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Deep Purple, Machine Head, Vinyl Re-issue 2012.
on 24 August 2010
7th November 2012: Update.
To explain: Because I have already reviewed the 2010 version I am not allowed to review a second version so I have added the 2012 vinyl review to my 2010 vinyl review. The 2010 is still attached after the 2012 vinyl review: Confused? Please read on:
Mis-Machined, Machine Head 2012 Vinyl
This is probably not to going to be a very popular review but I hope at least it helps people decide if they want to buy another re-mastered version of Deep Purple's classic album Machine Head on vinyl. My own personal target in purchasing a modern reissue of any album is that I get at least the same quality as the original. If not thumbs down. Mission Impossible?. Music on Vinyl and Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs consistently do it. Therefore, in my view, there should be no reason why other music companies cannot, particularly a company the size of EMI.
The executive summary of this review is that the 2012 release is inferior in audio quality vs the original and therefore not recommended. If you want further details how this conclusion was reached, please read on:
I have been buying vinyl records for over 45years and I consider the original version of this release together with the Made in Japan live record in my top 10 purchases of all time. The original record is special not only for the superb music content but also the audio quality of the pressing, which is amazing considered it was recorded in the hall-way of a hotel. In my opinion Highway Star, Smoke on The Water, Lazy and Space Truckin from Machine Head sound positively different being more raw and energised when recorded live on Made in Japan. One point that has always interested me is that Side 2 on Machine Head is more noticeably louder and has more sonic intensity than Side 1. This I have never found an explanation from many articles, interviews etc I have read over the years.
My interest in purchasing yet another copy of Machine Head is that my original copy has deteriorated in quality and contains the odd pop and crackles. I also recently accidentally damaged Side 2 across Smoke on The Water and Lazy. I purchased the 2010 release from Rhino/WB (reviewed August 2010 on Amazon) with the same aspirations but this fell a little short in audio quality vs the original.
So to the 2012 vinyl release: we get a 12inch re-mastered heavy weight LP (this copy 184g vs 144g original) containing the 7 original songs plus a 7inch copy of Never Before/When a Blind Man Cries. I have reported to Amazon that I felt their description of '2LPs' for this release was misleading and I did initial think it was Machine Head over 2 x 12inch LPs with the single takes on Side 4. The original cover has be reproduced in heavy weight cardboard and the lyric sheet is also included as in the 1972 version. As often common with modern releases, a poor quality paper inner sleeve is supplied which I immediately replaced with a 'Goldring, Exstatic' plastic lined heavy paper, antistatic sleeve to minimise damage on removing from the inner sleeve. The record is reasonable flat and direct from the packaging the background noise at a satisfactory level.
I tested the 2012 vinyl vs original and the 2010 release back to back. Side 1 first then moving back and forward to check out any doubts/concerns before moving to Side 2. Initial test was done at the same amp volume level. I am playing my vinyl on a reasonable system, not ultra high end spec but then not again on a biscuit tin: Rega 7 turn-table with Rega Ahepta, low output, moving coil cartridge through a Whest-Two phonostage. I gave the 2012 vinyl a liquid/vacuum clean prior to the test to make sure we had a level playing field compared to the other 2 records, which had gone through the same process (did slightly improve overall sonic quality). The results: in first place; 1972 original, followed by 2010 Rhino release then the new 2012 version. There is no doubt in my opinion from my tests that this 2012 does match the quality of the original made in 1972.
First observation on 2012: run off on both records Side 1: 2012 17mm vs 7mm width for 1972, then Side 2: 2012, 28mm vs 5mm width for 1972. So the records grooves on the 2012 are significantly narrower accounting for the observed reduced volume at the same amp setting. Not sure why? Must be easier to press?? The overall result is that the 2012 lacks dynamic range, presence, volume and definition of soundstage across the listening area even with the volume adjusted up to the same level as the original. The 2010 Rhino release is closer to the original in sound quality vs the 2012 version. I really wonder if the 2012 has been manufactured from original analogue material? There is some high end dynamics present but it does seemed overall compressed vs the original. Although I have come across recent reissues with more compression evident.
One positive point I can pull from this 2012 release is the fact I finally have 'When a Blind Man Cries' again on vinyl but it probably would have been cheaper seeking out a good second-hand copy. I understand this 2012 release was done without any input from any members of the band and this is clearly evident. It is certainly lacking in quality and substance vs other recent Deep Purple vinyl reissues (Burn, Stormbringer and Come Taste the band). For me I cannot understand why a classic album like this does not have special treatment and loving care like for example the 2011 releases of Fleetwood Mac's, Rumours.
In conclusion: very disappointed with the cost/performance of the this 40th Anniversary vinyl release. OK if you buy it on vinyl at 3 times the price of CD you probably get a better sonic performance but it does not match the audio quality of original made in 1972 nor other recent reissues. My recommendation is if you want a copy of this on vinyl seek out a good second hand copy. I known from my own experience from frequently buying second-hand vinyl that there are plenty copies available at existing record shops and on ebay for ca £10 to £15. Sorry for the bad news and please don't shoot the messenger. I eagerly await the 50th Anniversary release and hope this can replace my aging original.
Deep Purple, Machine Head, Vinyl Re-issue 2010.
I purchased this vinyl version on the belief it was the re-mastered vinyl version of the 1997 CD anniversary edition as I wanted `When A Blind Man Cries' and the Quad mixes on vinyl. Unfortunately it was not but a re-mastered import version of the 1972, which was not really clear from the advertisement at the time (this has now been corrected).
I purchased it from one of the Amazon market-place sellers, Unique - Place who to their credit provided an absolute magnificent Customer Service. The first copy arrived with bad surface scratches across Smoke on the Water and Lazy, which sounded badly. They responded very quickly and sent me a replacement while allowing me to keep the damaged vinyl thus saving me from the hassle of re-packaging and posting etc. I still have my original copy on the Purple record label I purchased on release in 1972, which is in excellent condition and the re-mastered 1997 double CD with the remixes and quad tracks. This album is one of my favourite rock albums of all time and I still play it frequently on vinyl even after 38 years. It still sounds fresh and alive, a real masterpiece. So although not planned to have specifically the original 7 track re-master version I decided it would be interesting to compare vs the original vinyl.
This 2010 import is released on the Warner Bros (Rhino) record label on heavyweight vinyl (this copy weighted 188g vs the original at 144g). The original packaging is restored with a significantly stronger double gatefold cover to support the heavier vinyl. The cover is a matt finish rather than the gloss finish of my original UK version. The inner sleeves are thick paper covered with plastic, which is a joy to see and not always standard on new vinyl releases. Now to the sound quality, it is compressed vs the original. I use three critical test comparisons on this album: (1) The start of Smoke on the Water, guitar, organ, drum then bass build up across the speakers before the vocals come in; all with less clarity and impact vs the original. (2) Start of Lazy and the organ intro then guitar exchange; high frequency sound of the organ much more detail and intensity on the original. (3) Introduction drum roll on `Pictures of Home' much more detail and impact on the original. OK this reissue is not a total disaster. Not to be too critical, may be without the original as direct comparison, I would not have noticed any significant differences just from memory. I did clean both versions with the VPI cleaning machine to ensure a fair test and remove any silicone processing residues off the new version but the sound gap is still evident.
In conclusion, this imported re-issue is well-packaged and pressed on heavyweight vinyl. Its sound quality is inferior to the original UK vinyl record but it is still reasonable. I still believe vinyl is the best format to listen to this classic rock album. Therefore, I recommend as a first step to check out if a reasonably priced, good quality second hand original UK pressing is available. If not then go for this reissued version.