Covered in obscurity 1 – Deep Purple Machine Head

Covered in obscurity 1 - Machine head


Nowadays it is very popular by record labels to create cover versions of classic albums or a best of collection, where other musicians/groups covers classics.

The idea popped into my mind, that a lot of obscure artist made tons of covers and it would be nice to play around the idea “what if record labels would have made a cover version around the release of the album?” by collecting and arranging covers to “recreate” legendary albums. Meanwhile, I try to present some rarely known hard rock/blues rock/prog bands which fit to the topic of the blog.

There will be two slight difference here in comparison to the blog – I will present some well known groups here, although I try to focus not their well known covers (e.g. Led Zeppelin – You Shook Me), but rare bootlegs or live recordings, where they cover some of their predecessors. On the other hand, such unknown bands will appear here as well, who acted as a cover band, therefore they made no official recordings (thus they would not have a chance to get attention even from obscure collectors). Still, as we shall hear, some of them interpreted classics uniquely or spiced up them with some jams, so they definitely worth to be remembered!

The first album covered within these topics became Deep Purple’s 1972 classic, Machine Head. No surprise that this album became covered, as it was the most successful album of the Mark II lineup (Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Richie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Ian Paice), partly due to their best known hit, Smoke on the Water on it. The other tracks are also became classics and it is good to see, that even the less known track from the album (Never Before, Pictures of Home) grabbed the attention of some bands and decided to cover it.

If you wish to catch up with the original recording, you can do that here. Otherwise continue reading and try to catch the Highway Star!

1.a Die Puhdys – Highway Star

Die Phudys (named by the first letter of the founders, Peter Meyer – keyboard; Harry Jeske – bass guitar; Udo Jacob – drums and Dieter Hertrampf – guitar and singer) history goes back to 1965, but they call themselves under this name only from 1969. Started as a cover band, they worked up their position to the best known rock band in East Germany – and they still around (although they intend to finish their career at the beginning of 2016). As they made a lot of original songs as well (above some Deep Purple/Uriah Heep/Led Zeppelin cover), you can meet with them later in the Rat Salad Residual blog.

The Phudys’ cover of Highway Star is unique as it was released only one year after the release of Deep Purple’s original. The sound (expcept Dieter Hertrampf’s voice) and the style very close to the original studio recording. However, Peter Meyer sadly decided for some reason to avoid playing Jon Lord’s frenetical solo, thus this version lacks it.

More to read:

1.b Point Blank – Highway Star

Why Highway Star appears twice in the list? Well, I decided to add Point Blank’s recording here as – in comparison to Die Phudys – they rather catched the live essence of Deep Purple’s classic: bit faster tempo, high wails, organ solo (yes, they did that!). Plus, they utilized the band’s two guitarists (Kim Davis & Rusty Burns) and played the legendary solo in twin guitar style!

Point Blank is also interesting from the point of view as an obscure southern rock/AOR band. The band was founded in Texas in 1974 and until their disband in 1981 they released six studio band. Started their career as a southern rock group, then shifted towards hard rock and AOR, it definitely worth a better look later in a frame of a Rat Salad Residuals post.

For now, enjoy the great cover from their “The Hard Way” album!

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2.  Van Halen – Maybe I’m a Leo

Van Halen is definitely not unknown (even if you did not met with them yet, you probably heard Jump , Hot for the Teacher or Ain’t talkin ’bout Love already from them), but their career is mostly documented (and known) from the release of their debut album in 1978. However, the band was active before then, mostly busy in writing and shaping their songs, recording demos and playing gigs in clubs around the USA to gain experience an renown.

The next recording is from this era, when a band acted as a supporting band for a dance contest and therefore, they played covers of popular rock songs (although they covered a KC and a Sunshine band song as well!). Luckily, a record survived this gig and although the sound quality is very bad, it is a remarkable document of the talents of the band. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen’s distorted sound controls the whole song and one might forget about that the original version contained organ playing as well! Eddie took really well Richie Blackmore’s solo, but also shaped it to his style a bit. Alex Van Halen plays even more thighter than Ian Paice (if that is possible at all), but David Lee Roth doesn’t try to take Ian Gillan’s shoes, rather shape the tune to his voice and style. All in all, a great cover of a then lest knonw classic from the Machine Head album.

3. Foxe – Pictures of Home

Foxe is the first really obscure band so far, especially due to the fact that they didn’t release any official record, played only covers and had only a limited local fame around Dartmouth, Canada.

The band was founded in 1970 and went through numerous name and band members change. The solid members seems to be singer-percussionist Dave Aalders (who joined to southern rock group Albatros later, they shall be covered in a Rat Salad Residuals post later) and Dwight Mazmanian  (bass). They played also ELP, Alice Cooper and Uriah Heep covers.

Their cover is very interesting, because they covered Purple’s virtuose style very well, but Foxe’s sound is nearer to the psychedelia, therefore providing us an iteresting thing to listen.

More to read:

4. Sedie Volanti – Never Before

Have you thought Foxe as obscure? Then here comes Sedie Volanti (i.e. Flying Chairs), where almost no information is available at all!

So, what we know about them? They were an italian group in the 70’s and their members were Walter Lenhard (bass, vocal), Guliano Gil Brezza (lead guitar), Giorgio (keyboards), Fernando (drums). They played covers at Maxi Club (in Riccione, Italy) from popular bands like Jethro Tull and Deep Purple.

Above on this, everything is covered by obscurity. When have they been founded? When disbanded (if they did) and why? Had there been any personel changes? Most importantly – why did they covered “Never Before” from the Machine Head album while nobody (not even Purple!) played this song then?

Whatever were the reasons, they covered it  (very well) and for our luck, it was bootlegged as well.

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5.a Victor Bacchetta & in – Smoke on the water

Smoke on the water definitely counts as the best known hit of Deep Purple’s hit around the world. Therefore, not suprisingly, almost everybody covered it – it is easy to play  (especially the legendary opening guitar riffs), the audience quickly recognizes it and does not requires extreme vocal range, neither.

Although it is fairly easy to play, most band did not take it “seriously”, they did not covered it (at least during the 70’s) by adapting to their styles or recreate the song, using it as a frame for creative ideas.

However, one really unique expection was made by the italian soft rock/jazz composer Victor Bach (alias Victor Bacchetta), who recorded his arrangement of this classic song in 1973.

This cover is absolutely superb, but especially for prog and jazz lovers! First of all, it is an istrumental cover, where the lead vocals were replaced by piano. The song continoues with somewhat funky parts, then with  a smoking rock guitar solo – but as ending, Mr. Bach even arranged latin-funk cover of the regularly long Blackmore-Lord guitar-keyboard closing jam!

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5.b Gillan – Smoke on the water

For those, who rather like the live energy captured during the Purple’s Mark II era, I recommend the Gillan jam below.

Okay, Ian Gillan himself is hardly counts as an obscure artist (especially as he recorded the song with Deep Purple!), but his solo career is probably one of the lest known among the members from the original band. Which is regrettable, because he recorded such great hard rocking songs as the Secret of the Dance, Mr. Universe or the balladistic Fighting Man, which could all stand the standards of Purple.

During the recording sessions of the second Gillan album, guitarist Bernie Tormé started to play around for a fun and it developed into a great jam of Smoke on the Water! Tormé’s guitar growls, he captures the essence of Blackmore’s tone improvisation as well he replies to Ian Gillan’s voice. Gillan himself is in a great form, but also the record is a great document of the change of his voice between the Mark II era in the 70’s and the Perfect Strangers sessions.

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6. Murasaki – Lazy

Murasaki (Purple in Japan) is Japan’s No.1 Deep Purple fan band. Since 1970, George Murasaki and his family members (in the current lineup, even two of his sons!) and other musicians play mostly a very Purple-influenced hard rock.  As mostly they wrote and recorded numerous own songs, they will be presented in detail in the columns of a Rat Salad Residual post.

Next to the own songs however, they had the habit to record a Deep Purple cover by every album. In their debut album (Starship) in 1975 they selected the most rythm and blues based song from Purple’s discography – Lazy.
The result is a pretty decent cover (George Murasaki’s style is heavily influenced by Jon Lord’s playing style) with magnificent solos and long jams – although lacks the harp solo.

More to read:

7. Steve Bishop and the Chessmen – Space Truckin’/The Mule/Lazy

Steve Bishop and the Chessmen is another obscure player in this post.
Sadly, almost no information is available about them. Based on the description of the youtube link and Steve Bishop’s obituary, it seems, Bishop was a talented guitarist (different from the US-singer/songwriter Stephen Bishop!) who played in local bands and played covers of well known hits. The Chessmen is presented here, which was a short-lived group, disbanded in 1973. Only drummer Matt Abts stayed in the rock scene, later being the member of the blues rocker Gov’t Mule band.

It is very sad, that almost nothing is known about them, as this recording is by far my favourite from this post! First of all, the band members (Steve Bishop – guitar, Matt Abts – drums, George Rivers – organ and piano and Steve Hatfield – vocals and harmonica) are all masters of their trade and play very virtuosely and with fire at the same time! Secondly, they play long jams, where their abilities almost reaches their influencers (Bishop’s play is as jazzy as Blackmore’s!). Thirdly, they not only play Space Truckin from the closing track of the Machine Head album, but also do a medley with the Mule  from the Fireball album and closing their jams (and this post) with a superb rendition of Lazy (with proper screams and harp solo this time!)

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