Among the challenges of writing a daily column like “Verse Chorus Verse” is deciding what to write about every day. Not a day goes by that I don’t listen to music but I don’t wake up each morning with a song in mind and something to say about it. What to do when inspiration is ambiguous or missing in action?
The answer has typically been to do nothing as you can see if you look through the VCV archives and see periodic and even some very large gaps. Tonight I have a new plan. When in doubt, roll the dice.
As of the composing of this piece, there are more than 25,000 songs on my iPod. Using the Random Number Generator in my AppBox Pro application on my iPhone, I came up with the number 669 and that song is “Jelly Jelly” by The Allman Brothers from their Brothers & Sisters album.
Brothers & Sisters is a difficult album in the ABB history as at the time of its release in August of 1973, two founding members of the band had been killed in accidents. In addition to the obvious heartbreak of losing Berry Oakley and Duane Allman, the band’s musical lineup had been shuffled and their sound along with it.
Dickey Betts was fulfilling all guitar responsibilities and Lamar Williams had been called in to take up the bass (Oakley had recorded bass for three tracks on the album before his death). Rather than finding a second guitarist to partner with Betts as Duane had done, they brought in pianist Chuck Leavell. This meant the ABB had changed from organ, twin guitars, twin drums, and bass they were now a lineup that featured piano, organ, bass, guitar, and twin drums.
The ABB – regardless of their makeup – excelled at blending blues, jazz, and rock and putting their own stamp on it, making them one of the pioneers in both jam band and Southern rock circles. “Jelly Jelly” plays strongly to their blues influences and you can hear both Leavell’s piano and Allman’s organ prominently. Allman takes the first solo as Leavell’s piano locks in with the rhythm section. Leavell than jumps out for a solo that would make Otis Spann proud, reminding me a little of some of the work Spann did on Buddy Guy’s A Man & The Blues LP. Dickey Betts gets the last word with a guitar solo that blossoms with Southern twang and charm.
“Jelly Jelly” is not a cornerstone song in the legacy of the Allman Brothers Band and despite the presence of “Ramblin’ Man,” Brothers & Sisters is not the pinnacle record in the band’s discography but both song and album are terrific. I don’t when I last listened to either and I wouldn’t have tonight were it not for a lucky roll of the dice.