It seems only fitting that the current resurgence of 'real R&B' should coincide with the re-emergence of one of the genre's influential pioneers: THE MAIN INGREDIENT.
The harmonic convergence that pumped out such still-played '70s hits such as 'Everybody Plays The Fool,' 'Spinning Around (I Must Be Falling In Love),' 'I'm So Proud,' 'You've Been My Inspiration,' 'Just Don't Want To Be Lonely,' and 'Happiness Is Just Around The Bend' returns with its first new album in 12 years, 'PURE MAGIC,' on New York-based Magnatar Records owned and founded by Yusef H. Shabazz.
Original founding members Tony Silvester and Luther Simmons, Jr. joined forces with new lead singer Cartton Blount to seamlessly meld old school and contemporary R&B. The resulting 12-track set carries on The Main Ingredient tradition of smooth, classy soul.
'Excellence and quality have been and are our two key words,' says Silvester. 'The music of today is just a recycling of yesterday's music. But there's still a huge audience out there thirsting for quality R&B and they're being ignored. That's what inspired us to come back and take a shot, reinventing ourselves a third time,' Adds Simmons, 'We have a chance to do something meaningful again. When singing is in your blood, it's an itch you just have to keep scratching.'
That itch is what precipitated the first coming of The Main Ingredient, back when 'boy groups' meant such up-and-comers as The Temptations, the Delfonics, the Dells, Chi-Lites and the Impressions. Jumping into that daunting arena were New Yorkers Silvester, Simmons, and then-lead singer, Donald McPherson, who started out in 1964 as The Poets. The Panamanian-born Silvester had moved to Harlem, New York with his family at the age of eight. 'Singing and basketball were the things to do,' recalls Silvester, who begin singing with school buddy McPherson in local taIent~sho'ws and on the proverbial street corner.
After a stint in the military, Silvester and McPherson decided to team up musically, meeting church-bred Simmons while all three were doing background sessions at New York's famed Brill Building. As The Poets, the trio signed its first label deal with Red Bird Records and recorded a couple of singles. Changing the group name to the Insiders, the threesome segued to RCA Records where they became the first act signed under the label's new R&B division.
But it was the third name change to The Main Ingredient that clicked. The trio scored its first top 30 R&B hit in 1970 with the Simmons-written 'You've Been My Inspiration,' followed by a top 20 cover of the Impressions' 'I'm So Proud.' Next up was another Simmons tune, 'Spinning Around', which became The Main Ingredient's first top 10 R&B single in 1971.
With the untimely 1971 death of McPherson from leukemia, the group found itself undergoing its second transformation. Enlisted as the new lead singer was neighborhood cohort Cuba Gooding. The Gooding era yielded three top 40 hits, including the crossover pop gems 'Everybody Plays The Fool' and 'Just Don't Want To Be Lonely'. Opting for a solo career in 1978, Gooding returned to the group in 1980 and left once again in 1999.
Meanwhile, Simmons himself left in 1975 to become a stockbroker and returned again in 1980. During these transitions, the group switched label homes to Mercury and later Zakia and Polydor, releasing the album 'I Just Wanna Love You' on Polydor in 1989. Silvester also took time out to further hone his production skills, working with Prince, Brenda Russell, Sister Sledge, and others. But after the release 'I Just Wanna Love You', the group decided to retire.
Then two years ago a new ingredient was added to the mix: lead singer Carlton Blount. After a college track injury, the sports enthusiast and Richmond, Virginia native began seriously pursuing his second love, singing. Winning first-place during a 1988 'Showtime at the Apollo' talent competition eventually led to stints opening for Al Green, Ray Charles, The Temptations, and Patti LaBelle as well as collaborations with Grover Washington, Jr. and Roberta Flack, In between he recorded his first single, the regional hit 'Right On Loving You,' and continues to lend his rich vocals to commercials for Pepsi, Mobil Oil, ad the Marriott Hotel chain.
A mutual friend put his demo tape in the hands of Silvester, who was planning on producing a solo Blount project when he instead invited the singer to join The Main Ingredient's third incarnation. 'We still capture the original Main Ingredient feel,' says Blount, 'but it's definitely a contemporary sound. The trick is to make people think you're not doing it differently when you are.'
A smooth and classy R&B trick, The Main lngredient has successfully accomplished throughout its several incarnations. With quality, integrity and innovation as the keys, The Main Ingredient still remains 'PURE MAGIC.'