Pacific Gas & Electric

Are You Ready/Pacific Gas & Electric

  • AllMusic Rating
    6
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Pacific Gas & Electric's second and third albums, 1969's Pacific Gas & Electric and 1970's Are You Ready, were their two most popular LPs, and are reissued together as a two-CD package with historical liner notes (in English) on this German release. On most of Pacific Gas & Electric, they play soul-rock with some dash and verve, though the songwriting isn't up to the level of musicianship or Charlie Allen's genuinely soulful vocals. Pacific Gas & Electric are really a band that would be better served by a selective compilation than any of their individual LPs, and strong candidates for such an anthology would include "Death Row #172" and "Bluesbuster," which are a little like early Blood, Sweat & Tears with more blues-rock and less bluster. Some of the other songs are closer to average period blues-rock workouts, like "Miss Lucy" and the live cover of John Lee Hooker's "She's Long and She's Tall," though the group original "My Women" finds them getting into a slow blues-funk groove with graceful style. The four-part, 17-minute "PG&E Suite" is typical of the highs and lows of many such psychedelic rock experiments of the late '60s, starting off promisingly with the cinematic jazz-rock instrumental "The Young Rabbits." But it runs off the rails with too much drum soloing, and the momentum utterly drains when the suite peters out into poor white-boy blues that's obviously trying to be drolly humorous, yet ends up being painfully lame. The closing blues-soul-rock stomper "Redneck" restores the energy level somewhat, but it's an erratic record on the whole, as would be its follow-up, 1970's Are You Ready. Anchored by their sole hit, "Are You Ready?," it treads a thin line between eclecticism and confusion, and is actually weaker on the whole than its predecessor. Certainly the ominous yet inspirational gospel-funk-psychedelia of "Are You Ready?" was the strongest track, and to this day the only one that most casual rock fans remember. Yet other cuts on the album indicated they couldn't decide whether to be a heavy blues-rock group ("Hawg for You"), a more soul-dipped version of the Band ("Staggolee"), a swampy soul-rock outfit (a cover of the Isley Brothers' "The Blackberry"), or, least convincingly, cry-in-your-beer honky tonk balladeers ("Mother, Why Don't You Cry?"). This wouldn't have been such a handicap if the material wasn't as mediocre as it was, and any song titled "Love, Love, Love, Love, Love" is a warning that lyrical imagination wasn't in abundance on the day it was composed. They do play the James Brown-psychedelic rock fusion card with some gusto on "Elvira," and Charlie Allen's vocals are pretty soulful, though it's only on a cover of Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman" that they come to the fore in a no-nonsense manner.

blue highlight denotes track pick