There was a time when I was obsessed with tribute albums. Didn’t matter if it was Sonny Bono, Love, The Damned, Alice Cooper, R.E.M., Captain Beefheart, The Outsiders, The Troggs, Leonard Cohen and I can go on and on and on, I loved them because it was one way to not only hear new interpretations of songs, but a way to hear your favorite artists covering a song that may or may not have been one of their own influences. For awhile, it seemed Sonic Youth was everywhere. Marking the 40th anniversary of Deep Purple’s Machine Head, Re-Machined<: A Tribute To Deep Purple's Machine Head (Eagle Rock Entertainment) is a way to revive the greatness of that album by having a number of artists record it, song by song.
Since “Smoke On The Water” became the big FM radio hit, the song is covered here twice, first by Carlos Santana & Jacoby Shaddix. Santana’s guitar work is still top notch while Shaddix does the song respectively. Sammy Hagar: say what you want but regardless if its his own band, joining a group that needs a replacement, or hooking up on a new project, he remains one of the best rock vocalists of all time. He gets to do what he does best with Chickenfoot as they take on “Highway Star” in a live setting and make the crowd literally piss on themselves from the excitement.
Glenn Hughes & Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Chad Smith handle “Maybe I’m A Leo”, Black Label Society punch up “Pictures Of Home” with grace, while Kings Of Grace get “Never Before” into a bluesy Bryan Adams-type motif. Flipping to side two…
The second cover of “Smoke On The Water” is handled by Flaming Lips, and if you know what these guys have been capable of doing for almost 30 years, then you know that you must expect the unexpected. Wayne Coyne and crew flip the song into an mushroom-tinged political manifesto, complete with thick and fat Moog’s and… this would be that record you’d find in the back of a used record store, praised not by the owners but mold and ring wear.
Iron Maiden offers up the album’s proper ending with their cover of “Space Truckin’”, and hearing Bruce Dickinson singing this definitely takes the song back home to the grittiness of England, where it originated.
Then things get interesting. When I had heard Metallica were offered a chance to cover a song, I actually thought “watch them do the B-side that was recorded during the Machine Head sessions”, and they did. “When A Blind Man Cries” had always been a song some fans found difficult to find, especially Americans. It was the N-side to “Never Before”, released as a single in the UK and other European countries, but U.S. radio had taken to “Smoke On The Water”, “Highway Star”, “Lazy”, and “Space Truckin’”. James Hetfield becomes a sweet balladeer in the song’s first half before he, Kirk Hammett, Rob Trujillo and Lars Ulrich deliver the crunch that fans have loved for 30 years. As shown in the Cliff ‘Em All home video, Metallica have been Deep Purple fans since the beginning so hearing them do this (and expecting for them to do the non-LP track many still have never heard) is a treat.
The album ends with another cover of “Highway Star”, this time the team of Glenn Hughes and Chad Smith returning with guitarist Steve Vai who, I have to say, is just fucking wicked when he honors Ritchie Blackmore with his solo. I also want to say that I’m glad that he wasn’t given the task to do “Smoke On The Water”, because while everyone knows of his origins with Frank Zappa, it would have been too appropriate for him to play in the song that features the line “Frank Zappa and The Mothers”. Yet when it’s his time to do the solo in “Highway Star”, the former “stunt” guitarist flies into space (as many fans did when Machine Head came out) until the right moment.
While there are a few covers on this that could’ve been better, I still feel Re-Machined was organized properly and executed in fine fashion. Having name artists also helps give this a push, making this more than a casual tribute CD attached to a copy of Mojo magazine. I’m also glad that the producers behind this album didn’t go overboard by asking artists who would have messed up the integrity of this recording, although I’m someone who generally doesn’t mind that but this is a record that means something to hard rock and heavy metal, along with generations of guitarists, singers, bassists, drummers, and organists who made this one of their personal favorites. The twists from Metallica and Flaming Lips are great, and Iron Maiden ending with a bit of pride for the United Kingdom seems only right.