Carla Olson discusses new music from The Rolling Stones, her collection ‘Have Harmony Will, Travel 3,’ and new releases from Robert Rex Waller Jr., Pete Brown, and Matt Von Roderick.
by Warren Kurtz
On the same day that The Rolling Stones released their new album Hackney Diamonds, The Textones’ Carla Olson, who has performed and recorded with The Rolling Stones’ Mick Taylor, has released the third volume of her Have Harmony, Will Travel album series and it includes her version of The Rolling Stones’ 1968 single “Street Fighting Man.”
Olson has also been busy with producing the solo album of I See Hawks in L.A.’s Robert Rex Waller Jr. which includes jazz trumpeter Matt Von Roderick on one of the tracks. Von Roderick, an artist under Olson’s husband and producer Saul Davis’ wing, also has a new album. Then there is a posthumous album by Pete Brown, best known as a lyricist for Cream, which includes Olson on a song.
We welcome back Carla Olson to Goldmine to discuss all this music news.
GOLDMINE:Welcome back to Goldmine and congratulations on Have Harmony, Will Travel 3, released on the same day as The Rolling Stones’ Hackney Diamonds. My favorite song on their new album is “Depending on You,” with its acoustic sound and a touch of country. I also enjoy the soulful power of “Sweet Sounds of Heaven” featuring Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder. I love the video for “Angry” with old images of Mick, Keith, and Ron edited to make it appear as if they are performing this new song with the classic Stones edge.
CARLA OLSON: I am pleased with “Angry” too. Jagger tends to want to reinvent himself and be in the now and up to date, but I was glad that they used some retro stuff in the video which was very cool. The song structure is simple, but that works for The Rolling Stones.
GM:I am also enjoying your version of “Street Fighting Man,” which I first learned in 1970 on the live Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out album, as I missed hearing the single and album Beggars Banquet in 1968. “Street Fighting Man” is our editor Pat Prince’s favorite Rolling Stones song.
CO: Me too! That and “Wild Horses” are my two favorite Rolling Stones songs and now I have recorded both. I recorded an acoustic version of “Wild Horses” with Todd Wolfe in 2019 as the finale on our album The Hidden Hills Sessions. I am pleased as punch that I was able to put “Street Fighting Man” together with the incredible drummer Benjamin Lecourt from France, who I have been using on a lot of projects. Jonathan Lea played sitar and guitar on it, and he is a major Stones fan. He and Saul talk about deep Stones music all the time. Jonathan is younger than me and adds a freshness to it. I harken back to the live version of “Street Fighting Man” that you first heard with Mick Taylor playing guitar on it, which is the era that I thought was among the most spectacular playing of the Stones. Jake Andrews also plays guitar on the song with me and Jonathan. I’ve known Jake since he was seventeen and he is 41 now. His guitar initiation came from his father, John “Toad” Andrews, who was the guitarist in the band Mother Earth with Tracy Nelson on vocals. At the age of eight, Jake was playing a live concert with Albert King.
GM: Since I missed out on the “Street Fighting Man” single and album Beggars Banquet in 1968, I didn’t learn the flip side “No Expectations” until it was included on the 1972 More Hot Rocks compilation. It has a bit of a country sound that you and I enjoy with “Wild Horses,” along with “Sway” that you recorded with Mick Taylor.
CO: When Mick Taylor played “No Expectations” live with his band he would sing it too. Even though it was the last of Brian Jones as a guitarist with The Rolling Stones, the Beggars Banquet album showed how much he brought authenticity to the band. I have been told that if it wasn’t for Brian Jones teaching Mick Jagger how to play harmonica with the cross-harp style, Mick would have sounded like Bob Dylan forever. Mick learned blues harmonica from Brian Jones which fits their sound so well. It is Brian Jones who brought the bottleneck slide guitar to The Rolling Stones, which is prominent on “No Expectations.” He really brought country blues to the band.
“It is Brian Jones who brought the bottleneck slide guitar to The Rolling Stones, which is prominent on “No Expectations.” He really brought country blues to the band.” – Carla Olson
When I was eight, I first heard Allan Clarke singing “Bus Stop” with The Hollies on the radio and I loved it. I became a Hollies fan and later, a fan of his solo work. Now with his mature voice, the storytelling aspect of his singing is even more prominent on his two most recent albums. I was thrilled to interview him earlier this year thanks to Saul in support of Allan’s 2023 album I’ll Never Forget. On “It Makes Me Cry,” Allan’s storytelling and the vocal duet that the two of you do is so nice, as is Laurence Juber’s echo guitar solo at the end.
CO: I am so glad that you appreciate Allan’s deeper voice because that was the reason he stopped singing for years. He could no longer sing in the keys that The Hollies reached when they were late teenagers. My co-writing with him on his prior album Resurgence is how we got the ball rolling. Saul has known Allan since the 1970s. Allan was so timid about singing. Saul and I kept on telling him, “If you can’t sing, then write some lyrics, and have someone sing with or for you.” I started receiving lyrics from him and that was about twenty years ago. I was also timid about writing music for someone who is known for some of pop’s biggest hits. When I sent Allan the lyrics for “It Makes Me Cry,” that I had written in the late 1980s about impoverished, homeless, and unfortunate people, I told him to edit it any way that he would like. Then I received a beautiful song with him on electric guitar which he recorded on Garage Band which is all he knew how to record on at that point. Luckily his grandson came in and said, “Hey! Let’s do this professionally.” He upgraded to a much better home recording option. He then sent me this beautiful demo with vocal, harmonica, and guitar, which I used as my basis for our collaboration. To me, his voice is so rich, and like you indicated, more in tune for delivering songwriting versus just being the powerful singer that he still is. I was blown away. I went right away into the studio with my rhythm section, and we cut a track very similar to the arrangement he sent me except I added a guitar solo. I sent it back to him and he said, “Great! Now let’s triple track your voice like Graham Nash and I always did in The Hollies.”
GM: It is great to hear Shawn Barton Vach with you again. I was so thrilled when she sang “Summer Side of Life” on your Ladies Sing Lightfootcollection, which made my Top 100 Songs of 2021 list. She is wonderful on “A Love That Never Blooms” along with Laurence’s echoing guitar.
CO: It is hard to believe that a female has a deeper voice than me, but Shawn does and was able to sing “A Love That Never Blooms” in the key that I wrote it, which I couldn’t do, and Laurence added a twangy Duane Eddy guitar sound to it, which was his idea.
Na cover of it on their Sha Na Now album that I heard on the car radio in 1975 in Cleveland on Kid Leo’s WMMS afternoon show and I hadn’t heard any version that fun until now.
CO: Isn’t it fun? That’s Harvey Shield singing. He wrote “The Way I Feel Tonight,” the final U.S. Top 40 hit for the Bay City Rollers. Harvey is in a band called The Mighty Echoes with a couple of guys from the band The Rubinoos, who got their following by opening for Elvis Costello and the Attractions. He has a powerful voice and can sing everything from doo wop to rock and roll. This album has taken years to come together, and I am happy it is finally released.
GM: I detected that it had taken a few years for this album to come together as it has been two years since I wrote my In Memoriam article on B.J. Thomas, where I featured his final pop Top 100 single on Steve Popovich’s Cleveland International label. It is so good to hear him on record one last time on “Cool Water.”
CO: Saul and I are huge B.J. Thomas fans. I was a fan of his in Texas before he had a hit, when he was opening for Bobby Bland in the early 1960s. Every time B.J. would go to Las Vegas he would let Saul and I know and say, “You’ve got to fly to Vegas, be my guest, and see me.” We had been talking about working together for over thirty years. Saul and I have been involved with quite a few charities including Matt Damon’s Water.org, trying to bring clean water to poor countries. Saul suggested that we do an infomercial with celebrities and B.J. agreed to record a single of the song “Cool Water” for the informercial, where people would download the song for 99 cents and the money would go to the charity. We spent years trying to get Matt Damon’s company to use the song and that never happened. In 2018, we sent B.J. a copy for his approval and he said it was great and suggested that I sing harmony on it, which I did. I also reached out to Mickey Raphael to play harmonica on it because I felt it was like a campfire song and his playing would fit perfectly, and I am happy that it worked out for this album.
GM: Have Harmony, Will Travel 3 ends with three songs you recorded with Gene Clark beginning with “Gypsy Rider,” a song which is also the finale on Robert Rex Waller Jr.’s new album See the Big Man Cry that you produced. Rob’s version is wonderful.
CO: Thank you. I See Hawks in L.A. is Rob’s band with Paul Marshall on bass, Paul Lacques on guitar, and Paul’s wife Victoria Jacobs, who plays drums, and they do country rock. I am going to tell Rob that you gave him high marks for “Gypsy Rider” because we used to perform this song as part of the Have Harmony, Will Travel touring group, doing many shows as an ensemble. Rob would be at the shows and say, “I want to cut that song.” It is a beautiful version. Skip Edwards, who played piano with Lucinda Williams, Chris Hillman, Johnny Rivers, and so many more, is on this and every song on Rob’s new album.
GM: Skip’s piano comes through so nicely on “There’s No Living Without Your Loving,” which I first learned as the flip side of Gene Pitney’s “Looking Through the Eyes of Love.” Gia Ciambotti and Gregg Sutton’s harmonies are also very nice.
CO: Thank you. Gregg was in the original lineup of Lone Justice and toured with Bob Dylan on his Real Live tour in 1984 with Mick Taylor and Ian McLagan. Gregg and I go way back and were born on the same day, too. Gregg and Gia are a wonderful backing vocal team. She sang with The Graces, Bruce Springsteen, and Lucinda, too. Her dad was in the band Clover with Huey Lewis.
GM: Rob’s rich voice truly shines on “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.” His clarity reminds me of Brandon Flowers from The Killers along with the warmth of Chris Isaak, and Kaitlin Wolfberg does such a nice job with all the strings.
CO: We worked on this during the pandemic and Kaitlin must have sent me eight violin and viola tracks plus four cello tracks, playing every one of them. She really knocks it out of the park. Rob sings in an upper baritone or low tenor voice. Rob sang harmony with me on the first Have Harmony, Will Travel album in 2013, covering the Pozo-Seco Singers’ “Look What You’ve Done,” and I knew that I wanted to produce an album by him. Now it’s a decade later and here we are. Scott Walker of the Walker Brothers sang low on the original version of “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” and John sang the high parts, but Rob can do it all.
GM: I interviewed Bobby Rydell and worked with him again on Glen Campbell’s In Memoriam article. What a wonderful guy he was. Probably my favorite song of his is “I’ll Never Dance Again,” and I was so happy about this song’s inclusion with Rob’s delivery and Benjamin Lecourt’s militaristic drumming.
CO: I enjoyed watching Bobby Rydell singing in Bye Bye Birdie, which I saw in the movie theater in the early 1960s when I was a kid in Texas. When Saul was growing up in Chicago, around the same time, he saw the album All the Hits by All the Stars at a record store and his mom bought it for him. Bobby Rydell’s “I’ll Never Dance Again” became his favorite song. Years later, when Saul started working with Bobby to help him get his music released, we used to go to Las Vegas to see Bobby along with Fabian and Frankie Avalon, The Golden Boys show. It was like a dream come true for Saul to work with and see Bobby Rydell perform.
GM: Matt Von Roderick’s trumpet on “I’ll Never Dance Again” slurs the notes so smoothly. I am enjoying his new album, too.
CO: You will definitely hear more from Matt.
GM: I missed Bram Tchaikovsky’s “Girl of My Dreams” in the summer of 1979, when I was transitioning jobs. Over the years, I have heard it and always enjoy it. This new Bruce Springsteen “Born to Run”-like version really catches my ear!
CO: I am so glad that you like it. That is Mikal Reid on lead guitar who is my sound engineer. Mikal was in the band Hotel on MCA, who also debuted in the summer of 1979. He is a fabulous guitar player with a late 1970s/1980s style, which was perfect for this song. This is one of my all-time favorite songs. Saul and I presented it to Rob, and he shouted, “I love it!”
GM:On June 1, in our monthly Goldmine In Memoriam series, I wrote about Pete Brown, who I mainly knew as Cream’s lyricist. His guest filled album The Shadow Club is coming out soon, including the song you co-wrote with him, “With My Black Cat by My Side.”
CO: I talked with Pete the week before he died. He was happy. He sent the track to me and asked if I would put a harmony vocal on it. I knew by the sound of his voice that he didn’t have much time left. He asked, “How fast can you get this done?” I said, “I’ll send it back to you tomorrow night.” I went in the studio with my buddy Mikal, cut it, and sent it to him. I got an email from Pete two days later saying, “It’s perfect. I love it. Thank you for the quick turnaround.” Then he passed away shortly after that. During the pandemic I had written eight songs with Pete and this one was his favorite. He wanted to include it on his album. I knew Pete because of Paul Jones who had a BBC radio show called Jazz and Blues FM. Each Monday they would broadcast, and Saul and I would listen to it on our computer in California at 11 a.m. Pacific time, 7 p.m. London time. Pete Brown was on one time for a whole hour. Pete said that his writing partner had passed away to cancer. Saul emailed Pete and said that he had this artist who writes music and asked if he would like somebody to add music to your lyrics. Pete wrote back that he would and sent eight song lyrics to write to. Then the pandemic hit but that didn’t stop us. I wrote them with my laptop and cell phone in California and Joe Reed in England added bass and drums to the tracks so that Pete could hear the songs. It was a labor of love, and I am so glad the record is coming out and that Eric Clapton decided to play on it along with Arthur Brown, Clem Clemson, Joe Bonamassa, and more musicians who respected him. I really love that you always listen to my babbling and make sense of it. I appreciate your enthusiasm and am always excited to read your Goldmine articles.
Matt Von Roderick, who played trumpet on Robert Rex Waller Jr.’s version of “I’ll Never Dance Again,” also has a new album called Celestial Heart, a mix of vocal and instrumental selections. The celestial theme weaves through the jazz collection beginning with opener “Fly Me to the Moon” and instrumental tracks “Waking Up on Mars,” “Crepuscule on Jupiter,” and “Playing Among the Stars.”
Von Roderick reinterprets Johnny Rivers’ 1965 Top 10 hit “The Seventh Son,” providing a CCR swamp-like backdrop for his subdued vocal, offset by his wild trumpet runs.
Another Top 10 hit, 1994’s hip-hop “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia),” which sampled Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island,” reverts here to the 1964 Hancock classic, with the melodic theme at the beginning and end of the eight-minute instrumental piece, allowing plenty of room for Von Roderick’s tasteful improvisation in the middle.
Celestial Heart concludes with Sammy Cahn’s melancholy “I Fall in Love Too Easily.” Like opener “Fly Me to the Moon,” this finale was also recorded by both Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, among others. On this recording, you may detect a touch of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in style and tempo and opening notes recalling “The Shadow of Your Smile.”
Fabulous Flip Sides is in its nineth year
For related items that you may enjoy in our Goldmine store (see below):
Warren Kurtz is a long-time music journalist, author and Contributing Editor atGoldmine, writing over 500 articles including the weekly Fabulous Flip Sides and monthly In Memoriam series (both exclusively online at goldminemag.com) covering rock, pop, Americana, R&B and more. Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides radio segment can be heard most Saturdays, around 9 a.m. Eastern Time as part of DJ Brian Donovan’s Moments to Remembershow, on WVCR-88.3 “The Saint” at wvcr.com or iHeart.com (search WVCR). Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org