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Machine Head documentary
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Five star feast for deconstructionists and musicians alike

How's this for an idea for a TV series: take a handful of albums universally acknowledged as landmarks in the history of rock, assemble the creators and have them offer insights on the process of making them. In a nutshell, that is "Classic Albums", and this DVD contains the episode concerning Deep Purple's Machine Head.

All of the key players are here - the members of Deep Purple Mark 2 and producer Martin Birch - as well as a handful of Deep Purple authorities (such as Chris Charlesworth, who wrote the first serious biography of the band). What results is part potted history of this version of Deep Purple, part reminiscences of the three-week period in Montreux during the recording, and part detailed analysis of the songs themselves. This latter aspect will especially appeal both to deconstructionists looking to understand how the songs were built, and to musicians trying to emulate their heroes faithfully, as Ritchie Blackmore, Roger Glover, and Jon Lord perform many of their parts and other musical bits for the benefit of the camera - Jon's musical passages are especially enlightening.

While some may decry the omission of Lazy and Maybe I'm A Leo from the song expositions, one must recognize that the producers had to edit the footage down to fit within a one hour time slot, including commercials - and in this, they've succeeded admirably; the pacing never flags, and an enormous amount of information is presented in that 50 minutes. Regardless of how extensive your knowledge of Deep Purple is, you are likely to have learned something new by the end. Moreover, the interview footage is complemented by archival photographs and performance clips from the era, including rarely-seen footage from the May 30, 1973 concert at New York's Hofstra University.

As good as the TV episode is, however, it is in the bonus material that this DVD really shines. Although only a little over 33 minutes of extra footage (making the packaging's claims of a 100 minute running time somewhat exaggerated - it's more like 85 minutes) [Depends how long you dwell in the menus. ;^) Rasmus], some of the best interview material and demonstration playing is to be found here. Maybe A Leo is touched on in a brief segment, and best of all, the live performance clips which are presented in a highly-edited fashion in the TV episode are available here in their entirety, as well as the original promo video for Never Before.

If your interest in Machine Head is strictly about listening to the music, then you should buy the remarkable 2-CD remastered edition instead; however, if you have even the slightest curiosity about what went into the making of the record, or want to learn more about how these talented musicians play, then this superlative DVD is an essential purchase.

5 stars, without hesitation.

Wolf Schneider

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