New York’s the Main Ingredient – who began life as The Poets in the early ’60s – excelled at silky-voiced, super-soulful balladry and as many soul music connoisseurs will no doubt attest, were undoubtedly one of the finest vocal harmony groups of the 1970s. Signed to RCA Victor in 1970, the trio’s career was derailed just after they’d tasted their first Stateside chart hit the same year in the shape of ‘You’ve Been My Inspiration’ – sadly, lead singer, Donald McPherson, was diagnosed with leukaemia and died in the summer of 1971, leaving remaining members Luther Simmons and Tony Sylvester looking for a new front man.
This excellent new 2-on-1 package from Super Bird features the McPherson-fronted LP ‘Tasteful Soul’ from ’71 and pairs it with 1972’s ‘Bitter Sweet,’ the first album to showcase new vocalist, Cuba Gooding (his son is the Hollywood actor, Cuba Gooding Jr). Both sets are arranged by the legendary Bert De Coteaux – nicknamed ‘Super Charts’ in honour of his musical talent – and whose expertise in writing string and horn parts helped establish the Main Ingredient’s distinctive sound and undoubtedly played a key role in aiding their commercial success. ‘Tasteful Soul’ is a fine set blending some effervescent uptempo romps (‘Somebody’s Been Sleeping,’ and ‘Need Her Love’) with tender fireside ballads. Of these, the dreamy Top 10 US R&B hit single ‘Spinning Around (I Must Be Falling In Love)’ stands out, alongside a gorgeous mellow reading of Bread’s David Gates-penned ‘Make It With You.’
The year after Macpherson’s death, the revamped group enjoyed an even bigger hit with the massive crossover smash, ‘Everybody Plays The Fool,’ which is the musical keystone on the ‘Bitter Sweet’ album. In contrast to the largely-self-penned ‘Tasteful Soul,’ ‘Bitter Sweet’ uses outside songwriters – including a couple of tunes from the pen of William Salter and Ralph MacDonald – and to my ears, isn’t quite as strong as the earlier album, despite the presence of a bigger hit single. This is a superb compilation, though, and shouldn’t be missed by discerning lovers of smooth harmony soul. Let’s hope there are more Main Ingredient reissues from the same era to come.