Thursday, August 21, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Machine Head, by Deep Purple

On March 25, 1972 one of the most influential albums in rock and heavy metal history was released out into the world. To this day, many bands and artists cite it as a direct influence and inspiration. This album is Deep Purple's Machine Head. In fact, this same album spawned the very guitar riff that is one of the first that new guitar players in modern times learn that drives music store owners absolutely insane: Smoke on the Water.

The album was recorded during the winter of late 1971 and early 1972 in Montreux, Switzerland. Originally the band intended to do its sessions at the Montreux Casino with a mobile recording studio owned by The Rolling Stones. However, during a Frank Zappa concert at a venue in the casino some less than intelligent concert goer fired off a flare gun into the theater and caused the whole place to be burnt to the ground. From there, Purple had to relocate their base of operations to a theater across town called Pavillion. They got many of the basic tracks for one song recorded before the police were called on them due to noise. After that bit of unpleasantness, the band relocated one last time to an empty hotel called the Grand Hotel. This whole misadventure lead to the idea behind the lyrics to Smoke on the Water.

Smoke on the Water. If you don't know this song even the tiniest bit, you have clearly been living under a giant pile of rocks the past 42 years. Everyone has heard it at least once. It starts off with that catchy riff that finds a way to dig into your brain so it will never get out. Interestingly enough, most people who try to play it do it wrong. As guitarist Ritchie Blackmore has stated in multiple interviews rather than with basic power chords, it's actually done in fourths on the D and G strings of the guitar. However, I digress. It is a pretty mid-tempo kind of song with a really snazzy beat laid down by drummer Ian Paice that is focused primarily on the hi-hat of the drum kit with sparing hits on the snare and bass. It's a pretty basic song with under rated jazzy parts at time. However, it really is a defining song of rock n' roll.

Let's talk about a track a little less known from Machine Head, though. It's one of my personal favorites called Maybe I'm a Leo. It was originally written by the bassist Roger Glover. When presented to the band, they just picked up on the riff he played and made a whole jam/song out of it. It is a somewhat slower and more jazzy song, but has a catchy riff as well. Honestly, that riff gets stuck in my head more than Smoke on the Water. There isn't anything particularly flashy about it, but the way the song progresses melodically while basic is very pleasing and fun to groove along to. Listening to the main parts along with Blackmore's solo feels almost like drinking a very pleasant non-alcoholic beverage, if that makes any sense.

If you want flashy on the other hand, Lazy is right up your alley. This song features a blend of rock, jazz, blues, boogie, and more. Many people consider it an instrumental where the band is just straight up jamming, but the reason I don't is because there is a section where Ian Gillan the vocalist comes in and sings a couple verses before letting the band carry on. It is a very upbeat song and really showcases what Blackmore and keyboardist Jon Lord could do. It is a bit of a long song, but fun to listen to. It does a pretty good job of keeping your attention.

Machine Head is pretty darn fantastic. I've bought it on at least two different formats and even gotten that tribute album ReMachined that came out a couple years ago. Machine Head belongs in the collection of anyone who is a fan of classic rock or metal. It is pretty easy to see why it has become such an influence on so many musicians and as well as why it has become an inspiration for people to pick up guitar in the first place. It features TONS of great tracks besides Smoke on the Water. All killer no filler, as far as I'm concerned.

Machine Head, by Deep Purple receives 5 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

1. Highway Star
2. Maybe I'm a Leo
3. Pictures From Home
4. Never Before
5. Smoke on the Water
6. Lazy
7. Space Truckin'

Buy the album on Amazon:

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