Thursday, April 28, 2016

When Music Mattered - Machine Head (1972)

It was written completely in the studio, which was actually a hotel in Montreux, Switzerland. Much of the material was improvised on the spot, and the recording conditions were some of the most unique any major rock band had ever used. If you are interested in the history of hard rock music and want to read a good story, then you should read the story of the recording of Machine Head by Deep Purple. Not only is this album a testament to the band's dedication to what they were doing, but it is a shining example of just how much raw talent this band had.

Many of the songs on this record were reflections of things the band did and saw while staying in the Montreux Casino. The song "Smoke On The Water" is a real story about a Frank Zappa show the band attended that was interrupted by the venue (made of all wood) being burned to the ground. The band had the entire casino and hotel to itself as the hotel was closed for winter renovations, and the group made the most of its cold and gloomy surroundings.

The significance of Machine Head cannot be overstated when it comes to putting Deep Purple on the hard rock map. The album itself sounds like a live record, but it offers no groundbreaking technology or music to make it notable. There are no groundbreaking chord progressions or any innovative sound effects that would make us think that there was something overwhelmingly special about the band. The songs were all basic blues influenced tunes, and the lyrics were all pretty basic. So why is Machine Head a classic album?

The idea that the band made up this entire album while on the clock in a "studio" is what makes it stand out. It is the same as if the band were playing a show and making up the music as it went along. The process of introducing an idea that would quickly become a song was so fluid that the band recorded the entire album in a relatively short period of time. But it was the classical music influences of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and the keyboard virtuosity of Jon Lord that brings the entire thing together and makes it a classic. What stands out on this record are the performances, not enhanced by any studio tricks, and showing that this was a band of musicians and not rock stars.

This is the album that introduced the world to such classic songs as "Highway Star," "Smoke On The Water," and "Maybe I'm A Leo." It is the album that helped to enhance the idea that Deep Purple was one of the few hard rock bands of its era that knew how to lay down and hold a groove. It was an album that quickly became a staple of the collection of any aspiring guitarist of the 1970s and beyond. With Machine Head, Deep Purple proved they could write songs, sound great live, and become an iconic hard rock band simply by being the best musicians in the business.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

George N Root III is a classic rock maniac who listens to music constantly, as long as that music was recorded before 1980. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3 or send him a message by smoke signal or at georgenroot3@gmail.com.

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