One of the beautiful things about Soul Music during the early to mid-70s period (up to and including 1974) was that artists and groups could take their material in different directions freely. At least, it was the impression which one got as a result of different sounds becoming so progressively expansive as you flipped through the AM Top 40 dial. Lyrically, you could be as tough or as vulnerable as you wanted. However which way you chose, it was a period of time when one did not have to play to any musical stereotype. The Main Ingredient were one of those Soul outfits who stayed true to themselves. In looking back with hindsight, I could never figure out why their work was sometimes maligned by critics. If it wasn’t working, then why did “Everybody Plays The Fool” and “Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” do so well in the charts?
Cuba Gooding Sr. put it over for all of us in a way I could relate to. And with “Everybody Plays The Fool”, he did it like he was a friend to all of us. He was saying he’s been through the same thing as you in your longing for that lady you had your eye on. “How can you help it when the music starts to play?/ And your ability to reason is wept away”? In another passage of the song, it has never gone out of my head of the image of how much love can take over your life and how it can stay with you so vividly that you could practically reach out and touch it. “Love runs deeper than any ocean/It can cloud your mind with emotion”. These were plain and simple words sung with confessional honesty to a friend.
“Everybody Plays The Fool” was released in the late Summer of 1972. It became a greeting song for all of us getting back to school in September. It didn’t matter what age you were. You knew you were going to fall down that path. There was going to be that one who was going to sweep you off of your feet that year in school. Cuba was just letting you know that you had a soundtrack to follow along to as you made that same trip into your own personal chaos that you could never break the habit of getting into in the first place. I thank him for being there to help me through because I did some serious falling myself back then. I still carry it with me because I still do the same thing 45 years later. It’s a continuous circle like everything in life.
And then came that last great year before,1974, just before the advent of Van McCoy’s “The Hustle” changed the dynamic of Soul Music and things began to morph into what we would come to call Disco. “Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” continued with a great groove. He had the lady in that one and he had all of the cool to show for it. If that wasn’t enough, the guitar in that song just took the song where it needed to go. I wish more people could bring back the subject of all of the cool guitar players in Soul Music back then into the subjects of their conversations in music forums. The one in “Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” had that great sting to it. Combined with Gooding’s vocal delivery, the Spring and early Summer of ’74 became that much better for its being there for you to shuffle along to in your mind or if you were riding on your back and had a transitor radio to get you through neighborhoods and traffic. I don’t know if it was the same for you, but ’74 was such a mellow and smooth-cool attitude time of the ’70s. I’ve said it before in tributes in the past that I’ve done here, but I’ve always thought that ’74 was the last year of the ’60s. Once the year was out and things worked their way towards the middle of ’75, the ’70s as a lot of us came to know had begun to set in. It had a different feeling and it was sneaking up on all of us-no exceptions.
For those of you who don’t know about it, there is an SACD hybrid (multi-channel) release of the Euphrates River album from the Vocalion label out of the U.K. which was released recently which any self-respecting Soul Music fan should own. It is the definitive sonic version of the album and a must have. Seek it out before it goes out of print (if it hasn’t done so already). It is fervently hoped that Vocalion can score the rights to release the Bitter Sweet album in the same format. “Everybody Plays The Fool” deserves to have a multi-channel release. We are so fortunate to have have had “Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” make it.
There’s also another great release out there on CD which people should pick up from the U.S. label called Real Gone Music. It’s a two-fer CD (two albums on 1 CD) of the L.T.D. and Black Seeds albums from before 1972’s Bitter Sweet album from before and just after Gooding joined the group (after the passing of one of their original vocalists). The material stands up quite well up against the Bitter Sweet and Euphrates River albums. As with anything having to do with Real Gone Music, if you have any inclination for picking it up because you are serious about listening to this phase of the group, then you’ll want to get it as titles from Real Gone Music go out of print pretty fast.
The articles that are slowly trickling out are giving all indications that this may have been a particularly tragic passing. I don’t know all of the circumstances involved, but the passing of the Soul artists always hit me a little harder than some of the other music passings for the simple reason that their advancement in success was all of our success. My life is better for having had Soul artists and groups in it. They created a an important part of the tapestry of our musical lives which all too often gets forgotten.