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Deep Purple: “Machine Head” 1972

"Machine Head" is the sixth studio album by British rock band Deep Purple, released March 25, 1972. The album was recorded at the Grand Hotel in Montreux, Switzerland, in December 1971, using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. The band intended to record the album at the Montreux Casino, but a fire broke out during a Frank Zappa concert, destroying the theatre and forcing Deep Purple to find another location. The experience inspired the song "Smoke on the Water," which recounts the events of the fire and the band's attempts to record the album.

"Machine Head" is widely regarded as one of Deep Purple's best albums and a classic of the hard rock genre. The album features some of the band's most well-known songs, including "Highway Star," "Smoke on the Water," and "Space Truckin'." "Highway Star" is an energetic track that features a blistering guitar solo by Ritchie Blackmore, while "Smoke on the Water" is known for its iconic riff and memorable lyrics about a real-life event.

In addition to its popular songs, "Machine Head" also showcases Deep Purple's instrumental prowess, with extended solos and jams throughout the album. The album's heavy sound and virtuosic performances helped define the hard rock and heavy metal genres in the 1970s.

Track by track (vinyl):

  1. "Highway Star":
    • Overview: "Highway Star" kicks off the album with a bang, featuring one of the most iconic guitar riffs in rock history. The song is a fast-paced hard rock anthem, showcasing Ritchie Blackmore's exceptional guitar skills and Jon Lord's powerful organ playing.
    • Highlights: The energetic guitar and keyboard solos are standout moments, and Ian Gillan's high-pitched vocals add to the song's intensity. The driving rhythm and dynamic shifts contribute to its enduring appeal.
  2. "Maybe I'm a Leo":
    • Overview: This track takes a somewhat different approach, slowing down the tempo compared to the opening track. It features a bluesy feel with soulful vocals from Ian Gillan and a prominent bass line from Roger Glover.
    • Highlights: The song's groove and Gillan's emotive singing are key highlights. It showcases Deep Purple's ability to seamlessly transition between hard rock and blues influences.
  3. "Pictures of Home":
    • Overview: "Pictures of Home" brings back the hard rock energy, with a distinctive riff and powerful vocals. The song's lyrics reflect on life on the road, capturing the band's experiences during their tours.
    • Highlights: The interplay between Blackmore's guitar and Lord's organ is exceptional. The instrumental section in the middle of the song allows each member to shine, showcasing their technical prowess.
  4. "Never Before":
    • Overview: This is one of the more radio-friendly tracks on the album, featuring a catchy chorus and a melodic guitar riff. It showcases a more straightforward rock sound compared to some of the other songs.
    • Highlights: The memorable chorus and the tight instrumentation make "Never Before" a standout track. It demonstrates the band's ability to craft accessible yet powerful rock songs.
  5. "Smoke on the Water":
    • Overview: Perhaps the most famous track from the album, "Smoke on the Water" tells the story of the band's experience with the Montreux fire. The instantly recognizable guitar riff has made it a classic in rock music.
    • Highlights: The simplicity and effectiveness of the riff, coupled with Gillan's storytelling vocals, are the song's highlights. It's one of those rare tracks that even non-rock fans can identify.
  6. "Lazy":
    • Overview: "Lazy" is a showcase for Jon Lord's incredible organ skills. The song starts with a bluesy, laid-back feel and gradually builds into a powerful, Hammond-driven instrumental section.
    • Highlights: Lord's extended keyboard solo is a central highlight, demonstrating his mastery of the instrument. The interplay between the band members creates a rich and dynamic listening experience.
  7. "Space Truckin'":
    • Overview: The album concludes with the epic "Space Truckin'," a space-themed hard rock track with a driving rhythm and futuristic lyrics. It's a fitting end to an album that has showcased Deep Purple's versatility.
    • Highlights: The song's energetic pace, the interwoven guitar and organ parts, and the cosmic atmosphere created by the lyrics make it a memorable closing track.

"Machine Head" as a whole is a masterclass in hard rock, showcasing the individual talents of each band member while also highlighting their exceptional chemistry as a group. The album's impact on the rock genre and its enduring popularity attest to its status as a classic.

The album was a commercial and critical success, reaching No. 1 in the UK and No. 7 in the US, and it has sold over 6 million copies worldwide. It has been praised for its innovative use of the Hammond organ, Ritchie Blackmore's guitar work, and Ian Gillan's powerful vocals. "Machine Head" has been cited as an influence by generations of rock musicians, and its songs are still played on radio stations and in concert venues around the world.

Trivia: "Machine Head" refers to the gear-driven tuning mechanism for a guitar string.

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