Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Deep Purple - 1972 [1990] "Machine Head"

Machine Head is the sixth studio album released by the English rock band Deep Purple. It was recorded through December 1971 in Montreux, Switzerland, and released in March 1972.

Machine Head is often cited as a major influence in the early development of the heavy metal music genre. Commercially, it is Deep Purple's most successful album, topping the charts in several countries following its release. The album reached number 1 in the United Kingdom and stayed in the top 40 for 20 weeks. It reached number 7 in the United States, remaining on the Billboard 200 for 118 weeks.

Deep Purple initially planned to record Machine Head in December 1971, at Montreux Casino in Switzerland. A mobile recording studio owned by the Rolling Stones had been booked and hotel reservations made, but lead singer Ian Gillan contracted hepatitis. Cancelling a forthcoming tour of America, the band placed all their plans on hold, and Gillan was advised by his doctor to spend the next few months recuperating. Nevertheless, enthused by the new project, the band travelled to Switzerland to begin recording. The Casino was a large arena built in a complex of casinos, restaurants and other entertainment facilities. The band had performed there in May 1971 and enjoyed both the location and Claude Nobs, founder and general manager of the famous Montreux Jazz Festival. Amongst others, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath had all performed there. The Casino closed for refurbishments each winter, and so the band arrived there on 3 December. One last concert date remained, following which they were to have the location to themselves.

Frank Zappa's concert of 4 December at the Casino was made infamous when a member of the audience fired a flare into the building's roof. Although there were no fatalities, the resultant fire ruined Deep Purple's plans. Nobs relocated the band to a nearby theatre called the Pavilion, where they recorded the basic tracks for a song provisionally named "Title No. 1". Bass player Roger Glover said he woke up one morning saying the title "Smoke on the Water" out loud. Later Gillan, based on the title, wrote the lyrics describing the band's experience in Montreux, recording the Machine Head album. A photograph of the burning Montreux Casino would ultimately be included in the gatefold of Machine Head's album cover.

Led Zeppelin's fourth album, Black Sabbath's Paranoid, and Deep Purple's Machine Head have stood the test of time as the Holy Trinity of English hard rock and heavy metal, serving as the fundamental blueprints followed by virtually every heavy rock & roll band since the early '70s. And, though it is probably the least celebrated of the three, Machine Head contains the "mother of all guitar riffs" -- and one of the first learned by every beginning guitarist -- in "Smoke on the Water." Inspired by real-life events in Montreux, Switzerland, where Deep Purple were recording the album when the Montreux Casino was burned to the ground during a Frank Zappa concert, neither the song, nor its timeless riff, should need any further description. However, Machine Head was anything but a one-trick pony, introducing the bona fide classic opener "Highway Star," which epitomized all of Deep Purple's intensity and versatility while featuring perhaps the greatest soloing duel ever between guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and organist Jon Lord. Also in top form was singer Ian Gillan, who crooned and exploded with amazing power and range throughout to establish himself once and for all as one of the finest voices of his generation, bar none. Yes, the plodding shuffle of "Maybe I'm a Leo" shows some signs of age, but punchy singles "Pictures of Home" and "Never Before" remain as vital as ever, displaying Purple at their melodic best. And finally, the spectacular "Space Truckin'" drove Machine Head home with yet another tremendous Blackmore riff, providing a fitting conclusion to one of the essential hard rock albums of all time.

Released in 1972, Machine Head become the benchmark against which everything that followed would be judged against. In the canon of heavy rock this is an album replete with classic tracks. Concise in nature, killer punches are only ever a minute away no matter which song you play. Vocalist Ian Gillan excels himself on “Highway Star,” and “Never Before”, the latter an excellent single, released ahead of the album covering both pop, rock and some righteously funky turn-arounds. Blackmore dominates the album turning in some of his most understated and reflective playing on “When A Blind Man Cries” (the b-side to the single and not included on the original album) and of course, “Smoke On The Water.”

Its devastating simplicity is the foundation stone of the whole record and one of rock’s most archetypal riffs. Not only heavy as hell, it was insanely catchy and the long-haired denim-wearing world grasped it to their bosom without a moment’s hesitation. Detailing the burning of the casino near Lake Geneva (which caused yer actual smoke on the water), the lyrical content perhaps presaged the internal fires that would consume the group.

Released in May it went straight to number one but by August Gillan had resigned. Though he would stay on to record the live Made In Japan and the lack-lustre, Who Do We Think We Are, the mark II line-up was all over bar the shouting – and there was going to be plenty of that. Machine Head however remains their finest hour.

Tracks Listing:

1. Highway Star (6:05)
2. Maybe I'm A Leo (4:51)
3. Pictures Of Home (5:03)
4. Never Before (3:56)
5. Smoke On The Water (5:40)
6. Lazy (7:19)
7. Space Truckin' (4:31)

Line-up / Musicians:

- Ian Gillan / lead vocals, harmonica
- Ritchie Blackmore / guitars
- Jon Lord / keyboards
- Roger Glover / bass
- Ian Paice / drums, percussion

1 comment:

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