The Light of Smiles by Gary Wright

Warner Bros Records, 1977

A1. Water Sign
A2. Time Machine
A3. I Am the Sky
A4. Who Am I
A5. Silent Fury
A6. Phantom Writer
B1. The Light of Smiles
B2. I’m Alright
B3. Empty Inside
B4. Are You Weepin’
B5. Child of Light

Yet another dollar-bin classic, certified by Amoeba: Light of Smiles is peak late-career Gary Wright, delivering on hooky pop masterpieces while centering his songwriting around ​​Paramahansa Yogananda. Wright was enamored with the spiritual leader’s teachings after George Harrison gave him a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi. Years later, Wright ended up releasing two back-to-back studio records under Yogananda’s influence. In 1975, we got The Dream Weaver and then Light of Smiles came in ‘77; both make reference to the yogi in explicit and indirect ways, but the latter seems to have its own agenda. 

According to the album’s opener, “Water Sign,” our protagonist is and has always been troubled. We know they are a February Pisces, prone to emotional tempests and restless indecision. The song is buoyed by heavy guitars and several types of keyboards: modular synths, 808s, and electrified piano. Perhaps there is a path ahead for our dear character, and indeed, the album is optimistic, at least sonically. 

While it’s tough to glean how the public responded to the lyrical content of the album, most of it could be interpreted as ambiguous. I kept waffling between believing that Wright was talking about a lover, family member, Yogananda, or Christ himself. (Yogananda’s practice is known as Kriya Yoga, which affirms prophets including Jesus Christ; he claimed to be the last in a lineage including Christ and Krishna.) Regardless, Wright’s message is usually about finding joy internally, even on a sideways track like “Silent Fury.” I choose to interpret Light of Smiles as devotional, aimed at the more fluid concept of self-fulfillment and proselytizing that feeling for all. It is a nice thought that reminds me of the decade prior to its release—Wright of course was incredibly active in the late ‘60s and absorbed this simple spiritual concept at the height of its popularity. And I kinda wish it would make a comeback as something more substantial than “self-care,” which has become too watered down. Find what you need to be happy and share your freedom with the world; soon enough, our world could look a little brighter.

back cover detail enlarged

“I will light the match of smiles. My gloom veil will disappear. I shall behold my soul in the light of my smiles, hidden behind the accumulated darkness of ages. When I find myself,  I shall race through all hearts with the torch of my soul-smiles. My heart will smile first, then my eyes and my face. Every body-part will shine in the light of smiles.

I will run amid the thickets of melancholy hearts and make a bonfire of all sorrows. I am the irresistible fire of smiles. I will fan myself with the breeze of God-joy and blaze my way through the darkness of all minds. My smiles will convey His smiles and whoever meets me will catch a whiff of my divine joy. I will carry fragrant purifying torches of smiles for all hearts.”

Paramahansa Yogananda, Metaphysical Meditations

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s