Deep Purple: Machine Head – Super Deluxe Edition Box

Performances
Sound

Machine Head is one of those perfect storm albums. As Deep Purple entered the 1970s, they undertook a creative shift from the psychedelic blues/pop of their late-’60s origins — embodied by hits like 1968’s perpetually catchy “Hush” and their cover of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman” — to move into full-on rock overdrive with June 1970’s Deep Purple in Rock and July 1971’s Fireball. With that tableau firmly set, Deep Purple ramped it up yet another notch to construct March 1972’s truly seminal Machine Head, which features enduring hardrock staples like “Smoke on the Water” (ahh, that right-of-passage guitar riff), “Highway Star” (their 8-cylinder vehicular love letter), and “Space Truckin’” (“Come on!”) among them.

Deep Purple and their team have certainly chosen an intriguing route to celebrate 50 years of Machine Head — though, technically speaking, it’s actually 52 years, at this point — with a 3CD/1LP/1BD super deluxe edition anniversary box set on Warner Records that centers around both the 2024 stereo and Dolby Atmos remixes of the core album done by Dweezil Zappa. Dweezil has been aligned with DP for decades, seeing how his dad Frank Zappa was namechecked on “Smoke on the Water,” not to mention his playing guitar with them live. Considering Dweezil’s all-in verve about Atmos, he’s more of a logical choice for doing these critical remixes than some may have initially thought.

Before we get to the sonics, we must first handle the stats. The purple-smoke color vinyl contains Zappa’s 2024 stereo remix of the original album, with the “When a Blind Man Cries” B-side added to Side 2’s running order. CD1 houses Dweezil’s 2024 stereo remix plus the 2024 remaster of the original by Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham. CD2 holds 10 live tracks recorded on March 9, 1972, at the Paris Theatre in London during the outset of the Machine Head Tour that were previously released on the 2012 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition 4CD/1DVD import box set on Deep Purple Records/EMI. CD3 contains nine previously unreleased tracks recorded on April 16, 1971, at the Montreux Casino in Switzerland, the locale where the incidents recounted in “Smoke on the Water” fatefully occurred. Finally, the Blu-ray offers Zappa’s Atmos remix of the main album plus Peter Mew’s 1974 U.S. quad mix and three Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes by Paul Klingberg that were also included on the aforementioned 2012 import box.

The new Machine Head box’s glossy, hardcover outer shell is LP size — 12½ x 0¾ x 12½ inches (w/h/d) — a slimmer footprint sure to please the shelving-challenged amongst us. The slide-out gatefold holds the LP within its inner-left opening in a black, plastic-lined sleeve — and, yes, I too would have preferred the LP’s presentation mirror the original album’s packaging instead. The 3CDs and 1BD are nestled in two rows of evenly spaced slots on the right side of the gate in what I call Goldilocks-styled “just right” fashion — not too snug to remove, but not too loose either. Also included are a 20-page saddle-stitched booklet with liners, session photos galore, and a poster-size lyric sheet in white script on a purple background.

The more aurally adventurous among us are in for one helluva ride. Dweezil’s stereo remix will indeed grab you in somewhat unexpected ways (a la “Never Before”), but it’s in Atmos where Machine Head gets to do some literal space truckin’ nonpareil. “Highway Star” is a balls-out ferocious assault wherein you can discern the layers in Ian Gillan’s stacked lead vocal tracks and get blown over by the clockwise swoosh of the keys-and-guitar-solo section. The 1974 quad version of “Highway Star” is a bit more compartmentalized, though you really do feel Ian Paice pummeling his drum kit. Back in Atmos, Ritchie Blackmore’s searing guitar solo on “Smoke on the Water” takes to the upper stratosphere — and be sure to listen for the vocalized, FZ-related Easter egg at the very end. Jon Lord’s keyboard clinic all throughout “Lazy” in Atmos almost makes the 2012 5.1 mix seem like it’s, well, sleepwalking.

As for the live material, CD2’s “Maybe I’m a Leo (Soundcheck)” has a cooler, looser improv vibe in the noodly instrumental break than the actual show performance does. CD3 is indeed of a historical nature, considering when/where it occurred in Montreux, but since it was sourced from an audience recording, the SQ isn’t up to audiophile standards. That said, its content can be enjoyed for what it is — and I do very much dig Gillan’s wail in the middle of “Child in Time” — but be aware the sound is a few ticks above bootleg quality at best.

If you’re a Machine Head purist, you may be reticent to embrace Zappa’s remixes on this box set, if that soothes your purple heart’s content. But if you’re willing to open your ears and really hear how Zappa made this iconic music breathe even deeper in new and exciting ways — most especially in Atmos — then the 2024 edition of Deep Purple’s Machine Head will light a fire in the audio sky as never before.

3CD/1LP/1BD
Label: Warner Records
Audio Formats: 16-bit/44.1kHz LPCM stereo (CD); 24-bit/96kHz Dolby Atmos, 24-bit/96kHz quad, 24-bit/96kHz Dolby Digital 5.1 (BD)
Number of Tracks: 60 (34 on 3CDs; 8 on 1LP, 18 on 1BD)
Length: 6:16:30 (3:58:27 on 3CDs; 42:17 on 1LP, 1:35:46 on 1BD)
Producers: Deep Purple (original album); Pete Dauncey (In Concert ’72)
Engineers: Martin Birch (original album); Adrian Revill (In Concert ’72); René Ernest Finger (Montreaux ’71); Peter Mew (1974 U.S. quad mix); Paul Klingberg (2012 5.1 mix); Dweezil Zappa (2024 stereo remix, 2024 Atmos remix); Andy Pearce, Matt Wortham (2024 remaster); John Webber (2024 vinyl lacquers)

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