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October 2023
Vol. 23, No. 1


FYI: February 2022

by Bart MendozaFebruary 2022

We kick off 2022 with a look back. First up, A San Diego Desert Island Disc: 30 Favorite Local Songs, followed by reviews of recent releases, plus a look back at those we lost in 2021.
As a record collector, favorites change, sometimes hourly. But if I had to put together a desert island disc of San Diego performers, here are some of the songs I’d want to include. Only one title per artist otherwise several would have more than one included. What’s on your San Diego Desert Island Disc?
30 Tracks


The Bablers: Psychadilly Circus (Big Stir Records)
14 pop tunes influenced by the Beatles, XTC, and the like, featuring lush, intricately arranged songs, with plenty of jangle, powerpop moments, an excess of hooks and harmonies galore: this one’s a grower. Repeated listens really bring out the album’s strengths. The single here is likely “When You Were Growing” with its uplifting climbing, chiming guitar chords, but there are several other contenders including the title track, “Psychadilly Circus” and “Walking on a Sunny Beach,” which in places wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Skylarking. There’s a variety amongst the tracks here that’s refreshing. “Queen of Yesterday” is a melancholy waltz time harmonium led mid-tempo rocker with a dark sounding build, while “All Because of You” is a very nice ballad.  Meanwhile, “Where Were You My Friend” and “Singing with the Bluebird” are finger-picked acoustic ballads as is the Lennon-esque “Child of War,” which adds a cello to the mix. Well produced, written, and performed, Big Stir Records once again comes up with the goods with the Bablers.

Sande Lollis: Being Human (Edge of a Planet Music House)
The basics: 13 heartfelt Americana-tinged tracks on a solo debut from the Enter the Blue Sky leader. One of the last projects helmed by Jeff Berkely at the Mranch-based Ohm Grown Studios, Lollis is featured on vocals, backed by an all-star band that includes drummer Josh Hermsmeier, bassist Rick Nash, keyboardist Josh Weinstein, pedal steel player Ted Stern, and backing vocalist Carissa Lynn Renner, with Berkley himself on guitars. As is to be expected with this crew of players, Being Human sounds fantastic. It’s a Sunday morning record. Reflective lyrics, with a theme of looking back, mean that repeated listens yield more layers. Autobiographical opener “Lift Me Up” is a Petty-esque light folk rocker that finds Lollis in a wistful frame of mine, recalling chapters from life, while the single here is probably “Fallin’ Down,” featuring a down-on-her-luck storyline that’s set to a strong melody. Meanwhile, “Don’t Push Me Around” puts Lollis squarely in pop singer-songwriter mode, indeed I can hear echoes of Joan Armatrading and that opening will make Pink Floyd fans smile. If you are a fan of any of the performers involved (or Enter the Blue Sky), you’ll want to check out Being Human. It’s well worth a listen.

Mystery Machine: She’s Not Mine (Dralasite Records) 7″ EP
Featuring music veterans Ray Brandes, Carl Rusk, Mark Zadarnowski, Bill Calhoun, and David Klowden, the A-side, penned by Rusk, was recorded by this short-lived, mid-1960s inspired band back in 1983 for Voxx records “Battle of the Garage Bands Vol. III.” Now freshly remastered, it’s collected here alongside two B-side tracks “Wood and Smoke” (Brandes) and “Show Me the Way” (a cover of a song by the Free-For-All) available in green, orange, or black vinyl, with postcard inserts and artwork by Darren Grealish, it’s a collectable work of art as much as a great collection of music. An absolute essential addition to the collection of any fan of San Diego’s music history, these musicians or anyone who likes classic Nuggets-era garage rock.

The Reflectors: Faster Action (SNAP! Records)
The basics: A dozen original powerpop tunes evoking the skinny tie spirit of ’79. Most of the songs clock in under three minutes, the Reflectors distilling the songs to the hooks. The whole thing kicks off with the obvious single, “All Made Up,” with a mix of buzzsaw and jangly guitars nicely set to a strong melody, while “Radio Signal” reminds me a bit of The Spring Collection, with a guitar riff matched to the vocal line. Then there’s “Shivers and Scars,” a nice pounding rocker with anthemic shout-along singing. Anyone who enjoyed the Shake Some Action collections or Rhino’s D.I.Y. comps of powerpop rarities will find much to enjoy on this album.
Nina Simone: Alone Again Naturally (CY Records)
From Fodder on My Wings (1982) reissue. A stunning cover, a tough listen. She changes all the words and the intro, keeping only the most significant part of one verse in the last minute, but it’s still a song of loss. Whereas Gilbert O’Sullivan’s protagonist has several bad things befall him, in this case Simone’s autobiographical lyrics are expressly about her father. Pure emotion and a performance so clear and direct you can hear Simone’s jewelry in her playing. Masterpiece.

Slack Key Ohana: s/t (Pacific Records)
The basics: Five-track EP of Hawaiian-themed music from this San Diego-based duo, consisting of Brian Witkin and Kamaka Mullen. The EP includes two Witkin-penned originals (plus reprise) as well as two well-chosen covers of songs originally by Bob Nelson and Patrick Landeza. Sounding like an inspired mix of Martin Denny exotica and an early Beach Boys campfire sing-a-long, Witkin’s opening namesake track “Slack Key Ohana” sounds like a lost vintage recording, very catchy with the harmonies and guitar carrying the song, adding just a touch of bongos for percussion. Meanwhile his follow up “Ku’U Lei Nani Mai Oe” channels a bit of “Blue Hawaii” Elvis into its Hawaiian language lyrics. This EP is definitely of interest to listeners of world music, but pop fans will also enjoy its island sounds.

Chickenbone Slim: Serve It to Me Hot (Vizztone Records)
Blues tunes? A baker’s dozen here from guitarist Chickenbone Slim aka Larry Teves. Backed by his band the Biscuits, which includes ace guitarist Laura Chavez and drummer Marty Dodson, these are all Teves originals, save for one co-write with Andrea Ryan. Sonically, the album roams a bit. At times I’m reminded a bit of Southern Culture on the Skids, with a swampy rhythm to the proceedings best exemplified by “Queen of the Wires” as well as the strut of “Serve It to Me Hot.” Also fun is the Stonesy “Hook Me Up,” while “Crying Tonight” wouldn’t sound out of place on a Memphis-era Elvis album, with stellar guitar work from Chavez. Indeed, her work across the album showcases why she is amongst the best players on the circuit today. Bottom line, Teves has a strong set of originals here, mostly dance floor fillers.  If you’re a fan of the blues, rockabilly, great guitar playing or good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll, this album will do the trick.

Patrick Yandall: Chasing the Light (Zangi Records)
The basics: 13 all original instrumental jazz guitar tracks performed, written, and produced by guitarist Patrick Yandall. The album kicks off strong with “What’s Cookin’” with Yandall’s fingers audibly flying across the fretboards. Favorites include the soulful Hammond organ-backed “Just Pray,” which shows how fluid and lyrical Yandall’s guitar playing is, also highlighting how melodic his songwriting is. Not a word is uttered, but you’ll find yourself humming the tune in no time, Yandall’s way with an earworm is impressive. Also getting a lot of air play at the Blindspot offices is “Speakeasy,” a surefire dancefloor soundtrack with groove to spare that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Austin Powers soundtrack. I should also mention the production is strong across the album, with nice touches of orchestration and percussion, each song its own distinct entity but making for a solid whole. If you are new to Yandall’s music, he has a huge catalog ready for discovery. Longtime fans need this, but anyone who appreciates modern jazz or superb guitar work will find this an essential listen.
Various Artists: Mojo Best of 2021
Free with the January 2022 issue of Mojo magazine, this comp is an excellent mix of 15 tracks released over the past year, with old favorites (David Crosby, Chrissie Hynde) and plenty of up and comers (Yola, The Weather Station). Add in the likes of St. Vincent, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, and the Coral and you have a really solid collection worth repeat listens
We close this month’s column with a look back on actors and musicians we lost in 2021.
January 2 John Scott MacQuarrie / 77 – Born in San Diego, played guitar in the Second Helping with Kenny Loggins
January 7 Elea Tenuta / 48 – singer for 1990s-era favorites, Heavy Vegetable, Thingy
January 10 Willie James Ward / 69 – singer and percussionist with Barry White, Power, Cannonball Adderly
January 11 Tomcat Courtney / 91 – blues legend
January 11 Jayme Mejia / 43 – of reggae band, JamKwest
January 11 Fred Allee / best known for his work with legendary ’80s-era combo NE1 and their turntable hit “1-2-3.”  He also performed with the Magic Montgomery Brothers, the Jazz Jammers, and more.
January 17 Sammy Nestico / 96 – composer and arranger with Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughn, and more. Soundtracks include TV’s Mission: Impossible, Mannix, Charlie’s Angels, and The Mod Squad, and dozens more, he also wrote jingles for the likes of Anheuser-Busch, Zenith, Ford Motor Company, Mattel Toys.
January 18 Claud William ‘Bill’ Wilkins / – Gospel quartet guitarist
January 26 Cloris Leachman / 94 – actress (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Last Picture Show, Young Frankenstein)
January 27 Ron Blair / 74 – singer with the Ira B. Liss Big Band Jazz Machine (late ’80s-early ’90s)
January 27 Dr. Ronald Petrillo / 71 – bassist, fill in with Iron Butterfly
February 12 Benito Sanchez / 89 – trumpet, toured during the 1950s with Perez Prado, Xavier Cugat
March 1 Mark Bacilla / 65 – guitarist/composer with jazz fusion group Speed of Sound, Lyriphon
March 2 Mark Goffney / 51 – aka guitarist Big Toe, Emmy-nominated, toured with Mana
March 3 Paul Young / dance band trumpeter 1956-1965
March 20 Martell Dean / 37 – rap artist who was known as OG YD
March 22 Ramone C Davis / 31 – rapper
March 25 James Hal Hodgson / 79 – produced “Ports of Paradise,” an internationally syndicated weekly radio program of Hawaiian music
March 25 Omar Burhart / saxophonist with Generation Jazz etc.
April 13 William Dowler / 78, guitarist Flatt & Sharp, North County Bluegrass Society
April 16 Traci Smith / 57 – host Gurlz Talk Rawk, photographer
April 23 Van Bates aka Black Hesher
May 7 Tawny Kitaen / 59 – Actress New WKRP, girlfriend Robb Crosby, on the cover of Ratt’s Out of Control, wife of David Coverdale
May 24  Joseph Byrne / 63 – singer-songwriter
June 4 Jesse Macias / 73 – news anchor
June 28 JD Boucharde / 53 – singer-songwriter, pianist at the Turf Club
July 12 Ken Hanson / 93 – president of the Spreckels Organ Society
August 10 Shon Loyd aka Knitwit / – musician producer Natalie Cole, TV’s Empire etc.
August 14 Dennis Caplinger / 58 – fiddle / dobro / guitar / banjo virtuoso, Dennis Caplinger can be heard performing alongside One Direction, JJ Cale, Eric Clapton, The Simpsons, Vince Gill, Nickel Creek, Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen, the Beat Farmers, Rita Coolidge, and Eve Selis to name just a few
August 14 Matt Hoyt / 45 – director of videos for Pinback, the Blackheart Procession etc., former booker of the Soul Kitchen, voice actor for Sony and many more, singer for Turkey Mallet / Papillon, co-owner of the Starlite
August 19 Louis Brazier / 59 – sound engineer, booker/organizer at Lestat’s Coffeehouse
August 28 Ron Bushy / 79 – drummer for Iron Butterfly
August 30 Doug White / 53 – keyboardist for January Berry Band etc.
September 6 Eric Abutin / 49 – percussion with Earl Zero, vocals with Shindig, Bolga Zohdoomah
September 8 Joe Azarello / 77 – pianist, recorded with Art Pepper, Buddy Rich, etc.,  played with the Dave Scott Trio
September 12 Ruben Gutierrez / 40 – guitarist played with Please Mr. Gravedigger, As I Lay Dying
September 17 Louis Procaccino / 68 – concert staging expert
September 26 Matthew Clemons / 34 – drummer alternative / emo band Goodnight Caulfield
September 30 Joseph P. Zampi / 77 – played trumpet in San Diego for years with Downbeat Big Band
October 6 / Eileen Maureen Robbins / 93 – early TV host, performed with the Merkley-Auston all girl band, toured with Bob Hope in the south Pacific entertaining American Troops.
October 9 / Alann Escamilla / 54 – guitarist R.I.P. aka Rock’s Influential Past, hard rockers Guardian
October 11/ William Bischel / 56 – drummer ’80s modskapowerpop favorites X-Offenders
November 13  Rey Vinole / 81 – band leader, founder of award winning MBHS music program
November 27 Jason Selness / – guitarist in Bay Area band Kosono
December – Chris Childers / – bassist, Big Express

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