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Deep Purple’s Machine Head 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition Features New Stereo, Dolby Atmos & 5.1 Surround Mixes Plus Live Sessions, Vinyl and More… 

Mark Smotroff continues his deep dive into the new 50th Anniversary super deluxe edition of Deep Purple’s Machine Head..


By Mark Smotroff

The new 50th anniversary super deluxe edition boxed set celebrating pioneering British hard rock band Deep Purple’s landmark album Machine Head offers deep wonders for hard-core and casual fans alike. Featuring 3CDs, 1 Blu-ray Disc (containing high resolution audio in Dolby Atmos, 5.1 surround and Quadrophonic sound) plus a smoke color vinyl edition, the set includes new mixes created by Dweezil Zappa.

For more information on the vinyl LP experience, please visit Analog Planet (click here) where I reviewed the 50th Anniversary vinyl Machine Head in quite extensive detail.  In short: I like the new mix  very much as it expands on the sound while honoring the original intent of the music.

The Blu-ray enclosed in the 50th anniversary Machine Head set is fascinating because it not only includes a new Dolby Atmos remix created by Dweezil Zappa, but it also includes the original quadraphonic version of the album as mixed in 1974.

Having both mixes on the same disc is a fascinating experience because you can easily switch between the different mixes to gain a better perspective as to what is going on and better appreciate the intention of each approach.

Zappa’s new Dolby Atmos mix of Deep Purple’s Machine Head offers a very pleasing surround experience overall.  Perhaps it’s biggest strength could be considered it’s strongest weakness to some fans of surround sound. 

Multi-channel sound can be a bit of a two-edged sword to some artists with regards to finding and achieving a pleasing balance between creative freedom and presenting the music in its best possible light. Groups like The Flaming Lips and Queen have historically been quite adventuresome in their surround mix approaches. Others, such as The Rolling Stones, have generally avoided it entirely for fear their music would fall apart in the face of their tight two-channel stereo mixes.  

When you put on the Atmos mix of Machine Head — which is presented in 24-bit, 48 Hz fidelity – you will hear the core of the band largely in the upfront channels. Producer Dweezil Zappa tastefully employs the rear channels for ambience and periodic solos, and special effects moments. But, in general, the music is presented front and center as an expansion of the new Stereo mix. The additional height channels deliver room ambience, cymbal splashes and such.

Curiously, but perhaps not surprisingly, the original Quad mix of Machine Head is at times much more experimental and aggressive with its levels of immersion.

This is very apparent right from the opening track “Highway Star” which brings in the drums from behind the listener. Personally, I love this kind of mix because it’s fun and different and immersive and entirely not what is to be expected. It also fails at times, with certain elements getting buried in its own enthusiasm along the way.  

I do understand how some listeners have trouble with very immersive and at-times aggressive/playful mixing styles when it comes to multi-channel music. I have actually met some surround music fans who loathe mixes which do not deliver a conventional live band sound stage (ie. Drums and bass up front, locked in dead center, guitars and keyboards left-right, vocals in the center channel, etc.).

Deep Purple Machine Head Remix Producer/Engineer Dweezil Zappa

Oddly, the Quad mix of Machine Head is delivered in a resolution four times that of the new Dolby Atmos mix at 192 kHz and 24-bits! (see photo following). I am not sure why this was done, but the sonic difference is really very apparent:  the high-end in particular is more open and bright compared to the Dolby Atmos mix. It is too bad that the producers of the final Blu-ray Disc didn’t include a higher resolution version of the Atmos mix, but there you have it.  I have seen this occurrence on other recent Atmos audio-only mixes. It is a thing, as they say.  

Another curiosity comes down to the sequencing of the tracks as there seems to be a little bit of inconsistency across the set in general.

For example, on the new LP version of Machine Head, the producers opted to Include the B-side “When A Blind Man Cries” as the second to last track on side two. Thus the flow of the new vinyl is different than the 1972 original, but it actually works in this instance, giving the listener somewhat laid back interlude before the final rocket into the stratosphere that is “Space Truckin’.” 

On the Dolby Atmos mix, “When A Blind Man Cries” appears after “Space Truckin’.”  This is interesting because it seems to mirror the running order of the  original quad edition which — like the original LP — does not include that song at all. We thus don’t get to hear it in original quad. However, the set producers did include a 5.1 surround sound mix — by Paul Klingberg — of that and two other songs from the album, which can be accessed from the Blu-ray. Got all that? It’s a bit of a confusing mixed bag (however cool said mixed bag may be!).

Either way both versions of Machine Head sound very good and make for a fun variation on the Stereo mix. My only complaint here is that the new and original stereo mixes were left off this new Blu-ray Disc. That would have made this much more complete for fans of the format.

CD BONUSES 

The super deluxe edition Machine Head boxed set fortunately at least includes a CD containing the new 2024 Zappa remix in Stereo as well as the original 1972 mix fully remastered. 

This is a very handy, making it easy to compare and contrast the different versions of the album.  Both versions on the CD sound very good (again, I only wish this had been replicated on the Blu-ray Disc).

From the official press release commemorating this new set, we learn a bit more about the live CDs: 

“The Super Deluxe Edition also contains two captivating live performances. The first, recorded on March 9, 1972, at the Paris Theatre in London, captures the group’s unrivaled stage presence during the “Machine Head Tour.” The second, previously unreleased, was recorded in April 1971 at the Montreux Casino in Switzerland. The band planned to record Machine Head there that December, but the venue burned down right before the sessions began, an event immortalized in “Smoke On The Water. In the aftermath, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, keyboardist Jon Lord, singer Ian Gillan, bassist Roger Glover, and drummer Ian Paice relocated to the nearby Grand Hotel (empty for the winter season) to record the album. Despite the chaos, the band managed to create its most successful album ever, topping the U.K. album chart and cracking the Top 10 in the U.S., earning a double platinum certification in 1986.”

The original 1971 recordings captures Deep Purple performing at the Montreux Casino opening for Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention just before the tragic fire broke out. Be forewarned: the sound is not very good on this disc but it is included and presented as an important historical artifact. Once you get used to sound quality it is easy to sit back and enjoy the performance.  

Fortunately, the sound on the other disc is a much higher fidelity and properly mixed 1972 era concert which finds the band rocking very hard, presenting the new material to audiences. The group sounds even more muscular here just in how they are playing. They were clearly riding a wave of growth as a band unit! 

Some of my favorite moments on the live CDs are the non-LP tracks performed such as Little Richard’s “Lucille” which they hit fully out of the ballpark. I also enjoyed their take on The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black,” which made me wonder if The Animals’ Eric Burdon ever sat in with them on it — for those not in the know, Burdon recorded a pretty great version of that tune on 1967’s Winds Of Change album.

In conclusion, the new 50th Anniversary boxed set celebrating Deep Purple’s Machine Head is a great release. For the approximately $80 price of entry you get multiple versions of the album — again, new Stereo mix on vinyl, new and original Stereo on CD, new Dolby Atmos and original Quad on Blu-ray Disc — plus a booklet with informative essays and terrific photography from the time period. They have even reproduced the fold-out lyric sheet / poster which came with original editions of the album. If you are a fan of the Deep Purple and this album, the 50th Anniversary set is essential.

[Mark Smotroff has been reviewing music at AudiophileReview for many years but can also be found at AnalogPlanet.com. In the past he has written for Sound & Vision, DISCoveries, EQ, Mix and many more.  An avid vinyl collector and music enthusiast who has also worked in marketing communications for decades you can learn  more about his background at LinkedIn.]

MACHINE HEAD: SUPER DELUXE EDITION

LP Track Listing

LP One: Dweezil Zappa 2024 Remix

Side One

1. “Highway Star”

2. “Maybe I’m A Leo”

3. “Pictures Of Home”

4. “Never Before”

Side Two

1. “Smoke On The Water”

2. “Lazy”

3. “When A Blind Man Cries” – B-side 

4. “Space Truckin’”

CD Track Listing

CD One: Dweezil Zappa 2024 Remix

1. “Highway Star”

2. “Maybe I’m A Leo”

3. “Pictures Of Home”

4. “Never Before”

5. “Smoke On The Water”

6. “Lazy”

7. “Space Truckin’”

8. “When A Blind Man Cries” – B-side 

2024 Remaster

9. “Highway Star”

10. “Maybe I’m A Leo”

11. “Pictures Of Home”

12. “Never Before”

13. “Smoke On The Water”

14. “Lazy”

15. “Space Truckin’”

CD Two: In Concert ’72

1. Introduction

2. “Highway Star”

3. “Strange Kind Of Woman”

4. “Maybe I’m A Leo”

5. “Smoke On The Water”

6. “Never Before”

7. “Lazy”

8. “Space Truckin’”

9. “Lucille”

10. “Maybe I’m A Leo” – soundcheck

CD Three: Montreux ’71

1. “Swiss Yodel” *

2. “Speed King” *

3. “Strange Kind Of Woman” *

4. “Into The Fire” *

5. “Child In Time” *

6. “Paint It Black” *

7. “Wring That Neck (Hard Road)” *

8. “Black Night” *

9. “Lucille” *

Blu-ray (Audio Only)

Dweezil Zappa 2024 Atmos Remix

1. “Highway Star” *

2. “Maybe I’m A Leo” *

3. “Pictures Of Home” *

4. “Never Before” *

5. “Smoke On The Water” *

6. “Lazy” *

7. “Space Truckin’” *

8. “When A Blind Man Cries” – B-side *

1974 U.S. Quad Mix

9. “Highway Star”

10. “Maybe I’m A Leo”

11. “Pictures Of Home”

12. “Never Before”

13. “Smoke On The Water”

14. “Lazy”

15. “Space Truckin’”

Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound Mixes

16. “When A Blind Man Cries” – B-side

17. “Maybe I’m A Leo”

18. “Lazy” 

* previously unreleased

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