Tag Archives: Pacific Gas & Electric

Are you ready? A little surprise

Having found myself with some time to kill on this sunny afternoon, I stopped by our local indie record store and did a little digging.

Just when I started getting that dread feeling of having seen all of their used vinyl on previous visits, I came across something I hadn’t seen before.

This record — a Pacific Gas & Electric greatest-hits comp — didn’t blow me away, but it looked like it had some interesting covers. Then I started asking myself the same question I’d asked myself the last time I pondered a record by Pacific Gas & Electric. Am I in the mood for old West Coast blues-rock jams?

Well, I decided to support my local indie record shop, and I took it home. After popping it on the turntable, I found it be quite different than what I expected. Quite pleasantly so, and not just because the vinyl grooves were almost pristine.

Turns out that Pacific Gas & Electric, which became PG&E, was more of a soul and R&B outfit than I thought. Or at least as represented on this 1973 record, which draws tunes from three LPs recorded for Columbia from 1969 to 1971.

Here’s proof:

“The Time Has Come (To Make Your Peace)” and “”Thank God For You Baby,” both from “PG&E,” 1971.

The first cut is an upbeat, gospel-tinged rocker with a great horn chart.

The second cut, which barely dented the charts in the winter and spring of 1972, compares favorably to the elegant Chicago and Philly soul love songs of the time.

These originals turned out to be more interesting than the covers of “When A Man Loves A Woman” and “(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave.”

Pacific Gas & Electric, fronted by singer Charlie Allen, was racially mixed. That was quite something for the time. The liner notes tell this story:

“One night in Raleigh … several members of a rather uppity Southern audience objected to the presence of a black lead singer in a rock and roll band and pulled guns on the band. Their exit, had it been filmed, would have made excellent Clint Eastwood footage.”

That was April 25, 1970. As the band’s van drove away, some members of that uppity North Carolina audience fired their guns at it. Four shots hit the van, but no one was hurt.

PG&E was a five-piece band from its founding in Los Angeles in 1967 until 1971, when it became a nine-piece band and started to unravel. The end came in 1973, after PG&E released a Dunhill Records LP that features Allen and session musicians. Allen was 48 when he died in 1990.

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Filed under September 2011, Sounds

That ’70s song, Vols. 25 and 26

Amazing Records, our local used vinyl record emporium, is all but gone now. Jim thought he’d close the store at the end of April. That became the end of May, and then the end of June.

They were lugging the big wooden bins out the door as I drove past yesterday. But the “Open” sign was still on, as it was today. Jim said as long as it was on, it was OK to stop in.

Jim wasn’t there today, but Bruce was. Bruce helps out on weekends. He was throwing vinyl into boxes bound for California. I explained that Jim had said it was OK to stop in, so Bruce pointed me to three small stacks of LPs. Nope. Nothing there.

If you live near Cotati, California, near Sonoma State University, go visit Jim when he reopens Amazing Records later this summer. He’ll have a bunch of nice records.

Two of the records that kept tempting me during Amazing Records’ last days were albums with tunes from the charts in June 1970.

I thought about getting “Are You Ready,” the Pacific Gas & Electric LP with the hit single of the same name. It was the real thing from 1970.

I thought about getting “Just A Stone’s Throw Away,” the 1977 debut album by singer Valerie Carter. I bought it in 1977 only because it had a nice cover of “O-o-h Child,” the great single by the Five Stairsteps.

But I got neither.

As for PG&E, I just wasn’t in the mood for old West Coast blues-rock jams. I should have bought it for the album art alone.

As for Valerie Carter, I’d be buying it for the same reason I bought it in 1977 — for one song. That I rarely otherwise listened to the rest of it is why it went out in the Great Album Purge of 1989.

But I still dig those tunes from the summer of 1970.

“Are You Ready,” Pacific Gas & Electric, from “Are You Ready,” 1970. It’s out of print, but is available on this double CD with the group’s first Columbia album from 1969. This is the longer album version.

PG&E was that rare group, at least for the time, with black and white musicians. I always thought they were from San Francisco. Nope. They came together in Los Angeles in 1967 and lasted until 1972.

“O-o-h Child,” the Five Stairsteps, 1970, from “The Stairsteps,” 1970. It’s out of print. I have it on “The Best of Buddah,” a 1976 LP. It’s also available on “First Family of Soul: The Best of the Five Stairsteps,” a best-of CD.

The Five Stairsteps was made up of five kids — four boys and a girl — from the Burke family of Chicago. They recorded first on Curtis Mayfield’s Windy City and Curtom labels before moving to Buddah. They later became the Stairsteps and broke up in the late ’70s.


Filed under July 2010, Sounds