The unini­ti­at­ed often think of dis­co as a gen­re of songs and not a gen­re of albums.  However, the con­nois­seur knows that the disco’s tru­ly skilled pro­duc­ers — Giorgio Moroder and the Nile Rodgers/Bernard Edwards team, to name just a few — could main­tain a var­ied blend of groove and melody at album length and cre­ate an expe­ri­ence that was com­pelling from the first beat to the last.

Gregg Diamond was a mem­ber of that exclu­sive club, announc­ing his tal­ents as an LP-length dis­co auteur on the clas­sic Andrea True Connection debut album, a lush but dri­ving opus that spawned the crossover pop hit “More, More, More.”  However, his skills would find their fullest expres­sion with a stu­dio project he dubbed Bionic Boogie.

Hot Butterfly was the sec­ond Bionic Boogie album and offered six songs that are all wor­thy of dis­cothèque spins.  The title track is the obvi­ous clas­sic and kicks the album off in high style: a jazzy piano and bass groove holds down the beat as swirling strings and harp cre­ate a heart-tug­ging back­drop for a stel­lar vocal from a pre-solo star­dom Luther Vandross.  He sings of lost love with the grace of a Hollywood idol, cre­at­ing a swoon-induc­ing roman­tic mood that is sup­port­ed nice­ly by expert back­ing vocals that empha­size his phras­ing at key moments and add love­ly coun­ter-har­monies when added ear-can­dy is nec­es­sary.

However, there’s much more to this cult-fave album than just the title track.  Each of the remain­ing songs pur­sues a slight­ly tougher sound, mix­ing the ele­gance and jazzy flair of the title track with grit­tier rhythms and the atti­tude of a New Yorker.  “Chains” is a killer dis­co jam, with the vocal­ists cre­at­ing a polyrhyth­mic blend of group-vocal hooks over a track that boasts a sur­pris­ing fuzz gui­tar hook and stac­ca­to horns that form a call-and-respon­se pat­tern with the soul­ful vocals.  “Fess Up To The Boogie” is anoth­er funky entry that off­sets the “Arabian Nights gone funk” sce­nar­io of its lyrics with a pound­ing arrange­ment where the rhythm sec­tion, piano and group vocals work togeth­er to cre­ate a relent­less­ly per­cus­sive feel.

Elsewhere, Diamond and com­pa­ny add fur­ther spice to the mix with a pair of elec­tric piano-dri­ven tracks that have rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent feels.  The first is “When The Shit Hits The Fan,” which uses the elec­tric piano to cre­ate a “New Orleans goes new wave” rhythm as the group vocals affect a ner­vous, stac­ca­to style to deliv­er lyrics that poke fun at the beat-dri­ven hedo­nism of the dis­co scene.  The oth­er is “Cream (Always Rises To The Top),”  which uses a con­stant­ly ascend­ing elec­tric-piano riff as the lynch­pin of a smooth yet funky groove that cre­ates dra­mat­ic ten­sion with skit­ter­ing strings and churn­ing gui­tar riffs.  It’s worth not­ing that the lat­ter song has daz­zling­ly intri­cate vocal arrange­ments, as does sec­ond-side open­er “Paradise.”  However, the lat­ter tune takes top vocal hon­ors on the album thanks to an finale where lay­ers of back­ing vocals dove­tail to cre­ate a jazz-inflect­ed com­plex­i­ty.

In short, Hot Butterfly is a great exam­ple of dis­co in album form; a real work of crafts­man­ship that is acces­si­ble enough to be instant­ly dance­able but com­plex enough in its musi­cal­i­ty to stand up to mul­ti­ple lis­tens.  It has also final­ly got­ten the CD it deserves thanks to an excel­lent new edi­tion from Funky Town Grooves.  The new disc boasts stel­lar mas­ter­ing from dis­co leg­end Tom Moulton, who avoids “make it loud­er” mind­set of mod­ern remas­ter­ing to cre­ate a warm, nat­u­ral sound­scape that main­tains the analog integri­ty of the orig­i­nal record.

It’s also worth not­ing that this new edi­tion boasts a quar­tet of vin­tage remix­es by Diamond and dee­jay Jim Burgess that bring out fresh angles on a trio of the album’s tracks.  Diamond’s arrange­ments on the album ver­sions are dense with lay­ers of frills so he and Burgess had plen­ty of mate­ri­al to work with.  The result­ing remix­es retain the album’s musi­cal vig­or while high­light­ing riffs and hooks that got buried in the rich­ness of the album’s sound.  For instance, Diamond’s rework­ing of “Fess Up The Boogie” strips down the arrange­ment to give it a more propul­sive feel that high­lights some nag­ging rhythm-gui­tar hooks while Burgess’s take on “Hot Butterfly” weaves in an extend­ed break to high­light the jazzy intri­ca­cy of the back­ing vocals.

The com­bi­na­tion of gor­geous sound and the val­ue enhance­ment of the remix­es makes Funky Town Grooves’ edi­tion of Hot Butterfly a must for dis­co stu­dents.  Veterans will val­ue the classy treat­ment it gives to a vin­tage gem and new­bies will get a grand intro­duc­tion to the dance-floor genius of Gregg Diamond.