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Reviewed by - Matt Rowe

Deep Purple
Machine Head
Released: January 30, 2001
Origination Year: 1972
Time: 89:54
Tracks: 8
Produced by: Deep Purple
Style: Studio
Format: DVD-Audio
Enhancement: MLP/Bonus Tracks & Videos

Deep Purple has enjoyed a healthy life. With several entities of the band producing quality albums at various times, Deep Purple became a breeding ground for some great musicians. However great the band was they were never able to replicate the amazing success that was the crown jewel of their tenure, Machine Head. Produced outside of England for a superior tax situation, the band was witness to an event that generated one of Rock's most enduring songs, "Smoke on the Water". The event was a catastrophic destruction of a casino located in Switzerland and the scene led to Blackmore's penning of the song. The rest, as they say, is history.

There are few highly recognizable covers yet Machine Head is one of them. With its Roger Glover designed molten steel-stamped titles and distorted features of the band's faces, Machine Head can be determined by a mere glance. Even more recognizable are the songs contained within the package, especially "Smoke on the Water". "Smoke on the Water" possesses the single most imitated riff in Rock and can still be heard by aspiring guitarists everywhere. I've often wondered what Blackmore feels when he hears that riff being played by someone else, perhaps in a guitar store, cranked out by a prospective buyer.

Machine Head is the representative album of Deep Purple. With 7 songs, all classic, on this album, Machine Head becomes an album to own. Machine Head takes advantage of the Mark II strengths in the persons of Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. With Gillan's versatile voice and Glover's meatier bass sound combined with the nucleus of Blackmore, Paice, and Lord, a stronger approach to their music was brought out.

The DVD-Audio conversion of this classic was produced in 2001 by Rhino Entertainment, a premier leg of Warner that is dedicated to the preservation of classics. They unearth material that adds to the mythos of every recording they undertake thus creating a timeless historical document as well as a definitive set. Where it is possible, they squeeze the masters for a superior sounding recording in a DVD-Audio format. That time period represents the infancy of DVD-Audio. DVD-Audio went through a learning curve that now renders excellent high-resolution albums in the format. But it took a few years to accomplish. And while this issue was brought to us in 2001, it represents a merry-go-round of experiences.

This is a beautifully created package in almost every regard. Menus are a joy and very intuitive. When you select a track for play, programming pre-selects the lyric button to give you instant access should you desire it. The photos included are great inclusions as they show off many aspects of this band's Machine Head period. There is an exhaustive biography, a track by track perspective, an essay, a credits section and two B/W videos of "Lazy" and "Highway Star". The audio for these videos are passable with subtlety in the rear channels. The included booklet is as great an inclusion as one could hope for in any release. Overall, this package showcases the care that the worldclass Rhino team employs to produce such a package. In the standard DVD-Audio super Jewel casing, this package shines.

This DVD-Audio provides 3 mixes. There is a Stereo mix, a 5.1 / 6 channel mix, and a Dolby Digital mix for standard DVD players without the need for DVD-Audio capability. And here is where the mixed bag comes in. The tracks are clean and with each instrument clearly heard and identified. However, each song attempts different styles of mixing that send the vocals to the center channel where we've become accustomed to having them, to pushing them off to the sides leaving only drums and/or bass to come from the center. The rear channels can be faint and subtle at times and strong at other times. This constant switch has a feel of experimental production. It is as if this album is a lab rat for surround with the scientists hoping for the control group (in this case, the consumer) to voice which works. With each song using a different variation of channel usage, it becomes a bit trying since it doesn't feel as natural as it should have.

But to say that this is a dismal experience would be to discount a pretty good package. As a matter of fact, the only complaint with this release is that the surround mix IS too experimental. Otherwise, the clarity is there. Vocals, when they are allowed to be isolated to a channel (center) are clear and perfect. The drums, guitars, bass, and keyboards are brought out and shine in their sonic clarity. The real surround winner here is "Smoke on the Water". In short, this release, while not a reference release, particularly as it stands out next to very recent releases, is certainly not a negligible one.

The Stereo mix is definitely the best way to listen to this release. It's remixed into 96kHz/24-bit resolution and from the original stereo masters. And it represents the purity of this magnificent album. Sonics here are well defined with the high resolution mix getting the best treatment of this DVD-Audio. Of course, to play at this level of clarity requires that you have DVD-Audio capability. To hear the breakneck speed of Blackmore's lead in "Highway Star" at the level you do here is amazing as is every other track. "Maybe I'm a Leo" and its lead tracks really take on depth. The vocals are incredible on "Never Before". This Stereo mix creates a 'better than you remember' feel and is the real deal. Quite frankly, you've never heard "Smoke on the Water" like this. The ending to this song takes on a new life.

The extra bonus is the addition of an original B-Side to "Never Before", "When a Blind Man Cries". This slow bluesy ballad is a nice inclusion adding to an already packed release.

For those of you who remember Deep Purple and for those of you getting to know Deep Purple, this DVD-Audio is a great start to not only introduce you to the pleasures of great sound clarity that DVD-Audio provides but also as a valid entry into your collection of all time classic albums. Until a better surround mix shows up, and I'm sure that it will, this dishes out the goods.

Track Listing:

DVD-Audio - Highway Star; Maybe I'm a Leo; Pictures of Home; Never Before; Smoke on the Water; Lazy; Space Truckin'; When a Blind Man Cries (Original B-Side to Never Before) - Bonus Selection.

Video Playlist - Highway Star ; Lazy.

Deep Purple - Ian Gillan: Vocals; Roger Glover: Bass; Richie Blackmore: Guitar; Ian Paice: Drums; Jon Lord: Keyboards.

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