Machine Head is often cited as a major influence in the early development of the heavy metal music genre. Commercially, it was Deep Purple’s most successful album, topping the charts in several countries following its release. The album reached number 1 in the United Kingdom and stayed in the top 40 for 20 weeks. It reached number 7 in the United States, remaining on the Billboard 200 for 118 weeks.
Deep Purple initially planned to record Machine Head in December 1971, at Montreux Casino in Switzerland. A mobile recording studio owned by the Rolling Stones had been booked and hotel reservations made, but lead singer Ian Gillan contracted hepatitis. Cancelling a forthcoming tour of America, the band placed all their plans on hold, and Gillan was advised by his doctor to spend the next few months recuperating. Nevertheless, enthused by the new , the band travelled to Switzerland to begin recording. The Casino was a large arena built in a complex of casinos, restaurants and other entertainment facilities. The band had performed there in May 1971 and enjoyed both the location and its owner, Claude Nobs. Amongst others, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath had all performed there. The Casino closed for refurbishments each winter, and so the band arrived there on 3 December. One last concert date remained, following which they were to have the location to themselves.
Machine Head hit the number one spot on the British charts within seven days of its release, remaining there for two weeks before returning in May for a further week. In the US, the album reached number seven, remaining in the charts for two years.
Rolling Stone‘s Lester Bangs praised “Highway Star” and “Space Truckin’s” lyrics, although he was less complimentary about the remaining songs: “In between those two Deep Purple classics lies nothing but good, hard-socking music, although some of the lyrics may leave a bit to be desired.” Robert Christgau rated the album a B, writing “I approve of their speeding, and Ritchie Blackmore has copped some self-discipline as well as a few suspicious-sounding licks from his buddies in London.” Allmusic critic Eduardo Rivadavia called Machine Head “one of the essential hard rock albums of all time.”
Machine Head contains classical and blues influences. Blackmore confirmed that the chord progression for the solos in “Highway Star” was inspired by the work of 18th-century composer Johann Sebastian Bach. The song was actually composed by Blackmore and Gillan at the start of the Fireball gigs on a bus travelling to Portsmouth Guild Hall, in response to a question from a member of the press as to how the band created their material.
Kerrang! magazine listed the album at No. 35 among the “100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time” in 1989.
In an Observer Music Monthly Greatest British Albums poll, Ozzy Osbourne chose Machine Head as one of his ten favourite records of all time.
Machine Head is the subject of one of the Classic Albums series of documentaries about the making of famous albums. Machine Head was released on the multichannel formats DVD-Audio (2001) and SACD (2003), and more recently, also on SACD on 17 August 2011, by Warner Japan in their Warner Premium Sound series (Which is the same as the 2001 DVD-Audio version).
All songs written by Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice.
Original vinyl release
|2.||“Maybe I’m a Leo”||4:51|
|3.||“Pictures of Home”||5:03|
|5.||“Smoke on the Water”||5:40|