Gregg Diamond’s Bionic Boogie 1978 Hot Butterfly

6 Jul

 

Small snippet below from Brian Chin’s Liner notes

“With enthusiasm
running high after the club success of his 1977 concept album Bionic Boogie,
Diamond instantly forgot the just-completed album (as he always did) and began
writing for the next. For the second Bionic Boogie project, Hot Butterfly, he
fashioned a truly unique fusion of funk, romanticism and street-verite. In
“Chains” and “Cream (Always Rises to the Top),” especially, Diamond’s East and
West Village roots were clearly showing. Diamond later called these compositions
a “PG” version of what his imagination actually held, but, to be real, any
number of New York bands of the time, whether glittery, glammy or punkish, would
have wished they could deliver this level of gritty urban flash. As for the
songs’ tone of surrealistic sleaze, you can just forget about competition. There
was none. And to think that these lyrics were delivered with romance and gospel
warmth in the matchless lead and assembled voices of Luther Vandross, Cissy
Houston,Zachary Sanders and David Lasley!

Vandross and Diamond met at Philadelphia’s
Sigma Sound Studio, where Luther, just tagging along with friends Robin Clark
and Carlos Alomar hired on David Bowie’s Young Americans sessions, was overheard
by Bowie improvising the “I heard the news today, oh boy” lick in the chorus of
the title song, and found himself pulled right into the vocal booth. Teaming
with Gregg as an unsigned featured vocalist, after two unsuccessful Cotillion
albums, Luther was immediately cast in his first true star appearance on record.
His suave, assured and fully evolved presence on “Hot Butterfly” not only calls
to mind the Marvin Gaye and Spinners records that echo in the production, but,
more appropriately, recalls the deep impressions left by accomplished actors
cast in unconventional roles under the scripting and direction of innovative
young lions: say, Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, or Burt Reynolds in Boogie
Nights.

Just listen to the songwriting on Hot Butterfly, and you’ll hear
how impressively Diamond ratcheted up his game in rhythmic and compositional
savvy, so often anchored with his own strong-handed piano playing, and his taste
for daredevil string and horn arrangements to finish them off. In “Chains”
alone, Gregg plays with five times the number of ideas typically contained in
today’s sampled dance tracks, and still sounds perfectly tight and coherent. He
had so much to say musically that the club remixes by Jim Burgess – five of the
rarest included in this special expanded edition of the 1978 classic release,
also heard in entirety here – usually made his album tracks half-again as long,
simply by taking the time to break down the complex rhythm and orchestral
arrangements, and take the time to show them off—creating not only dance
momentum, but an emotional or even cinematic or cultural/tribal tableau that
stood out singularly, just as the of the disco era was reaching its apex..”

Eric Carr former drummer for the rock act KISS had this information during an interview about the band he was in Mother Nature/Father Time in the late 1970’s.

“Bionic Boogie was producer Gregg Diamond’s studio creation, and as a result while writing popular material there was no real band – the studio musicians on the three albums recorded with the Bionic Boogie name had included Gregg Diamond, Lance Quinn, Steve Love, Jim Gregory, Alan Schwartzberg, Jimmy Maeulen, amongst other studio musicians.

They would perform the hit material from Bionic Boogie, such as “Cream (Always Rises To The Top),” “Risky Changes,” “Hot Butterfly” and “Chains.” Eric sang “What You Won’t Do For Love.” There has been some confusion of which members had recorded as the band. This was merely a result of the popularity of Bionic Boogie, who had had hits with “Risky Changes” and “Cream (Always Rises To The Top),” two songs which had been mentioned on one of the Bionic Boogie posters appearing with Eric’s band picture. The impersonation by some members of Mother Nature / Father Time allowed the band’s “name” to be in two places at once.

Since Gregg had no band the situation was an ideal way for his albums to be promoted by an unit. According to Gary Dunn, “Bionic Boogie was originally just an album recorded by studio musicians and led by producer Gregg Diamond. Gregg Diamond wrote and arranged the music and hired studio musicians to record it with him. The album was released and was a hit in the disco world although not in the Top 40 world. Since there was really no band per se, Gregg Diamond searched for a band that could sound like the album and who could put on a good live show. I don’t remember the story of how he hooked up with Mother Nature/Father Time. We each earned $100 each per concert and Greg and the booking agency made the rest. The first album came out before I joined the group, probably in late 1978. The second album was out and selling well when I joined. I have never heard anyone refer to the third album but there was one. The third album came out in the fall of 1979 and completely flopped. I thought it was good but disco was on its way out at that time. The band had told me that they had been told that they would play on the second album but that never happened. Gregg Diamond kept using the same studio musicians for recording” (Byron Fogle). At a time when their own careers seemed not to be building, the Bionic Boogie gigs provided a paycheck.”

According to Eric’s 1980 resume, some clarity can be found for the Bionic Boogie connection, “During this time the band did some road work as ‘Bionic Boogie’ a Gregg Diamond disco studio band” (Res’80) – some people probably took this to mean that he’d played on the album(s). His band’s appearances as “Bionic Boogie” were something of a high-point for Eric in the late 1970s. However, the situation as a band with their own music and identity was pretty much downhill, though he and the band continued to persevere.

In an interview with Gary Dunn who was a band member of Eric’s during this period up until he left Bionic
Boogie for Flasher in 1979.

BF: How many live shows did Bionic Boogie perform? Can yourecall some of your
fondest memories of those shows?

GD: I began playing gigs with the
band in May of 1979. I think my first gig with them was at the Roseland Ballroom
in New York City as Bionic Boogie. I remember that
Luther Vandross was backstage that night. He was one of the studio
musicians on the Bionic Boogie albums.

He had not yet emerged as a solo
artist in his own right. I would estimate that between May and August of that
year we played about 20 Bionic Boogie concerts. During this time we played at the
New York Coliseum in Manhattan at a big Disco Expo that lasted fo rseveral days
with a large number of groups. We played the Calderone Concert Hall in Hempstead,
New York, Symphony Hall in Newark,New Jersey with Evelyn “Champagne” King,
Disney World in Orlando and many other places as well. These concerts
were promoting the successful second album. I don’t know how many concerts they
had played prior to that. There was a lull in Bionic Boogie concerts after that.
We thought it would pick up again when the third album was released later that
year. However, the album flopped and I think we only played one Bionic Boogie
concert after that in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

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