Are You Ready/Pacific Gas And Electric Double CD
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In the fashion of the day PG&E were originally called the PG&E Blues Band when they started out in San Francisco in 1967, becoming the first inter-racial band to hit the LA rock scene. Over time, the band included members of Canned Heat and The James Gang. The double-presentation set comprises the band s second album simply called Pacific Gas and Electric released in 1969 and their next album Are You Ready whose title track got into the US Top Twenty.
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This is great music. I may move off into different directions from time to time..From Jazz to Classical to any kind of weird rubbish imaginable, but I always come back to the funky blues!
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Pacific Gas and Electric was initially known as Bluesberry Jam and, at that time, included drummer Fito De La Parra. In 1968, De La Parra left the Bluesberry and joined Canned Heat. Canned Heat's drummer, Frank Cook left Canned Heat and joined what would soon be known as Pacific Gas and Electric. (De La Para obviously fared better in the trade.) About the same time Cook and De La Para swapped places, guitar extraordinaire Glenn Schwartz left the James Gang and his home town in Ohio to come to California. Schwartz was so good that the rock and roll world predicted the end of the James Gang. Interestingly, Schwartz was soon replaced in the James Gang by none other than Joe Walsh and the band continued on.
With the addition of Schwartz, PG&E was complete. The full band now consisted of Charlie Allen--vocals, Frank Cook-drums, Brent Black-bass and Glenn Schwartz-guitar and it was off to the recording studio. The bands first release, Get It On, immediately spurred controversy when it's album cover featured sexual innuendos in the form of a train and a bullet aimed at a pretty girl, the cover was censored and the album was re-released and performed dismally.
Over the next two years, 1969 and 1970 respectively, the band changed labels moving from the little known Bright Orange label to Columbia Records and released the self-titled "Pacific Gas and Electric" and "Are You Ready", which have been put together on this CD. The self-titled debut on Columbia Records was essentially hitless but, nonetheless, sold enough records to convince Columbia that a third album was in order. "Are You Ready" soon followed and it's title track, with backup vocals by the gospel tinged "Blackberries" became a hit. But trouble continued to plague the band when Canadian officials banned the band from Canada due to an admission by one of the members that he took drugs (What a shock!). Glenn Schwartz, shortly there after, announced at a concert that he had found God and he soon departed the band moving back to Ohio to join other Christian musicians to form "The All Saved Freak Band". Schwartz was replaced in the band by guitarist Ken Utterback and, despite the release of a pretty good fourth CD "PG&E", the band began to fade away.
There is a lot of history here, and the truth of the matter is that the band was not half bad. Schwartz was an excellent guitarist whose riffs sound as good today as when they first rang from his guitar 30 years ago and Charlie Allen's soulful and powerful vocals were ahead of the times. One last bit of trivia, the band was so good that they played on the soundtrack to Otto Preminger's movie "Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon".
The Bassist for the 1st 3 albums was Brent Block, not Black...
Guitarist Tom Marshall was also on the 1st 3 albums, and is a founding member.
Bluesberry Jam and PG&E are two entirely different bands. One did not descend from the other. Only vocalist Al Walten was ever in Bluesberry Jam and PG&E. He left before Glenn Schwartz arrived. Fito De La Para didn't play with PG&E.
So, the lineup for the 1st 3 albums would be
Tom Marshall - Guitar
Glenn Schwartz - Guitar
Brent Block - Bass
Frank Cook - Drums
Charlie Allen - Vocals
The 1971 lineup for the PG&E album would be Allen, guitarist Ken Utterback, bassist Frank Petricca, Ron Woods on drums, Jerry Aiello on keyboards, trumpet player Stanly Abernathy, sax players Alfred Galagos and Virgil Gonsalves, and percussionist Joe LaLa.
The 1973 release, "... Starring Charlie Allen" was done with Allen and a host of studio musicians.
There is more film history besides "Junie Moon".
A documentary of this band playing at a drug rehab center in Lexington, Kentucky was made by noted author and filmmaker Lawrence Schiller. It's called "The Lexington Experience". It was shown publicly only a couple of times when a disagreement over music royalties shelved it. The only known copies are with the surviving members in the film (except for Frank Cook, who could not be located, and by this time had become the band's manager... replaced on drums by Ron Woods), Lawrence Schiller himself (who graciously supplied copies to the band members) and myself.
An accompaning album was recorded called "Live and Kicking at Lexington", but was never released by Columbia, although they did hold onto the tapes. It was released on CD by Wounded Bird Records early in 2007. Their 1st album, Get It On, will also be released on CD by Ace Records, early in 2008. I'm told it might also include some "Bonus Tracks", unreleased material from those sessions.
As far as reviewing their music, I'm biased. All I can say is listen and judge for yourselves.