Turning The Wheels of Time: Rasa’s ‘Everything You See Is Me,’ 1978

Exhibit / March 21, 2019

 

Object Name: Everything You See Is Me
Maker and Year: International Society for Krishna Consciousness/Govinda Records, 1978
Object Type: LP
Video Source: YouTube
Image Source: Record Obscura
Description: (Michael Grasso)

This album full of spiritually-minded pop-funk was the product of a pair of teenage artists—vocalist/drummer Chris McDaniels (then 16 years of age) and elder brother, guitarist, producer, and arranger London McDaniels (all of 17 in 1978). The brothers had grown up in Southern California among the music business; their father Eugene McDaniels was himself a singer, songwriter, and producer. The story goes that the McDaniels brothers’ mother suggested they attend an event hosted by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), at which the ISKCON officials asked them to produce an album of contemporary music to bring awareness of the movement, popularly known at the time as “Hare Krishnas,” to a young audience.

The Krishna Consciousness movement originated with Abhaya Caranaravinda Bhaktivedānta Svāmi, an Indian national who traveled to America in the mid-’60s to bring his own brand of regional Vishnuism to the world. Founded in New York City in 1966, ISKCON soon found adherents throughout the emerging counterculture in the United States. By the late 1970s, “Hare Krishnas” were common sights on street corners and parks in major cities and in airports, and the visual trademarks of ISKCOM proselytizers were well-known enough to be widely lampooned in pop culture. ISKCON had attracted the interest of many famous adherents in the world of popular music in the 1970s—George Harrison, Stevie Wonder, Alice Coltrane, members of Fleetwood Mac—and some of these artists had integrated Krishna chants into their music, but Rasa’s LP is the first album-length attempt to bring the actual precepts of Krishna Consciousness to an English audience.

Rasa’s album is a catchy (if lightly and amateurishly produced), overlooked gem of late-’70s West Coast funk-rock. Given the McDaniels’ family connections to the music biz, guest musicians abound on the album, including high-profile jazz/pop session players Randy Brecker and George Young. The lyrics are an engagingly oddball mix of love-letter paeans and heartfelt petitions to Krishna; the album’s liner notes (and, one presumes, at least some of the lyrical content) were provided by ISKCON’s Adi Kesava Swami. The album’s title track is an upbeat, funky pop ballad sung in the voice of Krishna, asking the listener to consider the universality of man and existence. “Questions in My Mind” is an engagingly yachty slab of guitar-and-keys-driven funk, asking the musical questions, “Who made the universe/And floats the stars in outer space?/Who fills the singer’s voice/And weaves the dancers’ moves with grace?/Who turns the wheels of Time?”

Stevie Wonder’s influence is probably clearest on “Chanting,” yet another track that puts Chris McDaniels into the explicit role of spiritual seeker. In Wonder’s pleading vocal style, McDaniels seeks wisdom and direction; the chorus says he will find answers “through the chanting of the Holy Names.” Closing track “The Dream Is Over” comes closest to approximating the muscular horn sound of Earth, Wind & Fire provided by EWF’s Phenix Horns. As the song (and album) fades out with soulful, horn-section-punctuated chants of “Hare Krsna Hare Krsna/Krsna Krsna Hare Hare,” one feels the true impact of the collision of cultures inherent in this artifact of the spiritual seekers of 1970s California. The LP’s back cover—an image of the “big blue marble” from the surface of the moon—is as emblematic of the era’s hopes for some sort of global consciousness as it is a statement on ISKCON’s desire to bring Krishna’s name to the entire globe.

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