This week’s (actually two weeks ago’s – I’m a bit behind here) classic album is Deep Purple’s Machine Head.
Some Historical Context
I’ve never heard this album before. Oh, I know Deep Purple, of course. When I was a teenager, we all had, at least, a copy of 24 Carat Purple. Later on I also bought In Concert and Come Taste the Band (neither of which are particularly good).
But I’ve never listened to Machine Head all the way through. So there will be songs I know well and songs that I’ve never heard before. Also, it’s been about thirty years since I played a Deep Purple album, so this will be interesting.
The rest of this blog post will be written as I listen to the album.
1. Highway Star
We start with one that I know, but not particularly well. That’s probably because it was on Made In Japan – a live album that many of friends had. It would be a pretty standard fast blues if it wasn’t for Jon Lord’s organ solo. I’ve never been that impressed by fast guitar solos, but I like a drop of Hammond organ.
2. Maybe I’m a Leo
A much slower song, and one that I don’t know at all. Seems to be relying a bit too much on Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar skills. Which makes it all a bit dull.
3. Pictures of Home
Another one I don’t remember ever hearing before. And I’m starting to remember why I stopped listening to Deep Purple thirty years ago. I’m sure it’s all very technically accomplished. But it’s just boring. Even the Hammond solo can’t save it.Oh, and a false ending. How interesting.
4. Never Before
And here’s one I know well. Perhaps it’s just the familiarity, but I like this a lot more than the last couple. It sounds like they’ve actually thought about constructing a song rather than just running a few solos together.
5. Smoke on the Water
Side two starts with the band’s best known song. But this isn’t the version that I know best. 24 Carat Purple included a live version from Made In Japan. And that version has a lot more power than this one does. This sounds positively weedy in comparison. Still a great song though. And still one of the first riffs that any guitarist learns.
I think I know this one, but the beginning sounds unfamiliar. Nope. Halfway through and I still don’t recognise it. It’s all a bit “Jazz Odyssey” for my tastes. Oh, wait. After four and a half minutes the vocals come in and I recognise it. It can’t be this version I’ve heard before. Maybe not even by Deep Purple. Unimpressed.
7. Space Truckin’
And finally, another song that I know vaguely from hearing live albums at friends’ houses. Lyrically, at least, they seem to trying to channel Hawkwind. But even on their worst day Hawkwind are head and shoulders above this.
I remember Deep Purple being far more interesting than this. Perhaps my musical tastes were less developed. Or perhaps they have other albums that are better. As I said, I stopped listening to Deep Purple about thirty years ago and I now know that I was right to do so. I’m unlikely to try them again in the near future.