The Sweet Inspirations

Hot Butterfly

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Lauded for their tremendous efforts as a girl group session act throughout the 1960s, Sweet Inspirations made their own mark with two LPs and a string of hits during the late '60s and early '70s, before disappearing under the radar until 1979, when they resurfaced on RSO with Hot Butterfly. Now down to a trio of founder member Myrna Smith, with Gloria Brown and Sylvia Shemwell, the revamped Sweet Inspirations re-launched themselves on the tails of Robert Stigwood's near single-handed disco revolution. With Smith and Shemwell evenly trading lead vocal responsibilities, the band powered through a set of lukewarm disco-inflected R&B. Mid-tempo songs with flavor-of-the-year string arrangements are de rigueur from the opening "Hot Fun" to "It's the Simple Things You Do," both songs managing to overcome a desultory slip into oblivion, thanks to the powerful vocal arrangements. Things only become genuinely interesting when Sweet Inspirations sink their teeth into the Norman Whitfield-penned "Do It Right," sounding more comfortable across their fuzzy, grungy version than they do on any other tracks. Elsewhere, "Hot Butterfly" is most notable for its super-smarmy backing vocals -- a surprise, given the song's subsequent history. Less than a year later, Chaka Khan stomped out of the Savoy and revamped it to stellar success as "Papillon (aka Hot Butterfly)." The nuggets are few and far between here, and there are not enough to make this album fly. Sweet Inspirations would have been better served not trying to roll with the times.

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