord's keyboard solo, the be-all end-all of the keyboard solos, in my opinion. After a guitar solo, the song ends. Well, and is this tune an early speed metal classic? Hm, I think so!
Maybe I'm a Leo is a bit different and weaker, in fact it is the weakest song of the record - very forgettable, really. However, after the drum solo that marks the beginning of Pictures of Home, you know the band will not disappoint you further; indeed, the track has a main riff that is catchy and amazing (I'm not sure, but I think that I prefer it to the riff of Smoke on the Water). The chorus will remain in your head for weeks. There is a bass solo (bass solo, whoahh *jumps with happiness*) during the middle section and then the song fades away... But wait, Ian Paice begins to hit the snare again, and a few seconds later the song returns with a bluesy guitar solo, which is the perfect ending for one of my favourite Deep Purple tunes.
Never Before is a pop-ish track, but not a filler, though. It is a competent tune that leads us into the classic Smoke on the Water. Well, this song is far from being the masterpiece that many claim it is, but it is still a good tune, with one of the catchier guitar riffs ever; it's also pretty mid paced.
And then, another excellent track begins, the fantastic Lazy, a song that bears resemblances with In Rock. It has a very progressive structure with some intricate soloing. It begins very well, with some keyboard sounds that lead us into a very bluesy instrumental that clocks at around two minutes; despite the length, it never gets boring. Around the two minutes mark, Ian Gillan begins to sing about... a lazy man. Ok, it's not the best subject ever to write lyrics about, but hey, the chorus is actually pretty funny.
“You're lazy, you just stay in bed,
You're lazy, you just stay in bed,
You don't want no money,
You don't want no bread”
After the chorus, there is a fantastic... harmonica solo. Yes, very in the vein of Sabbath's The Wizard, but a bit better in my opinion. After the obligatory repetition of the chorus, the song ends.
Space Truckin' works greatly, closing the album and being a speed metal (or, at least, “speed rock”, if that genre exists) take. The chorus is anthemic, showing Ian Gillan's more aggressive voice, so aggressive that is even comparable to his vocal performance on In Rock's opener, the all-mighty Speed King... Wow, and I made yet another comparison between this record and In Rock... Great.
Anyways, the production is decent: you got to bear in mind that Machine Head was released in 1972! The sound of the drums isn't the best ever too, a bit low in the mix sometimes, but, again, it's 1972, we can't expect any better.
So, after all the comparisons between Machine Head and In Rock, what do I conclude? Hm, I conclude that I CAN'T CHOOSE between them. Damn. I think I'll have to give the same ratings to both albums. One is more progressive and the other more straight-forward, but both are amazing pieces in their own way.
87 points - Classic...
Long before the days when Ritchie Blackmore resided in a castle somewhere in Germany playing lute and calculating new and devious ways to piss off his fan base as well as spoon his wife, he was actually responsible in part for some of the finest rock music ever. From ‘In Rock’ through to the end of Mk III era Deep Purple were a sensational rock band with all the vitriol, fevered egos, bad tempers and seriously good songs you could ever ask for. ‘Machine Head’ is a total no brainer for rock fans everywhere simply because it’s all fucking fantastic.
Deep Purple simply were the finest musicians around in the early 70s (well in rock music…and does anything else really matter?). The bands stable line up for this whole period revolves around three of the biggest muso’s ever namely; Ian Paice, Jon Lord and of course everyone’s favourite Quaker Ritchie ‘I hate Gillan’ Blackmore. These guys could simply out play anyone around at the time. In a era of straight ahead “mummy daddy mummy daddy” double bass playing Ian Paice is a breath of fresh air even today, a technically astounding drummer with a tone to die for and yet still he never overplays. Jon Lord actually made the organ a force to be reckoned with in the hard rock world, seriously listen to the ballsy intro riff on ‘Space Truckin’’ and not only is he ‘eavy he’s ‘umble too Jon can play the most intricate and bizarre stuff on his organ; classically trained but with a rock attitude. Ritchie Blackmore actually is Satan; he’s a guitar genius and a true wizard with the fastest rock licks going in the early 70s. Jimmy Page thought he woz all “master of the occult” and whatnot but he may of bought all of Crowley’s used tissues and such but Blackmore was truly evil…no man has brought such incredible joy to his fans and at the same time been an absolute cunting cunt. Roger Glover, although one of the bands more modest members (i.e. somewhere between the comparative fire and ice of Blackmore and Gillan) was a fantastic bassist who has some truly memorable moments on this album, including a bass solo that doesn’t actually piss me off. Ian Gillan is frankly the most fun you’ll ever have with rock vocals, everything is delivered with a “I’ve just given you crabs” grin and a such gusto. His range is phenomenal, no one screams like Gillan, not even Halford has a better howl than are favourite Ritchie winder upper did in the early 70s.
So I like DP, you like DP, your sister likes DP and your mum prefers DT, but what about the songs? Well, the original ‘Machine Head’ album has seven tracks but the band actually wrote eight classics for the album…so erm I can’t really complain. ‘Highway Star’ is one of those songs you simply must write your car off too, do it drunk too! Honestly, the police will understand just tell them that you were listening to ‘Highway Star’. It’s one of the all time great rock tracks and if I’m in “where does this relate to metal?” retard mode I could say it’s a huge evolutionary step forward in speed metal. And those lyrics? A work of literary genius! Is it a car? Is it a girl? Either way you know Ian would. The guitar and organ solos are a something to behold, silly and most enjoyable, oh Ritchie marry me! Other stand outs in this album of standouts include ‘Pictures of Home’ which is notable for an absolutely mental drum intro, silly 4th guitar harmonies and Gillan wailing about being stuck on a Swiss mountain…and why not, farmer’s daughters won’t really fit this. ‘Smoke on the Water’ ah yes, now remember kids if you go into a guitar shop, turn the distortion on full and play this on the bottom E string the shop owners are legally obliged to give you a free guitar…Wow! Anyway, overplayed it is but still a great song I mean its got to be just for being that memorable and its like Deep Purple and Switzerland’s national anthem (‘Cherry Orchids’ or ‘Cherry Pie’ by Celtic Frost just missed out). ‘Lazy’ is a bluesy jam and just so wonderful, I’ve had those guitar licks stuck in my head for years. A fine ode to inertia and a all time Purple classic. ‘Space Truckin’ is a riff monster, the beginning distorted organ sound is sonic bliss and the guitar takes a backseat for the most part but when it comes back its simply a joy to behold. Paice’s drums fucking groove on this one and he’s got a great solo. The lyrics? ‘C’mon, c’mon lets go space truckin’ Oscar Wilde (Zakk’s nerdy older brother) would of spent years trying to top that. Blackmore hates funk, but this is really funky hard rock (funk needn’t be overpowering and crap like, erm say the Red Hot Chilli Peppers) so once again the man in black is full of contradictions. Ritchie you enigma! Why can’t you be mine!
Even the albums more lowly tracks are still masterful, ‘Never Before’ is the most poppy and all the better for it. ‘When A Blind Man Cries’ is a wonderful bluesy piece of melancholy (but wasn’t it a bit cruel to get Jeff Healey to play this? Hey, why don’t we get Stephen Hawking to play ‘When a Cripple Fails at the Decathlon’? ).
‘Machine Head’ is a completely solid piece of work, I’ve listened to this hundreds of time and its energy, class and consistency are always impressive. So as such I’ll give this a perfect rating, because it deserves it…and every other fucker gives 100s out to Viking metal demos they found quite pleasant or derivative shite thrash albums.
So if you like me are madly in love with the hallowed grooves of ‘Machine Head’ feel free to do any of the following;
1. Ask Ritchie Blackmore how to play ‘Smoke on the Water’ *don’t ask Steve Morse he can’t actually play it, but he tries, bless him*
2. Ask Ian Gillan the story behind ‘Smoke on the Water’ he hasn’t told anyone in a while, no one asks him that question.
3. Shout “oh my god Elton John!” at Ian Paice.
4. Tell David Coverdale ‘Smoke…’ is your favourite of his songs
5. Ask Glenn Hughes how Tommy Bolin is these days.
6. Shout ‘Freebird’ at any Deep Purple or Blackmore’s Night concert.
When someone says Deep Purple, what is the first thing that comes to mind? “Smoke on the Water” for most, which is quite sad, simply because Deep Purple is so much better than that single hit.
After toiling around with various musical adventures, Deep Purple finally put all the pieces together on “Machine Head”. Quite Simply “Machine Head” delivers the goods.
Two main things that stick out are Ian Gillan and Ritchie Blackmore. Ian Gillan cements his spot among the best rock singers of his era with his performance on songs like the hit “Smoke on the Water”, “Highway Star” and “Space Truckin’”. And guitarist Ritchie Blackmore provides guitar work far beyond his era, with some neoclassical solos and heavy bluesy riffs.
Of the 7 songs, there are really no duds, but “Highway Star”, “Smoke on the Water”, and “Space Truckin’” are the best by far. Also, for those lucky enough to get the 25th Anniversary Edition, you will find the Roger Glover remixes disc very interesting. “Smoke on the Water” defines the album, but without supporting songs such as “Maybe I’m a Leo” and “Space Truckin” this wouldn’t be as good of an album.
Overall, “Machine Head”, is a really good album which was essential in the formation of early heavy metal, albeit this is much more of a hard rock album. While this album won’t blow you away, it is a classic in its own right.
DEEP PURPLE Machine Head
April 1972 (release) – 37:25
Produced by DEEP PURPLE
Martin Birch, Engineer
Recorded using Rolling Stones mobile studio housed in a truck, the recording spaces various rooms in an abandoned hotel in Montreaux, Switzerland. All songs are credited Blackmore/Gillan/Glover/Lord/Paice.
‘Highway Star’ features an open sounding mix, possibly due to the large open rooms used for recording. Ian Gillian’s vocals soar and Blakemore’s leads sear. The organ sound is distinctive and heavy, as Jon Lord plays his Hammond organ through a Marshall. Blakemore’s guitar lead sits forward and is centered. The organ is placed right, bass leans left, and drums are spread in the stereo mix. There is a distinctively 1970’s thump to the kick drum, captured with an AKGD-12. The song is about driving, and the song has drive – it’s all about energy and freedom, the groove and roaring momentum and grunt that would lay the foundations for heavy metal. ‘Highway Star’ not only sounds like an engine going full-throttle, it gets you in the gut like an engine going full-throttle. This is kinetic music.
‘Maybe I'm a Leo’ features great shuffle drums, with great stereo placement, especially the way the rolls on the toms pan across. ‘Pictures of Home’ kicks of with a trite polka-like disappointing bass-line, like a deliberate ploy to lull the listener into a false sense of security before the solo blows them away. Vocals sound overdubbed both homophonic, and with harmonies. Great heavy drum placement, and the alternate panning of the guitar is very engaging.
“Durh Durh Durh – Durh Durh, Durh Durh” - ‘Smoke on the Water’ is all about THAT RIFF. Blakemore’s classic chromatic riff is monolithic. There’s a sense of tiered dynamics, but also actual crescendos on the faders. Guitar and vocals sit centre, drums are panned stereo, and bass sits left, organ right.
‘Lazy’ is pure blues-boogie, dominated by organ effects. The placement is simple and emulates a live performance in focus. Organ opens centre, then is placed right, and guitar sits left, yet then the guitar moves to centre for a solo, then the organ re-takes the centre for another solo. When they play together they’re panned guitar (L) and organ (R.)
‘Space Truckin' features another classic riff, hinting at a convolution of Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’ riff, but livelier, less doomy. The sound is really fat, with bass and organ placed centre and playing in unison. There are some psychedelic head-games in the panning for this song. The higher organ voice is placed right, the ‘rhythm’ part placed left. The guitars are quite hilarious, with fret noise panned right and harmonics panned left, which really shows off Blakemore’s sense of drama and humour in this heavy metal science fiction anthem.
© Talie Helene 2004. All Rights Reserved.
Reproduced on 'Encyclopaedia Metallum' with permission of the author.
Contact the author: Talie Helene
PO BOX 6036, VERMONT SOUTH 3133 AUSTRALIA
Let us get this outta the way first. I'm reviewing the Rhino Special Edition, which means the 78 up there is the blurred average of the two discs. The originial mix is timid and really unbecoming of a band with the energy and the power of Deep Purple, an Achilles heel that undermines the claim that Machine Head is the best Purple record, that being In Rock or Perfect Strangers, let alone one of the greatest rock albums of all time. It's a mix that, I feel, takes a record stuffed with some really good songs and renders a great many of them sorta, vanilla and somewhat lacking in true rock 'n' roll fire. I give that original record a 70.
However, those Roger Glover remixes are out of this world. A live edge, whip-crack of electricity over the jazz-metal genius of Ian Paice, the warm throbbing bass of Roger Glover, the neo-classical grace of John Lord's keyboards, the inimatable guitar alchemy of Ritchie Blackmore, and the personable yet technically adept vocal stylings of Ian Gillan. Truly, all of these men are at the top of their game, and this album is only hampered by the occasionally weak songwriting. I give this record an 86.
Machine Head starts off with a formidable bang, "Highway Star" the last stop on Purple's speed metal express, killing previous attempts like "Speed King" stone dead forever. It's better than "Fireball", better than "Burn", the last word in speed metal 'til "Tyrant" and "Call for the Priest" (itself an upratchet of "Speed King"). Strangely, "Highway Star" isn't really all that fast, the song's blistering solos lending more to that impression. Miracle build-up of raceway keys, nimble bass, and tricky fast soft-touch stuff from Paice, the song rising early and reaching plateau after plateau, first being the smash introduction of the vocals, simple stupid lyrics made hallowed by brilliant melody and excellent phrasing. From there a dizzying offering of solo spots, Lord and Blackmore trading amazing runs in a series that only "Pictures of Home" and "Child in Time" can touch from the early catalogue.
Also on this record comes the birth of Rainbow, "Pictures of Home" trampling "Immigrant Song" under a cavalcade of power metal themes, the drum intro from hell (disc 2 version), and hellishly adept playing from the most virtuosic rock band in all the lands. This has a picturesque scope to it, grand IMAX vistas and churning depths of creativity wherein the wellsprings of metallic invention may be seen and perhaps tasted through the flawless lighter-than-air heavier-than-mountains lead duel.
"Never Before" is just a ton of fun, funky and catchy, a little commercial but above all Purple. It's the universal whipping boy on this record, but it doesn't deserve that because it's got far more good qualities than droopy, boring blues-based sewage like "Maybe I'm a Leo". Not that there's anything wrong with a blues-base mind you.
The original version of "Smoke on the Water" makes me bored outta my skull, the charm of Roger Glover's bass only carrying me so far, the length and breadth of that being the intriguing intro, thick-skulled riff leading us into another of those extended introductions where we introduce each instrument to the spotlight one at a time. The rest just plods. Again though, the killer remix job on disc 2 improves it, lame-duck original solo replaced with a counter-intuitive and yes, incredible solo from Ritchie, totally strange yet perfect within the music. We get a little bass solo, a nice, straight-forward story morphed into high-drama by the newly sparkling vocal mix.... the new version is well worth a listen.
"Lazy" is.... well, I'd call it cyborg-blues, the keyboard introducing a spacey vibe that continues into the next track, bouncy blues swallowed up by the organ like the great whale in Pinocchio. Yeah, it's bores me to tears, and the intolerably long live jams on this tune even worse, but hell, they sure can play. Also, Gillan sounds a mite-bit hystrionic here.
"Space Truckin'" is ostensibly the last song here (on the original LP it closes the record) and the band wisely places it after the similarly organ-mad "Lazy", same feel but good. This is actually fairly heavy, no "Bloodsucker" but hell, it ain't trying to be. The lyrics make no sense, but the almost acid-rock freak out of the chorus, pin-wheeling vertigo of spiralling riffery, and the sheer bravado of the performances carries the eternal stoner classic home.
Bonus track, the B-Side from the "Never Before" single is an emotional ballad that doesn't really go anywhere, the verse of "Child in Time" hyper-extended and without the pay-off. Also, it really doesn't work in this position as ending an album with a ballad is a difficult proposition that requires a really extraordinary piece of carry it off (see "Space-Dye Vest" from Dream Theater's Awake). This song is not that piece.
So yeah, there you have it. Pretty strong with two songs that I consider amongst the best ever written. I'll say it one more time: get the remixes, they are infinitely superior. Well, about sixteen percent better anyway. Machine Head furthers Purple's initial influence factor on metal, and as Boris said, if early Priest tickles your fancy, explore one of the most obvious predecessors on here on the even better In Rock.
Stand-Outs: "Highway Star", "Pictures of Home", "Never Before"
One of the most influential albums in the history of heavy metal? Yeh, I'd say so. It laid the groundwork for all those NWOBHM bands and and basically all of speed metal, and without Deep Purple, in general, but especially in this album, you wouldn't have any of that. And if you ask me, Deep Purple are the earliest form of power metal. Think about it: A guitar player who opened the doors for all those neo-classical players, an operatic singer, keyboards, and later in their career, fantasy based lyrics. Deep Purple were ALOT more important than you thought, huh?
"Highway Star". Can you say "the first speed metal song ever created"? It's fast, it's aggressive, it's over the top, it has a furious main riff, and oh my god...the solos. Jon Lord may be a keyboardist, but him and Ritchie Blackmore put most dual guitar teams to shame. Some great ualing solos between them here. A MASTERPIECE.
After the fast ride of "Highway Star", we got the slower, groovier, more blues-based, "Maybe I'm A Leo". Sure, it's not very fast and it's more rock-ish than the previous track, but hell, a good song is a good song, and it delievers. It kinda serves as a rest break for what came before it, and what's coming next...
......Which brings us to "Pictures Of Home". We're greated by an insane drum intro and then slapped silly even further with a nice riff by Mr. Blackmore. Some very cool, distorted, heavy keyboards are displayed here, some very infectious melodies. Three things though, that really jumped out at me during this song is A.) the solo. Just great. Ritchie Blackmore rules. B.) Ian Gillan's inspired vocal delivery. It's melodic and it shows off his talent very well. And C.), That bass solo towards the end is really cool. Not the best i've ever heard, but it jumps out at you. It does the trick.
After that, we get another break with "Never Before", the first single released for this album, and you can tell with the simplified melodies and riff work. But it does it's job. It doesn't dazzle you, but it amuses you, maybe the weakest song here, but it's still pretty good.
And of course, Deep Purple's best known song and quite possibly one of the most recognizable riffs in the history of music: "Smoke On The Water". It is an awesome riff and should be remembered, and it's also the best thing in the song. The whole song is catchy and sticks with you for quite awhile, and it just screams "hit single", but the riff is best thing in the song.
"Lazy" is, for the most part, a big instrumental exercise, with a verse or two chiming in towards the end, which prevents it from being a full-on instrumetal, but most of it is, and it kicks ass! Very cool keyboard arangements by Jon Lord, good, solid rhythm by Ian Paice, and as always, a high quality job in the guitar department by Ritchie Blackmore.
And finally, perhaps the heaviest song here, and one of my favorites, "Space Truckin'" Some very odd lyrics, but that's not what makes this song special. Great riffs, neat keyboards, especially at the intro, solid drum beats, it all works as one cohesive unit. It all comes together as one bad ass heavy metal tune.
Well, there you have it, one of the most important albums in heavy metal history by one of the most important bands in heavy metal history. If you like Priest, Accept, or any NWOBHM, or you just want to explore the roots of some of meal's best bands,you owe it to yourself to go out and buy this gem.
What an overlooked classic this album is! Not only in the world of heavy metal, but in 70's hard rock as well. People were so busy praising all those other bands that people seem to forget that at times Deep Purple could rock just as hard as Sabbath and their technical ability at times could surpass Zeppelin. Deep Purple released many great albums in the early 70's, but none quite so tight, quite so well-written, and quite so heavy as Machine Head. And what a great album title as well.
One of the absolute highlights of the album, and one of the things that separated Purple from the other bands of the erea, was the relationship between Blackmore's guitars and Jon Lord's keyboards. Their trade-off solos are mindblowing, but the riff like sounds Lord pulls out of his keyboard are amazing as well. No band has ever utilized the keyboard as well as Deep Purple on this album.
Now to the songs. The first song on the album....lets all get down on our knees and bow to the mind-blowing greatness of Highway Star. Like Boris said, this was the first speed metal song, and remains one of the greatest metal songs ever. The lyrics are rather cheesy, but the riff under the verses is crushing and Gillan proves why he is one of the greatest rock singers ever. There is solo after solo and they are played to perfection. By far the highlight of the album. Maybe I'm a Leo is a lot slower and bluesier but still a very enjoyable song. Gillan once again sounds great and the solos are once again remarkable. The third song is Pictures of Home. The drum intro is absolutely brutal and leads straight into pummeling riff after riff. This song isn't quite as heavy as Highway Star, but this song is practially perfect. Great riffs, great vocals, and perfect solos.
Never Before is probably the lowlight of the album, and ironically was the first single off the album. You could tell that they tried to simplify this song a bit so it would be more appropriate as a single, because the riffs are a lot simpler. However, the vocals and solos save the song (do you see a patern forming here?). Smoke on the Water. Everyone has heard this song a million times, so I won't explain this one too much. That riff, that riff, that riff. 'Nuff said. Lazy is next and is a borderline instrumental. This song takes a few minutes to build up and then we get a little bit of singing until we get more solos. This song isn't quite as strong as some of the others. Although it has the great bluesy feel that Maybe I'm a Leo had, it is probably the most dated song on the album.
The last song on the album is Space Truckin' and seems to be overlooked. This song is, along with Highway Star, the most metal song on the album. It starts off with a heavy keyboard riff and then the keys and guitars come in and together play a heavy as fuck riff. The chorus is punishing with pummeling drums and guitar riff. Also along with Highway Star, the lyrics are cheesy as hell, "We had a lot of luck on Venus, we always had a ball on Mars."
What more can be said about this album? It contains seven classic songs, it is an extremely influential metal album, and the playing and songwriting is top-notch. If you are a metal fan, buy this fucking album.
[note: I have the 1972 vinyl with 7 tracks, so I will be reviewing that]
Wow - this album is for the most part above average heavy metal that would've ruled had it come out in 1982. But, add to that its historical importance, including the fact that to start off the album we have none other than the first EVER speed metal song!!!
Yes indeed, I cannot possibly praise Highway Star sufficiently. Those riffs, those solos - nothing quite that absolutely mind-blowingly fucking FAST had ever been done. Not even Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" had that constant, driving riff insanity, combined with Ian Gillan's vocal track perfectly complementing the rhythm guitar work... then not one but TWO magnificent solos - both Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord push the envelope of heavy metal lead work in new, impressive directions here. Tipton and Downing, take notes! It's interesting how it's really a guitar vs. keyboard duel, but good God does it work effectively! The soloing in that song is just fucking incredible. Everything about that song is - think of "Hell bent for Leather", "Fast as a Shark", "Freewheel Burning, "Painkiller", etc etc... none of that would've been possible without this.
Now, how do you top that? Not with the rest of this album - though the rest is still very, very good. "Maybe I'm a Leo" is a far more bluesish rock-and-roll number but still contains three damn soloes - (anyone wanting to write an album that begins with "Pain" and ends with "Killer", TAKE NOTES!), and then we get to "Pictures of Home", which has some great keyboard work, and also Ian Gillan's vocals are at the top of their game. And that's NOT mentioning yet another amazing solo by Blackmore.
"Never Before" is a bit lighter again, and probably the most forgettable song on the album, since the instrumental work is far less "out there" in the shredding sense, and instead just kinda meanders in a more "uhh so what were we doing again?" sense, like Iron Butterfly gone wrong. Then, we get to "Smoke on the Water". Everyone knows this song. Yes, that one damn riff kicks ass, but then the next one, the one people don't remember quite as much, is also pretty damn intense - almost a thrash metal riff going on under the verses, and then there is a really nice guitar solo to be found here. Yes, Blackmore is pretty much rewriting the books on how to do lead guitar. (People in bands whose names contain the word "Judas", pay close attention!)
Then, we have the nearly-instrumental "Lazy". There's like one verse, and that's by far not the highlight of the album. The highlight has to be Lord on keyboards. Nah, it's Blackmore on guitars. No, it's Lord. No wait, it's Gillan on harmonica. Riot had a horn section once, here Deep Purple has harmonica to provide counterpoint to the shredding of Blackmore and Lord. Oh yeah, which one's better? Blackmore. Lord. Can't fucking decide! Both put in some more killer lead work, both in series and in parallel here - they're totally fucking insane, way way ahead of their time. This album doesn't nearly get as much credit as it should, it fucking shreds in every possible way! (People that wish to write songs like "Let us Prey", there will be a quiz later!)
The last song is "Space Trucking" - more straight-up heavy metal, again something that would not have looked out of place on an NWOBHM album, or even an early Accept release. The riff work is something that even Tony Iommi would be proud of. Probably the heaviest song on here.
So yeah, what to say? Other than that this is one of the five most important heavy metal albums of all time. And it's also incredibly enjoyable. Anyone that listens to a certain band known for songs like "Ram it Down" - GET THIS ALBUM NOW!!!