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GOLDEN AVATAR

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States


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Golden Avatar biography
GOLDEN AVATAR is a Jazz Rock/ Fusion band from the United States with a very large ensemble of artists featuring on their debut album "A Change of Heart" 1976. The artists featured include founder of the band and visionary Michael Cassidy on lead vocals, guitar, Carl Bezzemer & David Stout on piano, Barry Goldsman on organ, synthesizer, Carl Lange & Steve Pinkston on bass, and Drew Lawrence on drums & percussion. Other artists complete the large musicianship gathering including Bob Conti on congas, John Goux on electric guitar, Jerry Peterson on Soprano saxophone, Rod Rozzelle on vibes, Marilyn Berger on harp, Garry Abbott, Hush Preston, David Stout & Jerry Petterson on flutes, David Stout & Bill Rechenbach on trombone, Harry Kim, David Grover & Kurt Sletten on trumpets, Gina Kronstadt, Steven Lance, Pam Thompkins, Lisa Adams, Joan Murakiani, Ulysses Roseman Jr., Tom Tally, Donna Paul & Kihae Kim on strings, and finally Madonna Slavin, Kevin Yee, Barry Goldsman, Micelle Pearlman & Alvin Marsden on background vocals.

The Hindu visionary Michael Cassidy writes all the lyrics and the music that ranges from diverse style such as big band jazz, symphonic, folk, funk and disco. The presence of orchestrated instruments such as brass and strings is a key feature. The lyrics have Spiritual weight and are sung with solid harmonies.

"Pastimes" followed in 1978 with the same extensive lineup. The album features a brand of symphonic rock on 'Visions', and an Indian-ballad 'There is a Light', with oboe, sitar and tabla. There is even Gospel flavours on 'Is it Worth the Price you Pay?' and flute dominated folk on 'Lover of the Lord'.

Cassidy's lyrics are a sardonic exploration of modernity and social decline, with a Gospel edge. GOLDEN AVATAR may remind one of BREAD, mainly due to Cassidy's soundalike voice David Gates, and also the music is reminiscent of the sounds of THE MOODY BLUES or CAT STEVENS.

---AtomicCrimsonRush (Scott Tuffnell)---

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GOLDEN AVATAR discography


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GOLDEN AVATAR top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.10 | 17 ratings
A Change Of Heart
1976
3.00 | 1 ratings
Pastimes
1978

GOLDEN AVATAR Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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GOLDEN AVATAR Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 A Change Of Heart by GOLDEN AVATAR album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.10 | 17 ratings

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A Change Of Heart
Golden Avatar Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Progfan97402
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.

 A Change Of Heart by GOLDEN AVATAR album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.10 | 17 ratings

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A Change Of Heart
Golden Avatar Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

2 stars I simply bought this as a used vinyl for 50 cents in a second hand store only because I liked the album cover and it looked interesting. The album features quite an amazing lineup of instruments and musicians and prog archives lists it as jazz fusion, so that worked in it's favor after I got it home and looked up information on the album.

The album is full of Hindu inspired lyrics. Okay I can work with that. The vocalist had a very 70s soft rock timbre which quickly got on my nerves. This makes the entire album sound dated, but the fact that the vocals are way too clean just make the music sound cheesy. It's just too perfect. The vocals need some grit or something and the vocalist sounds nothing like Cat Stevens but more like David Gates or Bobby Goldsboro or Glen Campbell. The voice to me is too unbelievable and annoying because of it's plainness.

The instrumentals are actually very good and some of the instrumental breaks are very inspired. But unfortunately, they are not long enough and seem to be kept at bay way too much to make room for the vocals and lyrics. I guess that's the type of album they were trying to make. If things were reversed so that the instruments were allowed to take the spotlight more often, then it's possible this could have squeaked out a 4 star rating. I was hoping that the track entitled "Swetadwip" was going to at least allow more space for instrumental development, but the vocalist won't shut up long enough for that to happen.

So I can't give this a very good rating because the weaknesses are allowed way too much focus and not enough instrumental freedom definitely disqualifies this album as any kind of Jazz Fusion. This is more like Prog-Folk if anything, but it's hard for me to even consider it Prog-Folk because that would be an insult to good Prog-Folk bands like Blondel's earliest works. In actuality, it is more like Soft Rock with a few great yet frustratingly short instrumental breaks to keep things interesting, but not interesting enough. I'm certainly glad I didn't spend a lot on this and that I never came across this album back when it was released because I might have fallen for the album artwork, which has happened before, but usually with much better results. Don't bother with this one unless you like hindu-inspired soft rock, because that is all this is. 2 stars only. If it weren't for the few interesting instrumental breaks (and I mean very few) this would have only got 1 star.

 A Change Of Heart by GOLDEN AVATAR album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.10 | 17 ratings

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A Change Of Heart
Golden Avatar Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Argonaught

4 stars Here on PA Golden Avatar is listed under Jazz-Rock/Fusion category; Discogs sages pronounced it Prog Folk.

Both definitions are true and do not contradict each other in the slightest. In fact, A Change Of Heart is an excellent example of peaceful coexistence of a good half-dozen styles. Depending on where in the album you drop the needle, you may hear snippets of lighter electric fusion, or a segment of a well-played New Age ballad, or a good run of folksy prog. The Age of Aquarius, you see, was in full swing in the sun-kissed year 1976.

The lyrics may sound a little too wide-eyed for a hardcore prog disciple, but the vocals are not unpleasant at all, and the way they go about the Hare Krisha, Hare Rama etc. chants is a lot jazzier and user-friendly than George Harrison's, may he rest in peace.

Apart from the usual fusion instruments, Golden Avatar on this album make good use of the strings, congas, flutes, harps and vibes, creating a well-rounded and stimulating listening experience. Well done.

To sum up: a very bright, cheerful, well played and well-timed album. Definitely a good addition to anyone's collection.

 Pastimes by GOLDEN AVATAR album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Pastimes
Golden Avatar Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Brendan

— First review of this album —
3 stars This album is pretty much an impossible find, so I guess I'm lucky. That's a shame 'cause it's not bad. Not as good as 'A change of heart'; the songs are shorter but it's more or less the same as the first album.

It begins well with the spiritual 'Vision', which is symphonic rock. It's followed by a beautiful Indian-ballad 'there is a light' with nice oboe, sitar and tabla. 'Payday' is a bit of a dud but 'Progress' is a nice funk song which is really catchy. Unfortunately some of the songs that follow are a bit weak, like the failed attempt at a gospel ballad 'Is it worth the the price you pay?' but they gather it up at the end with the gorgeous folk song 'Lover of the Lord', which has a nice flute/string arrangement and the anthemic 'Changing the face of the Earth'.

Although the music is generally not as strong as the first album, the lyrics are even better, they are biting (and sometimes cynical) towards modern society, so that helps to enjoy the album more, though if you don't enjoy preaching you probably would want to pass on this. The singeer sounds a bit like "David Gates" of bread and the music is kind of similar to Bread / Cat Stevens and maybe the Moody Blues, but not classic progressive rock, like Yes or ELP. Still, it's a nice lost classic from the 70's.

 A Change Of Heart by GOLDEN AVATAR album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.10 | 17 ratings

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A Change Of Heart
Golden Avatar Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Frasse

2 stars I fail to see what's Prog on this release. It got some jazzier moments but otherwise sounds more like some Hindu version of Gospel. It's not entirely that either, so I guess it's something unique and, thus, Prog?

A few good songs but no one that lives up to it's full potential, due to a weak production. I don't know about the voice of Michael Cassidy, the man behind this band. I can't say it's bad, but maybe just not my cup of tea.

A nice sleeve cover though, with Arthur Rackham-esque art depicting the story of the title track; a caterpillar surrounded by fairies on the front. And on the back the caterpillar has transformed to a fairy himself.

Best songs would be "Bhagavad-Gita" and Time For Going Home".

 A Change Of Heart by GOLDEN AVATAR album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.10 | 17 ratings

BUY
A Change Of Heart
Golden Avatar Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Brendan

4 stars Golden Avatar is basiaclly a band built around the vision of Hindu Michael Cassidy. Cassidy writes all the music and lyrics. The band has feet in several genre's, and they are generally quite a versatile band. You probably could brand them symphonic folk/prog/pop but they seem just at home tackiling funk/disco. Perhaps they aren't really progressive but are too original to place anywhere else.

Their strengths lie particularly in the arrangements. If you look at all the instruments listed in the credits section, at one point or another during the album you will really notice the presence of these instruments. They keep rotating the arrangements, giving each instrument a thourough work-out. Somtimes when a band features many instruments on an album, there is usually a focus on the main ones (organ, guitar, synths) and the less common instruments are more or less a brief novelty that don't really add to the music. Not so here. Their aim musically is to create ethereal music, presumably to complement the spiritually heavy lyrics. The melodies are strong, the vocal harmonies rich, and the music is great!

They have another album (pastimes), that is good too, but not as good as this one.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to AtomicCrimsonRush for the last updates

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