I have fallen in love with the Classic Rock and Metal Hammer exclusive pre-release CDs that come with a magazine, and pins, patches, posters, etc. I was gutted that they lost my order for the new Manowar, but I've been buying them left and right, most recently the new Lynyrd Skynyrd and a new Deep Purple tribute CD to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Machine Head. It's the Machine Head tribute that I am reviewing here.
First up is "Smoke on the Water" by Santana and Jacoby Shaddix. I would not be surprised if this was left over from Santana's covers album, it's the same sort of thing, he adds to the riff and generally over plays. It's good fun, but not an example of super tasteful playing.
The version of "Highway Star" by Chickenfoot is live. Everyone knows I love these guys, and this version does not disappoint. In the magazine, Satch talks about being true to the original solo when he played in Purple, and he uses a pedal to get an organ sound and play Jon's organ solo pretty verbatim, and plays Ritchie's iconic guitar solo exactly. It's a great version.
"Maybe I'm a Leo" is done by Glenn Hughes and Chad Smith. Interestingly, the guitarist, Luis Maldonado, is only credited on the inner booklet. I've not heard of him but according to his website, he's played with John Waite, Glenn Hughes, UFO, James Labrie, and lots more. This was never the greatest song on Machine Head but this is a fun version of it.
Pictures of home is done by Black Label Society, and it has the sludgy feel you'd expect. I love BLS, and this is a decent version, but it's definitely not my favourite on the CD. Ultimately, the BLS feel does not translate as well to this song as I'd hoped.
Next is "Never Before," performed by Kings of Chaos, which is Joe Elliot, Matt Sorum, Duff McKagan and Steve Stevens. Apparently this group grew out of Def Leppard having to pull out of doing it. It's a good version, although the guitar is a lot more subdued than I expected when I saw who was playing it. I guess they were being true to the original, which is not bad. In fact, despite all the comments made in the press, in the magazine, Matt Sorum says they wanted to do "Space Truckin."
The Flaming Lips turn in a version of "Smoke on the Water" that has no guitars on it, and generally tries to take the song to somewhere new. I don't think there's any non-electronic instruments used. I hate it. I can see why they included two versions of the song.
Interesting to me that Glenn Hughes did two songs on here and said that Black Country Communion (BCC) had no time to do one together, but Joe Bonamassa plays "Lazy with Australia's own Jimmy Barnes. Jimmy sings "Too Much Ain't Enough Love" on the latest Bonamassa CD (it's his song), and apparently they cut this at the same time, with Barnsey being the impetus, but I wonder why Joe and Glenn couldn't do something together, I think it's another sign that BCC is ending. But, I digress. This version is epic, I love it. Brad Whitford also plays guitar on it, a fact that I thought was curiously underplayed on the CD and in the magazine. I think this is the best song on the CD. It adds to the original, but tastefully, and takes it over the top.
The heavyweights really weigh in last on this CD. "Space Truckin'" is done by Iron Maiden. They actually have a long history of playing covers, but most of their covers (all on B sides) are obscure enough that I bet a lot of people did not realise at the time. This is a good version, heavier than the original, as you'd expect. Bruce certainly has the pipes to do Gillan. They add their own guitar solos, and they are actually pretty good (if brief).
The last song on the CD proper is Metallica's version of "When A Blind Man Cries," which was of course not on the original release because Ritchie Blackmore thought it did not fit. Metallica do a good job, Hetfield can certainly sing nowadays, and I guess he wants to flex that muscle now that he has it. Kirk's solo is true to the original, before going off do do his own (very tasteful) thing. At the end they go heavy with it, which adds to the version, I think.
The bonus track on the magazine version is another version of "Highway Star," which Steve Vai and Chad Smith apparently had done as an instrumental, and Glenn Hughes added vocals to after Jon Lord's passing, as a tribute to him. Being studio recorded, it's cleaner than the Chickenfoot version, and I probably prefer it. It's nice to see the bonus track be something substantial for the people who paid extra for the magazine edition. Although he embellishes, Steve Vai plays the original solo. Apart from a few guitar noises here and there, he doesn't add much to the song. I don't see how this was ever an instrumental. I'm generally dubious about the promo around CDs like this, they always seem to say "Everyone just chose a different song and it worked out great" and stuff like that. Surely there has to be a CD like this where no-one wants to do a particular song, or more than one want to do the same one? Nevertheless, this is a great CD if you love Deep Purple, or if you love any of the artists on here, which surely covers pretty much everyone who would read this site.