Review Summary: Rocking The Milky Way6 of 6 thought this review was well written
Just when you think that with 'Fireball', Deep Purple were slowly going downhill, they release 'Machine Head', which is just as good as 'In Rock' and maybe even better. This is also the home of the most iconic guitar riff of all time in 'Smoke On The Water' and while you can call the song overrated, you certainly cannot get it out of your head. Considering the popularity of the song, it's hard to believe that it wasn't released as a single. Instead, the leading single off of the album was 'Never Before', which is a great attempt at a more mainstream song than what they did before, but sadly didn't get enough attention to be massively popular like 'Smoke On The Water' was.
The high point of the album is neither of those. It's the opener, 'Highway Star' which solidifies 'Machine Head' as a truly classic album with its simple-but-effective chugging into leading into a driving hard rock masterpiece combining simplicity with intricacy. 'Space Truckin'' also deserves a mention for the unique guitar-esque organ sound and the screeching vocals in the second verse of the song which had to be in influence on vocalists such as Rob Halford.
Ritchie Blackmore stepped up his game in a huge way on this album, as he has mastered the trinity of heavy metal (example: the verses to 'Pictures Of Home'), blues (example: the intro to 'Maybe I'm A Leo') and classical music (example: in one of the 'Highway Star' solos ( at 2:35)) and used these three influences in various doses in different songs. Ian Paice shows some incredible skill as usual, with moments such as the opening drum solo to 'Pictures Of Home', Ian Gillan and Roger Glover both have some stand-out moments, like the gritty verses of 'Never Before' and strong bass-line in 'Maybe I'm A Leo' respectively. Jon Lord's approach to organ-playing was in a different context on this album, due to him plugging his organ into a Marshall amplifier, giving a weightier quality to the organ's sound, which paid off tremendously.
In conclusion, this is the last Mark II Deep Purple album which could be considered an essential listen and 'Machine Head' could also be the definitive Deep Purple album due to how it combines the positive qualities of all their albums up to this point, before they started to deteriorate in meritable material. Unfortunately, it only goes down from here.