What a great band name - John Huxley's Hot Stomach
West Germany had a very active recording scene during the 1960s and 1970s and as you'd expect, much of the output was pure crap. And that leads you to the oddly titled John Huxley's Hot Stomach. I've never been able to find any kind of biographical information on this instrumental outfit so I'm guessing they were a studio entity with namesake John Huxley nothing more than an English sounding nameplate meant to appeal to a happenin' crowd.
This is just speculation on my part, but based on the paltry liner notes, 1975's "Guitar Explosion" seems to have been the brainchild of German composer, keyboardist and producer Günther Eric Thoner. I say that because Thorner was credited with writing most of the eight tracks. I've never done any research on the man, but Thoner was apparently a pretty prolific guy with a lengthy musical career that stretched back to the mid-1960s when he was a member of The Jay Five. He recorded with Charly Antolini's Power Dozen and up until his death in 2001 accumulated an impressive catalog of solo efforts under a dizzying slew of alias.
An all instrumental set, "Guitar Explosion" offered up a mixture of updated classical material (Aram Khatschaturian's 'Sabre Dance') and more modern Thoner originals with an emphasis on guitar arrangements. That emphasis on guitars was somewhat ironic for a guy who was best known as a keyboard player) and had previously released a keyboard-dominated album - 1974's "Piano Explosion". Most of the set sported a distinctive rock feel, but with the possible exception of 'Cumeba' and 'Dragster' this was music as a commercial product, rather than music as art. In fact, every time I play the album it reminds me of those 1960s psychpolitation albums like Animated Egg, or The Firebirds. There was certainly an impressive degree of musical talent here, but there wasn't much in the way of soul.
(BASF catalog number 10 21455-9)
- Hum, Thoner's adaptation of the traditional 'Hava Nagila' was certainly different. The basic melody was left intact, but to be honest, the updated rock instrumentation didn't add much to the song. Imagine Gene Simmons and Kiss doing an instrumental cover of the tune and you'd have a feel for what this one sounded like. The song actually turned more interesting during the last section when they briefly abandoned the melody and went off on a fuzz guitar powered romp, but then it was back the the main melody. rating: ** stars
- Probably the album's standout performance, built on a nice guitar riff and some soulful horns, 'Cumeba' was a surprisingly funky workout rating: **** stars
- 'Dragster' was another surprising performance - in this case a bluesy, double tracked guitar-propelled rocker that might have fit well on an Allman Brothers (if they'd dropped the horn arrangement). One of the few outright rockers on the album and quite enjoyable. rating: *** stars
- 'Hora Staccato' started out promisingly enough with some Stax-styled horns, but then morphed back to it's roots which I think were with composer/violinist Grigoras Dinocu who wrote the original piece inspired by a Romanian folk dance. To my ears it didn't sound all that different than the opening 'Hava Nagila'. rating: ** stars
- 'Hummelflug' sounded like an attempt to recreate Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Flight of the Bubblebee' without having to pay for the copyright charges. The only saving grace here was the mid-song section that featured a nice Pink-Floyd-ish lead guitar section and a tasty bass solo. rating: ** stars
- I'm guessing something got lost in the translation since 'Not So Ballad' didn't make much sense as a title. Musically this ballad wasn't half bad, sounding like something you might have encountered on an ABC television series. Curiously, about half way through the track the song abruptly shifted gears into an up-tempo rock arrangement that sounded like the theme music for a mid-1970s television show .... nice fuzz guitar solo. rating: *** stars
- 'Cul De Sac' found Thoner returning to a more conventional rock orientation and were it not for the horn arrangements, complete with pounding drums, organ, and fuzz guitar, this one would have sounded pretty impressive. Unfortunately the horns effectively wrecked the tune. rating: ** stars
The album ended with an updated version of Aram Khatschaturian's 'Sabre Dance' (translated as 'Sabeltanz'). The instantly recognizable melody remained intact, though it was kind of fun to hear a fuzz guitar rolling through the tune. rating: ** stars
To be honest, there's nothing original or particularly impressive here, so I can't give it a ringing endorsement, but there is something oddly fascinating in these grooves.
"Guitar Explosion" track listing:
1.) Hava Nagila (instrumental) (traditional - G.E. Thoner) - 4:31