Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1967-68)
- Dennis DeRespino -- vocals keyboards, percussion, guitar
- Russell Leslie -- vocals, drums, percussion
- Mitch London -- vocals, bass, percussion
- Jack Mieczkowski -- vocals, guitar, sitar
- none known
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: Hypnotic 1
Country/State: Long Island, New York
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: 4929
Every now and then I stumble across an album that doesn't quite knock my socks off, but keeps finding its way back to my turntable. Surprisingly they tend to be albums that others haven't gushed over. Long Island's Bit'a Sweet is a perfect example in that most reviews are lukewarm, or outright hostile, but at least to my ears this set kicks the crap out of many higher priced collectables. This is also another one of those ABC releases that seems to have all but vanished the minute it was released.
While Bit'a Sweet was apparently a full fledged band consisting of keyboardist Dennis DeRespino, drummer Russell Leslie, bassist Mitch London and guitarist Jack Mieczkowski, the late Steve Duboff seems to have been the mastermind and driving force behind the group.
Jack Mieczkowski - Mitch London - Dennis DeRespino - Russell Leslie
Originally signed to MGM, the band debuted with a rare 1967 single. If you can find a copy of the 45, be prepared to pay more for it than for their ABC LP.
'Out of Sight Out of Mind' b/w 'Is It On - Is It Off?' (MGM catalog number K-13695).
I'm not sure if the single led to their appearance in Raf Mauro's exploitation film Blonde On a Bum Trip, or vice versa,. Regardless, the band had a cameo in the flick playing 'Out of Sight Out of Mind' in a club scene. The video and sound quality aren't very good (not that the original black and white film was any great shakes in the production quality arena), but someone was kind enough to stick a clip of their performance on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVlXkq06mx8
Signed by ABC, the liner notes to 1968's "Hypnotic 1" credit Duboff with producing, directing, arranging, writing the majority of the material, as well as providing keyboards and percussion. Long-time partner Artie Kornfeld was listed as co-writer on a pair of songs. Musically most of the nine tracks mixed lite-psych with a distinctive top-40 edge and small dollops of experimentation (notably quite a bit of electric sitar, occasional oscillators, phasing, various studio effects and early synthesizer gurgles and gasps). There's nothing particularly original to be found on the collection though it's fun to play spot the influence - some Association-styled harmonies here ('2086'), Felix Cavalerie and the Rascals blue-eyed soul there ('How Can I Make You See), bit of Beatles inspired mysticism (the 'Blue Jay Way'-styled 'Travel'), etc. ... While that may not sound real promising, those comments are actually meant as a positive endorsement. The album is nothing but fun and the band turn in a great cover of George Harrison's 'If I Needed Someone' (which is erroneously credited as a Lennon and McCartney composition) !!! To be honest the only real disappointments are associated with the band's efforts to get cute - '2086' suffered from some irritating synthesizer noise and a cloying pseudo-music hall sound, while the heavily phased 'Monday - Tuesday' sounds like Alvin and the Chipmunks trying to cover some obscure 1920s-era song after spending the afternoon huffing helium. All told though, a pleasant and still affordable major label surprise. Shame they never got a chance to record anything else.
1" track listing:
1.) Speak Softly (Steve Duboff) - 5:10 rating: **** stars
'Speak Softly' started out as a surprisingly sweet pop ballad with the vocals actually reminding me a bit of a cross between a bunch of drunk Gregorian monks and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. And then about a minute and a half in Jack Mieczkowski's hypnotic electric sitar riff jumped to the front and the song went head over heels into deep psychedelic territory, before abruptly returning to it's original pop ballad roots. I suspect George Harrison would have approved of the lysergic-tinged sitar solo. Simply a way cool way to start the album.
2.) 2086 (Steve Duboff - Art Kornfeld) - 2:50 rating: *** stars
The spacey sound effects that opened '2086' must have sounded quite cutting edge and bizarre at the time, though the almost Vaudevillian vocals that subsequently kicked in kind of diluted the overall effect. A bit too cutesy for their own good, though that may have been the reason ABC tapped the song as a single. Wonder if these guys knew they had a 45 release in France - let alone with a picture sleeve cover.
- 1968's '2086' b/w 'Second Time' (ABC catalog number 11125)
3.) If I Needed Someone (John Lennon - Paul McCartney) - 3:36 rating: **** stars
After the spacey introduction, it turned out they didn't really mess with the original melody. The arrangement slowed the tune down to a martial pace and upped the lysergic content with some droning group vocals and Mitch London's cool bass. The Harrison-penned original is a classic rocker, but this stands as one of my all time favorite Beatles covers.
4.) With Love (Mitch London - Steve Duboff) - 3:50 rating: *** stars
Opening up with more spacey sound effects, the ballad 'With Love' introduced treated vocals and what sounded like harpsichord moves. Interesting tune that might not have sounded out of place on a Fab Four album had the vocals reflected a British accent.
5.) Monday - Tuesday (Steve Duboff) - 1:50 rating: ** stars
Strange and unnecessary sound collage with an irritating, treated Vaudevillian vocal - it sounded like something The Monkees might have tried to sneak on one of their albums to show they were more than a manufactured entity.
'Diamond Studded Eyes' was a bouncy, almost bubblegum-ish pop tune. Even with the sound effects the song was very commercial and would have made a nice single.
2.) How Can I Make You See (Art Kornfeld - Bob Cowsill - Bill Cowsill) - 2:40 rating: **** stars
I remember thinking this Cowsills cover sounded uncannily like a Young Rascals tune. The vocal had the same blue-eyed soul feel that made Felix Cavaliere such a great singer. Another album highlight and another tune that should have been a single.
3.) Travel (instrumental) (Steve Duboff) - 5:00 rating: **** stars
The album's lone instrumental was also the album's most experimental piece. Featuring some pretty piano, acoustic guitar, and exotic instrumentation, the atmospheric melody sounded like it might have been written for some obscure porn soundtrack. Normally a tune like this would have been nothing more than a throwaway, but this one was quite enjoyable.
4.) A Second Time (Steve Duboff) - 8:30 rating: **** stars
Church organ openings are usually a good sign and that was the case for the closer 'A Second Time' which saw the band throwing all of their musical influences (pop ballad, lysergic sound effects, outright experimentation waltzes, etc.) into the musical basket. Strange, but fascinating, even if it goes on about four minutes too long.
Sadly Duboff died of cancer in February 2004. He was only 63.
And thanks to the internet:
Thanks for the Bit'a Sweet album post. My husband, Mitch London, is the bass player and lead singer in the group. Hopefully he will have time to get back to you soon and give you his comments and thanks. Just so you know, you have the names under the pictures of the band members wrong. Mitch London is the 2nd one and Dennis DeRespino is the 3rd one.
Phyllis Heald London (wife of Mitch London)
copy of the 1968 LP
Hypnotic 1 by Long Island psych rockers Bit 'A Sweet (ABC 640).
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