By: Dream Chimney
The following interview was conducted in May 2023
Casbah 73 is Oli Stewart. Born in the USA, now based in Madrid, he is a well known dealer on the discerning record collecting scene. In addition to his extensive knowledge of the bins and racks, Casbah 73 is a dab hand in the studio too. This week he releases his ‘Doing Our Own Thing / To Be Free’ on Lovemonk Records with a set of remixes by Dimitri From Paris. Here we ask the seasoned tastemaker about five albums that have touched his soul.
5 Inspirational Albums
Jayme Marques - So Much Feeling
This is one of those albums that I connect with on several levels and in so many different ways. It was a real find back in the day, super in-demand with DJs and it represented a real dichotomy for me - on the one hand, as a Spanish recording, I recognised one of the tracks as the theme song from a dull, dry TV news show from when I was growing up, not a positive aspect, I might say. I also knew my parents used to go to the Whisky Jazz and listen to Jayme Marques, which was intriguing. When I came across the record with its psychedelic seventies sleeve in a second hand store in Madrid I felt a real sense of excitement and I knew I had to get it. I came home, dropped the needle on -Veracruz” and my world exploded. Yes, the record had some slightly easy listening Brazilian numbers, but this track was like nothing I'd ever heard in music before. Beautiful, lush Rhodes, a lilting Brazilian, jazz-fusion sound with an intricate bass pattern and, in the middle, it suddenly drops into fast-paced walking jazz with a male scat vocal solo. What! I didn't move for twelve whole minutes, shivers running up and down my spine and then I put it on again, I read the sleeve notes and it all started to make sense. This was a collaboration with some of Spain's finest, most forward-thinking jazz and flamenco musicians, members of the jazz-fusion band (Dolores) that had changed the face of modern flamenco together with Paco de Lucia and Camarón. These visionaries had somehow come together with Jayme Marques for this session (I don't know what the story was behind their meeting) and the result was everything you could hope for.
Benny Johnson – Visions Of Paradise
Gorgeous, early seventies soul released on the Patrick Adams label Today Records, produced by Julius Brockington, an excellent keyboard player who knew a thing or two about taking his gospel-honed skills and applying them to the secular world of soul. It's one of those albums that is consistently great all the way through, just throw it on, drop the needle and let the music do the rest. It's soul - soul with its sweetness tempered by a gritty edge, a touch of blues and a funky feel. I'm a sucker for that southern soul sound and this mix of influences is part of what makes it so special and a pleasure to listen to all the way through. Benny's only album, I'm truly grateful.
Jon Lucien – Mind's Eye
If you spend enough time digging for records you develop an instinct for picking albums based on their sleeve art. This is a good example of a record that I snapped up the minute I set eyes on it, and who wouldn't - the stark photo on a black background with that shining cosmic eye, together with the title, promised something deep. Deep, special, out of the ordinary. Here was an artist who had seemingly wriggled free of the repressive clutches of his major label contract, had somehow evaded their A&R filters. Flipping the record sleeve over, the line up details did nothing to dissuade me of this notion and most miraculously of all, the music lived up to expectations, surpassed them even. If you're a fan of this great artist, then you know what I'm talking about, with his unique penchant for mixing Caribbean flavours and afro-Cuban, jazz, soul, funk. There are some truly great moments on this record, but “Listen Love”, well, it's the kind of track that makes them all redundant in a way. You will possibly never be the same once you feel this, and it just comes together so effortlessly. Hearing such striking combinations of sounds like these back in the day were what made my tiny little head explode. Explode and expand. Towards the end of the track, when the cosmic congas come to the fore, the bass pounding away relentlessly and Jon's voice soars over it all before breaking into a chant as the song slowly dissolves...pure bliss.
B12 - Electro-soma
This early nineties double album is all abstract synth textures and moody techno beats, which makes it an odd choice for me, because I tend to prefer electronic music when it isn't posing as deep or dark - I like it uncomplicated and unpretentious - but I think it's a testament to the amazing music on this record that it made me overcome my prejudices. I have the album on vinyl, but I remember a friend first giving me this on cassette, which then became the soundtrack to my stateside record buying trips. As many as four times a year I'd be over there, and funnily enough this record was the total opposite of the organic, soul, jazz and disco I was there to buy, but somehow it perfectly suited the feel of the road, riding endless highways in search of lost warehouses; very apt and I became totally addicted to this record. Listening to it now still transports me back to that particular era, and it has stood the test of time so very well.
John Lewis & Sacha Distel – Afternoon In Paris
This one's a bit of a departure for me and I don't know if it's just a deeply personal thing or whether anyone else can relate to it in a similar way. It's straight ahead jazz (not a style I am particularly into), it was released in 1957 and it is fantastic. Performed by two giants of the jazz world, the LP originally came out on Atlantic Records, I have it on a Spanish pressing which is part of its particular charm for me. This issue is unique in that it's a gatefold release with a booklet insert lavishly detailing all kinds of information related to the music (in Spanish), the fussy record envelope attached within guarantees that every time I open it, the record will slide out in ways I never suspect and I always end up barely saving it from crashing to the floor and certain destruction. As for the music... I defy you to find a track which makes you want to stare in melancholy fashion out the window more than this version of “I Cover The Waterfront”, as the rain comes down outside and you listen to John and Sacha trading wistful solos. For years, I swear I thought the album was called “Rainy Afternoon In Paris”. Wonderful.