Deep Purple's classic album "Machine Head" was recorded in the Grand Hotel in Montreux, Switzerland, after a fire at the city's entertainment complex where they were scheduled to record caused them to seek another space. Since this hotel in Switzerland was empty during the winter, they were granted a right to use the hallways and corridors to complete the album. Thus, the song "Smoke on the water" sums up the story quite nicely. This album rocks from start to finish with additional classic tunes including “Highway Star,” “Lazy,” and “Space Truckin’.”
Collectors should note that there have been two different surround sound versions of "Machine Head" released to date, the DVD-Audio version and the SACD version. There is a distinction between the two mixes. The DVD-Audio version contains many differences in the songs, compared with the original versions. Guitar solos are not the same either and some songs are longer than the original versions. This Japan SACD contains a 5.1 channel remix which mimics the "original" quad mix available on vinyl. A previous version omitted the center channel, which is now included along with the deepest bottoms being directed to the sub-woofer. However, the multi-channel mix is extremely bass heavy, which may appeal to some listeners who enjoy the sheer power of thundering hard rock music, but too boomy for this reviewer’s taste. The stereo mix is fantastic, clean, and well balanced. There is a fresh snap on the snare and pleasant brightness to the guitars that provide a wonderful stereo experience. This version includes a B-side bonus track of "When A Blind Man Cries," in both stereo and multi-channel.
While for my ears the surround mix suffers from too much bass, it provides wonderful clarity of vocals, guitar solos, and makes good use of all of the channels. On smoke in the water, the first guitar takes its spot in the front left, while the second guitar is placed in the right rear, which gives space for the drums and bass up front, and depth to the mix. Some tasty movement of instruments occurs in a few places, allowing instruments to move through or away from the listener. Some minor differences exist between the stereo and multi-channel mix, including a breakdown with drums and keyboards in the MC mix at the end of Smoke on the Water, versus the drums fading out in the stereo mix which we all heard over the past nearly forty years. Surround sound remix produced by John Kellogg, remix by Paul Klingberg at Magnavision Studios, Santa Monica, CA. Released by Warner Music Japan back in 2011.
UPDATE 2024: Back when this article was first written, collectors were advised to pick up this fairly priced import reissue instead of paying an arm and a leg for a used copy in the US market. However, years later it is still readily available. For lovers of hard rock, Machine Head by Deep Purple is absolutely a must have in one’s collection.
This edition released August 16, 2011.
Multi-Channel Hybrid SACD with 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo DSD layers. Also available for streaming with different mastering.
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About the Author
Wesley is a lifelong music enthusiast. He started his career in the recording industry in New York City as an audio engineer, producer, and studio manager. Subsequently he toured across America as a guitarist with the short-lived band Land's Crossing. After many years in the technology sector and amassing a substantial vinyl and CD collection, he delved into immersive audio and created Hi-Res Edition to share with other listeners about the sound quality and discrete mixes available on many formats. He recently upgraded his system to 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos and continues to seek out and share about the best sounding releases.