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Deep Purple's Machine Head: Super Deluxe Edition from Rhino

05-01-2024 | By Tom Gibbs | Issue 133

Deep Purple's Machine Head: Super Deluxe Edition (SDE) has just been remixed, remastered, and re-released in a gorgeous new multi-disc edition that includes media choices to accommodate listeners from all corners. It's also being billed as a 50th anniversary release, though technically it comes a couple of years late for that to be completely accurate—no worries on that account! The cool SDE package features an LP-sized hardboard outer case finished with a beautiful high gloss coating that gives it a very distinctive appearance. The front cover features the original album artwork, and there's a nice period shot of the band on the back, with columns underneath that detail the contents of the multiple discs included in the package. Inside the outer case is a standard gatefold LP jacket that replicates the original album artwork inside and out, with the obvious exception that the inner jacket's original black and white  photographs have been duotoned with a purple tint. The album pocket on the left of the gatefold holds a really hip-looking transparent purple smoke 140 gram LP that's been remixed by Dweezil Zappa. There's also a full-sized, 20-page booklet that includes an interesting and informative new essay from Rolling Stone writer Kory Grow, along with comments from Dweezil Zappa and original photographer Didi Zill. The booklet contains a plethora of band photos from the recording sessions and the events surrounding the Montreux fire, and there's also several pages of cool band memorabilia shots. The right-side inner panel contains four die-cut slits that hold mini-LP jackets that hold three CDs and a Blu-ray disc. In addition to everything else, there's also a fold-out poster that contains all the song lyrics and replicates the one included with the original LP. You can order a copy of Machine Head: Super Deluxe Edition directly from Rhino's web store HERE, but it's also available from a multitude of online sources or at your local independent record store.

Deep Purple, Machine Head: Super Deluxe Edition, (1) 180 Gram LP, (3) Compact Discs, (1) BluRay Disc, $79.98 MSRP

Machine Head (1972) featured the classic "Mark II" lineup of Deep Purple, including vocalist Ian Gillian, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord on organ and keyboards, bassist Roger Glover, and Ian Paice behind the drum kit. Machine Head would become this version of the band's third album together, and Deep Purple's sixth studio album overall. Deep Purple had become a very tight unit onstage, but the band members didn't feel their studio albums captured the same level of intensity as their nearly incendiary live performances, and they aimed to rectify that with Machine Head. Having previously played the Montreux Casino in April 1971, the band liked the recorded sound of the tapes that concert produced. So the venue was again booked through Montreux's Claude Nobs, who'd also already signed Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention for a live date at the casino in December 1971, during Montreux's off season. Following Zappa and the Mothers' concert performance, Deep Purple would be able to record their new album at their leisure. And the band even discussed combining new studio recordings with the live tapes from April and releasing Machine Head as a double LP. 

Quite famously, things didn't work out as planned; during Zappa's live set, someone in the crowd inexplicably fired a flare gun towards the ceiling, which ignited very quickly. The Montreux Casino, which was mostly built of wooden construction, literally burned to the ground! Fortunately, everyone—including all the members of the Mothers and Deep Purple—escaped the burning building without injury. But Frank Zappa's band lost all their equipment, and Deep Purple lost their recording venue. Deep Purple immortalized the experience in "Smoke On The Water," which probably contains the most imitated rock guitar chord intro of all time. Ian Gillian wasted no time sketching out lyrics to accompany Ritchie Blackmore's classic chord structure: "Some stupid with a flare gun...burned the place to the ground!" Claude Nobs compensated the band by moving them across town to the relatively shabby Montreux Grand Hotel, where they successfully set up an appropriate recording space. Using the Rolling Stones' mobile studio truck, longtime Deep Purple engineer Martin Birch committed Machine Head to tape, which was eventually released in March 1972. The album topped the Billboard charts in the UK, made it to number 10 on the US album charts, and achieved multi-platinum sales status along the way.  

The 16-channel original master tapes were converted to high-resolution digital, and were then remixed by Dweezil Zappa for LP, CD, and Blu-ray. Dweezil, is of course, Frank Zappa's son, and in addition to having actually played onstage with Deep Purple, he was incredibly pumped to be chosen for the remix of Machine Head—which is inexorably entwined with his late father's legend. The entire package was manufactured in Germany, and the 140 gram transparent purple smoke LP was pressed at Optimal. The LP includes a bonus track, "When A Blind Man Cries," which was the B-side to the album's single, "Smoke On The Water." The three included CDs break down as follows: disc one features Dweezil's 2024 remix of Machine Head, as well as the 2024 remaster of the original album mix. The second CD features a March 1972 concert recorded at the Paris Theatre in London, while the third CD features the never-before-heard April 1971 Montreux concert. The BD disc features Dweezil Zappa's Dolby Atmos mix, the 1974 US Quadraphonic mix, and Dolby 5.1 surround mixes for selected tracks. Machine Head: Super Deluxe Edition is about as comprehensive as it gets, and is a must-have for collectors and completists. 

Listening Results

You can see the components in my dual audio systems by clicking my name in the header. I used the all-analog system for my evaluation of the new Machine Head 140 gram LP. It's been revamped with new Vanguard Scout standmount loudspeakers, which are in the same vein as classic British designs like the LS3/5A's, and are running in tandem with a Caldera 10 subwoofer. That setup also incorporates the excellent PS Audio Stellar phono preamp, and everything is powered by my PrimaLuna EVO 300 tube integrated amplifier. Which was recently upgraded with a matched quad of premium Sovtek 6550 power tubes and a matched pair of vintage NOS Brimar 12AU7 input tubes. As usual, playback of the LPs was handled by my ProJect Classic EVO turntable that's mounted with an Ortofon Quintet Bronze MC cartridge. The new tubes have upped my analog playback with the kind of powerful but lush sound I'd always hoped for, and are a perfect match for the new complement of loudspeakers. 

First up, I listened to the 140 gram transparent purple smoke LP of Machine Head, which features Dweezil Zappa's new album remix, along with the bonus track "When A Blind Man Cries." Rhino's new LP bettered my original in every way, as well as also offering a significant upgrade to a mid-2000's Rhino reissue I'd added to my collection. The Optimal pressing was perfectly flat and centered, featured beautifully glossy surfaces, and displayed no surface or groove noise—and the colored vinyl LP was beyond cool! With the new tubes in the system, playback was exceptionally dynamic, and totally rocked my all-analog room. Despite having owned Machine Head since its original release, it hasn't gotten much playing time in recent years, but hearing Dweezil's excellent new remix was an absolute blast. And the new LP featured a level of clarity that none of the legacy LPs I had on hand could touch. Tunes like "Smoke On The Water" and "Lazy" have always been a bit murky, but the new clarity of Dweezil's mix really improved their playback immeasurably. 

I ripped the digital disc content from Machine Head to my Euphony music server, then streamed playback to my Gustard X26 Pro DAC and C18 external clock unit. The resulting analog signal was sent to my PS Audio preamplifier, then to the Naiu Labs Ella amplifier that powers my Magneplanar LRS loudspeakers and a pair of Caldera 10 subwoofers. First off, I really love the new 2024 stereo remix, as well as the 2024 stereo remaster of Martin Birch's original mix—which has never sounded as good in any digital incarnation as it does here! It's unfortunate that Rhino—or Dweezil, I'm not sure who gets the blame here—chose not to include high resolution stereo files for the 2024 remix and remasters. Both are really excellent in CD quality, though I'd kill to hear them in high resolution stereo! 

Concerning the two live concert CDs, the first features one of the earliest live performances of the band's new material on Machine Head, from a date from the new album's tour at the Paris Theatre in London, March 9, 1972, shortly after the album's release. The second CD of live material captures the previously unreleased April 1971 Montreux Casino concert, which includes a song selection typical of the band's pre-Machine Head shows. The sound quality of the live CDs are superb, and fans of the band will be particularly happy to finally hear the Montreux tracks, which make their debut here. 

The Blu-ray disc includes Dweezil Zappa's Dolby Atmos mix, which will automatically downconvert to whatever format you attempt to play it through should you—like myself—not yet have access to Dolby Atmos playback. The BD also includes the 1974 US Quadraphonic mix in high res digital—which I loved, and was nicely immersive, by the way—as well as high res Dolby 5.1 surround mixes for selected tracks. My biggest complaint with the BD content, as I noted above, is the absence of high resolution stereo tracks for both the 2024 remix and remasters. There's plenty of room on the BD disc, and Rhino has been including 24/192 high resolution stereo tracks on other recent SDE releases, as well as on the excellent Quadio discs—I don't understand this oversight at all.

Final Thoughts

For the most part, this Super Deluxe Edition of Machine Head is pretty much a dream come true for fans of Deep Purple. Especially completists, who'll readily welcome the improved sound and live concert recordings with open arms. Dweezil Zappa did an excellent job with his remix, outside of a few minor caveats. And while I'm obviously baffled by the absence of high resolution stereo tracks, maybe Rhino will have a change of heart and reissue the BD disc with the stereo tracks added—hope springs eternal! Many thanks to Taylor Perry of Shore Fire Media and Miranda Alston of Rhino Entertainment for their assistance, and for the opportunity. Despite the nitpicks, Machine Head: Super Deluxe Edition sounds amazing and comes highly recommended! 

Rhino Entertainment


All images courtesy of Rhino Entertainment and Shore Fire Media