The Main Ingredient ‘Brotherly Love: The RCA Anthology’ 2CD (SoulMusic) 4/5

Often likened to The Stylistics, though a group such as Philadelphia’s Blue Magic might be a more accurate parallel, The Main Ingredient enjoyed a far greater degree of success in their native country, and just one medium sized hit in the UK, with a top thirty pop chart entry in 1974, ‘Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely’. While they certainly modeled themselves on the close harmony groups of the era, they were capable of being a more versatile act, with mid-tempo and dance oriented tracks, and, interestingly, covered 1970’s classics by both The Isley Brothers and Stevie Wonder, which was a brave thing to do given the superb originals. The group was formed as far back as 1964, but worked under different names, The Poets and The Insiders, before finally they changed to their permanent name and the genesis of this choice was apparently a bottle of coke. By 1970 they had already signed to RCA where they enjoyed their greatest commercial success and were under the production talents of Bert de Coteaux, later of Crown Heights Affair fame. The group enjoyed first success with a top thirty R & B song in, ‘You’ve been my inspiration’, and then a cover of The Impressions’ ‘I’m So Proud’, that placed them in the top twenty before they hit the R & B top ten with ‘Spinning Around (I must be falling in love)’. By far their biggest American success came in 1972 and a terrific groover in, ‘Everybody Plays The Fool’ (a number two R & B, and number three pop hit no less) with a mini rap, harking back to the Lou Rawls monologues. By this time, the former lead vocalist, Donald McPherson had died of leukemia and been replaced by Cuba Gooding Sr., who would go on to become the lead and most distinctive voice of the group sound. Sadly we also lost him in 2017 too.

There was, though, a different side to the group that seldom gets mentioned. In 1971, they cut a more socio-political commentary in, ‘Black Seeds Keep On Growing, and then recorded their two most endearing albums in, ‘Afrodisia’ and ‘Euphrates River’, from 1973 and 1974 respectively. From these two wonderful albums twelve tracks have been judiciously selected here. They include a creative reworking of The Isley Brothers’ opus, ‘Summer Breeze’, which creates an altogether different vibe with harp, piccolo and strings intro, and operates at a slower tempo than the original. The only pity is that the other cover, ‘Work To Do’, is not included here. A medley of Stevie Wonder’s epic ‘Superwoman/Where Were You When I Needed You’, while not on a par with the original, nevertheless offers up an interesting second version with flute and light orchestrations. Another song from the mid-1970’s that has been picked up on by subsequent generations is, ‘Happiness Is Just Around The Bend’, which has a subtle Latin funk accompaniment and is a real slow burner of a tune that could comfortably fit into the rare groove (though not as rare as all that) idiom. Excellent and extremely well researched discographical notes courtesy of Charles Waring and label illustrations to accompany. Far more than just another 1970’s harmony group, The Main Ingredient made their own personal imprint upon 1970’s soul music.

Tim Stenhouse