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  • 9 Featurette
Deep Purple: Machine Head - Classic Albums
Warner Vision/Warner Vision . R4 . COLOR . 50 mins . E . PAL


The Classic Albums series of documentaries looks at a particular album that has had a profound effect in some way on music history. So far on DVD there have been a number of releases, including Def Leppard - Hysteria, Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley, Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast, Judas Priest – British Steel, Lou Reed - Transformer and Metallica - Metallica.

Without doubt the Machine Head album from Deep Purple rates up there with the aforementioned albums as one that has had a lasting effect on rock music. How many people do not instantly recognise the introduction to Smoke on the Water? This 1972 album further established the band as one of the forces of British rock at the time and propelled them to stardom the world over.

Original members Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice recount their experiences from the recording of this album. They had achieved substantial success with their previous albums In Rock and Fireball and for Machine Head decided to lock themselves away in a casino in Montreux in Switzerland. This was the perfect plan until the casino burnt to the ground the night before the recording was to begin. This may have been a bad sign, but the smoke from the fire drifting across the adjoining lake inspired the creation of Smoke on the Water, so it wasn’t all bad. The band then moved to an abandoned hotel in Geneva and after making some alterations found themselves in a confined corridor to record the album.

As is the standard format for this series of documentaries, members of the band go into great detail about the album. They look at events that affected the recording, how songs came together and relationships within the band. This is a fascinating look at how this album came to be. There is quite a bit of archival footage used to give the viewer a greater insight into events and to show the band performing in their heyday. There is so much information offered here that even those that do not rate the album should still find it interesting.

Songs that go under the microscope include Highway Star, Smoke on the Water, Space Truckin’, Never Before, Pictures of Home, the song that never made the final album When a Blind Man Cries and the ever recognisable Black Night. All band members give a great insight into each song and offer some informative and amusing stories along the way.

Many are quick to state that the driving forces behind Deep Purple were Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Gillan, both of whom went on to have successful careers after the demise of the band, but this documentary shows how every member of the band was crucial to its unique sound. Most fans of hard rock will at some point have owned this album and this nostalgic trip will see many getting out the old record player for another listen.


Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and 16:9 enhanced there is little to find fault with in this transfer. Picture is sharp throughout and shadow detail is spot on. Colours are natural and sharp and there is only minimal aliasing. There is some old footage used, but even this looks good for its age. It contains some film artefacts, but considering it is from 1971 this is not surprising. Overall though the few faults that are here are extremely minor and should cause no irritation to the viewer. There is a selection of subtitles available, but surprisingly none in English. This is not a major concern though as dialogue is clear throughout.

Audio is supplied in English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and this is a great sounding mix. Dialogue dominates this feature and it's crystal clear throughout. The music extracts used also sound very good, whether this is from the song as recorded or direct from the mixing desk.

As is the norm with this series, the collection of extras is really a continuation of the main feature and could quite easily have been included there. The total running time for these extras is 35:57 and although the option is not available to play them as one featurette, they are easily selected to play individually. The titles of the extras are No Smoke Without Fire, The Beast, Making Everything Louder, Black Night, Keep on Space Truckin', Maybe Leo's Offbeat, Break a Leg, Frank, Roger's Machine Head and Never Before Original 1972 Demo. All are pretty self explanatory and have obviously only been removed from the main feature to allow it to fall within the specified time for television airing.

Overall this is of the usual standard from this series, that is to say it is of the highest quality. It is informative, entertaining and beautifully produced and edited. Each documentary may be aimed at fans of the particular artists, but these are made in a way that viewers who have never heard the album should still enjoy the documentary. The video and audio are of excellent quality and although the extras could easily be part of the main feature, it is a bonus to get footage that was not aired when these programmes were shown on television. This is a quality look at an album that deserves its classic tag, so check it out.

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