BY FRED MILLS
Lovers of vintage seventies soul know the name Main Ingredient, originally a NYC-based trio who stormed the Top 40 charts in 1970 with “You’ve Been My Inspiration,” a silky sweet slice of strings-laden, harmony rich pop powered by Donald McPherson’s high, soaring tenor. Archival experts Real Gone Music have now restored to print the album that spawned “Inspiration,” LTD, pairing it with the group’s third album,1971’s Black Seeds, as a two-on-one CD.
As liner notesman Kevin Goins explains, McPherson, along with Tony Silvester and Luther Simmons, Jr., had originally formed in the mid ‘60s as The Poets, taking their cues from the fading doo-wop movement as well as the burgeoning soul scene the likes of Motown and Atlantic would take to the bank. Another outfit called the Poets turned up, however, prompting a name change to The Insiders. Soon enough a deal was secured deal with RCA, at the time just beginning to try to establish itself as a label that could have hits in the soul milieu as well as pop and rock. By happenstance the trio decided upon another name change (inspired by some fine print on a Coca-Cola bottle, no less), and an album was soon in stores.
LTD featured lovely, soul-centric takes on both Glen Campbell (“By The Time I Get to Phoenix/Wichita Lineman” done Philly soul-style) and The Beatles (a funky, and oddly compelling, “Get Back”). Meanwhile, although peppy group original “I Was Born to Lose” did not enjoy chart success like the aforementioned hit – which was the fourth single RCA released – as a signature tune for the group, it’s incandescent.
RCA quickly commissioned a second album, the aptly-titled Tasteful Soul, which also saw release in ’70 and yielded an even bigger hit in the form of “Spinning Around.” This was followed by 1971’s Black Seeds, which for some fans is the group’s best, and most culturally relevant, effort. It opens with the Afro-centric, Curtis Mayfield-esque rocker “Black Seeds Keep On Growing” and closes with an inspiring plea for togetherness, “Why Can’t We All Unite.” In between you get uptempo gems like ‘Movin’ On” and orchestral slices of sonic cinema like “Another Day Has Come,” every track crafted with love and care for maximum emotional resonance.
To say that these two albums deserve a spot in any self-respecting soul fan’s collection would be a massive understatement—they are stone classics. The original Main Ingredient only lasted for a few years, as McPherson tragically fell ill and passed away at the age of 29 on July 4, 1971, shortly before the release of Black Seeds. (Cuba Gooding, Sr., subsequently took his place for a couple more albums and several more hits, notably the smash “Everybody Plays the Fool.”) This new reissue, then, makes for a fitting tribute to McPherson and the group he cofounded.
DOWNLOAD: “Black Seeds Keep on Growing,” “I Was Born to Lose,” “You’ve Been My Inspiration”