Deep Purple – Machine Head (1972)
Welcome back to Your Dad’s Car Stereo where we’re taking a listen to the best-known album by English band Deep Purple. Originally formed as a progressive rock group, the band shifted to a heavier rock sound in the early 1970’s and are often cited as one of the most influential groups in the formation of heavy metal along with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. The band shifted lineups as frequently as they shifted sounds, but the personnel on this sixth studio album, Machine Head, was the most popular lineup and produced some of the band’s best work. Machine Head has been cited in many musicians’ “Top 10 Album” lists and included in multiple publications’ “Best Of” lists. The album pulls heavily on classical and blues influences to create a unique medley of sound. “Highway Star” was directly influenced by the work of classical composer Johann Sebastian Bach, and the blues sound permeates through all of the harder rock tracks as the basis for the genre itself, but also specifically on tracks like “Lazy” and “Maybe I’m a Leo.” Machine Head is one of the big ones and directly shaped the way music would sound for decades to come. Think about every heavy rock band you like and they can all trace their heritage back to Deep Purple, and specifically this album. Enjoy this hard-rocking piece of history!
Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown
Highway Star: The opening track to Machine Head is a classic rock staple and continues to receive consistent play on the radio. “Highway Star” is basically the granddaddy of heavy rock, and the genre would have been more stunted and fringe without songs like this. The solo on this track has one of the best arpeggiated sections ever conceived and is, overall, an indulgence of a rock track. If you like hard rock then “Highway Star” should be on your list if it isn’t already. Dad’s Rating 9/10
Maybe I’m a Leo: “Maybe I’m a Leo” is a big, bad song and is an awesome deep cut. I had never heard this track before listening to this album, but it’s definitely going into my rotation. It’s very musically similar to the work being created by ZZ Top around the same time, particularly their massively successful album Tres Hombre, despite the fact that the two bands were a world apart. Really good stuff here. Dad’s Rating 8/10
Pictures of Home: This isn’t the best track on the album and isn’t really a deep cut that is a “must listen to song.” If anything, “Pictures of Home” blends into the heavy rock sound that was emerging in the early 1970s without overstating itself. It’s not a bad track, but by the same token, isn’t particularly memorable. Dad’s Rating 6/10
Never Before: If “Pictures of Home” was a lackluster track, “Never Before” is the opposite. The funky opening certainly stands out on this album full of classic rock legends before rolling into a more traditional rock track that includes a spaced-out bridge. The opening is alone is enough to make me happy and rate it above the previous track, but it is a better rock song than “Pictures,” so it’s got that going for it! Dad’s Rating 7/10
Smoke on the Water: DUN DUN DUN, DUN DUN DUN-DUN. You know you were thinking it, I just wrote it. “Smoke on the Water” may be the most instantly recognizable rock song ever recorded with that riff that everyone and their cousin knows. Lyrically, the song is actually a true story about trying to record the album in Montreux and the problems the band faced doing that. Musically, this song is untouchable. The lead guitar, the screaming solo that is oh-so dynamic, this song hits all the marks and was always going to get into the “They Don’t Make Music Like This Anymore Award” club. Dad’s Rating 10/10
Lazy: This is one of the surprise songs on the album that we set out to look for. I’m genuinely impressed with the keyboard work and the bass is very reminiscent of another English bassist by the name of John Entwistle. You might have heard of him, he only played for The Who and is often credited as the best bassist of all time! This whole song actually reminds me of a lot of the things being done by The Who around this time (see the whole Who’s Next album to catch my drift). This track sounds exactly nothing like any of the other songs on this album, which is a credit to the album. “Lazy” helps break up the record, keeping it fresh sounding. Give this one a listen if you’ve never heard it before, I think you might be surprised at the band’s depth like I was. Dad’s Rating 9/10
Space Truckin’: “Space Truckin’” is a return to the heavier sound Deep Purple were known for at the time, and it’s also one of the better examples of that heavy sound. The most stand-out techniques on this song are found in the solo with an interesting scratch effect produced by the guitar and a great drum piece. Outside of that, this is a stereotypical 1970’s heavy rock track, and I find that personal preference is really the only distinguishing factor between average songs. Some people prefer certain riffs and sounds more, so give this one a shot and see if it’s your cup of tea! Dad’s Rating 7/10
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