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Golden Avatar - A Change Of Heart CD (album) cover


Golden Avatar


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.28 | 21 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars This 1976 album is sure common as dirt. I guess in the late '70s a ton of copies were sold at airports and on the streets where the Hare Krishnas would attempt to sell this, as well as the Bhagavad Gita As It Is. This album was said to have gone gold in Canada, so I'm guessing regular record stores also stocked this.

Golden Avatar seemed to be an enterprise of the Los Angeles-branch of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). The recording studio in LA was named Golden Avatar, and so was this music project by Michael Cassidy, a Hare Krisha devotee. He hired a ton of musicians helping out, no one I know, I guess you'd probably only know these people if you were associated with the L.A. Hare Krishna scene of the 1970s. I do, strangely recognize Madonna Slavin, one of the backing vocalist, as she was featured on a 1978 movie documentary hosted by Donovan called Aliens From Spaceship Earth. It's a documentary on Hindu and Hare Krishna spirituality. The film mentions Madonna Slavin's parents disapproved of her Hare Krishna lifestyle and had her kidnapped and "deprogrammed". This happened in 1976, and aside from a small article in the LA Times in 1976, only that article and this film ever mentioned Madonna Slavin's kidnapping.

As a non-Hare Krishna, I look at this album as an outsider, as I would view Eela Craig's Missa Universalis from a non-Christian point of view, as well as Black Widow's Sacrifice from a non-Satanic point of view. The Black Widow LP I simply laugh at the over-the-top Satanic lyrics ("Come, come, come, come to the Sabbat, come to the Sabbat, Satan's there!"), I get a little annoyed at the over-the-top Christian lyrics of Eela Craig's Missa Universalis (it almost sounds like a prog version of Contemporary Christian Music, although this is a prog rock Catholic Mass), and of course Golden Avatar's A Change of Heart, which I laugh at the "everything is so bliss" lyrics.

Of course, that's the whole point about Michael Cassidy, he's obviously expressing his Hare Krishna point of view on life through lyrics. At times this music sounds like typical West Coast singer/songwriter fare, even Cassidy himself has that typical voice. But if you get past that voice, I've found the album surprisingly creative and full of nice songs. It's definitely not psychedelic like the Quintessence albums (who explored Hare Krishna spirituality through psychedelic rock combined with rock and Eastern instrumentation and the occasional Hare Krishna chant). More like occasional flirtation with jazz rock (not really fusion, so don't expect Mahavishnu Orchestra here) and prog rock. "World Beyond the Sky" is pretty much straight-up folk-rock, but the albums gets more interesting with "Questions Questions", the nice catchy "Bhagavad Gita", and the wonderful "Seers of the Truth". I like that call-and-response approach they do here, which is quite a bit different from the typical R&B approach. The title track is kinda cheesy, lyrics talking about how the caterpillar turned into a butterfly as a metaphor of how his "old self had to die" (basically a spiritual awakening of Krishna Consciousness). "Swetadip" has a David Crosby vibe, if David Crosby was a Hare Krishna, he'd come up with something like this! Even Michael Cassidy does a great job imitating his vocal style and musical approach. "Oh Govinda" is OK, nothing special. "Time For Going Home" is a great closing piece, I particularly dig the synth solo (very imaginative there) and the Hare Krishna chant towards the end.

Unlike Quintessence, you won't find much in the way of Eastern instruments or even sound. I figure that Michael Cassidy decided on a more L.A.-type singer/songwriter sound with prog and jazz leanings, probably doing something too Eastern-sounding would alienate many West Coast listeners of the late '70s, which this album obviously aimed for. Many in the prog community won't find this too exciting. Maybe if Michael Cassidy had a more appealing voice, perhaps avoid the West Coast singer/songwriter folk/rock that frequently dominates this album, it would get a better rating. Plus for many people it seems nothing more than a Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) album with lyrics praising Krishna, rather than Jesus. For me, I actually enjoy the album, so I give it a four star rating.

Progfan97402 | 4/5 |


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