Deep Purple's Machine Head wasn't exactly made under favorable circumstances. The band was originally scheduled to record the album at The Casino in Montreux, Switzerland, but, in their own words, "some stupid with a flare gun burned the place to the ground." So they went out andf rented a concert hall to properly capture their 'live' sound. Unfortunately, the locals didn't too kindly to volume level, and Purple were evicted by the police. With the Rolling Stones' 16-track mobile studio in tow, the band members and their entourage finally settled in on the ground floor of the Grand Hotel in Montreux for three weeks of intense tracking. Having refined their sound with In Rock and Fireball, Deep Purple Mark II would soon join the ranks of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath as the frontrunners of the early 70s hard rock sweepstakes. Released in April 1972, Machine Head would become a definitive hard rock record of the era.
Hitting Number One in the UK, Machine Head eventually stormed the charts in the States as well. This was due, in part, to the release of Made In Japan, a double LP live album released a mere eight months later. More than anything, it was the "Smoke On The Water" single, with an edited "studio" version from Machine Head on Side A and the "live" version from Made In Japan on Side B, which ultimately placed the band into the upper echelon of America's favorite bands. Ritchie Blackmore's inimitable riff would soon find its way to the fingers of any would-be guitarist, but it wasn't the album's only strongpoint. "Highway Star," a second single, was just as important in establishing Purple's identity. It is a mainstay of the band's live performances to this day, and was, for several years, the opening number of their concerts. Moreover, "Highway Star" features intertwining guitar and organ exchanges between Blackmore and Jon Lord — something that would eventually evolve into a Deep Purple trademark.
"Lazy" and "Space Truckin'" would also become staples of Purple's shows — the former a bluesy toss-off that showcases Ian Gillan's ear-shattering vocal calisthenics and Ian Paice's resplendent drumming; the latter a stratospheric joy ride that became the launching pad for exploratory 30-minute jams. The inconspicuous chemistry of "Maybe I'm A Leo," "Picture Of Home" and "Never Before" beautifully underscores Purple's credibility as a world-class rock and roll outfit. In 1997, Purple bassist Roger Glover remixed the entire album, added "When A Blind Man Cries," the lone B-side, and bundled it with the original mix for a two-CD 25th Anniversary extravaganza. In the liner notes, Glover more or less says the circumstances surrounding the band at the time and their accumulated abilities as musicians are what give Machine Head its fresh, uncluttered and honest sound. After repeated listenings, it is an assessment few can argue with.
~ Shawn Perry