The former lead singer with The Main Ingredient has been away from the recording scene for just a year. In between, he's been busy preparing his solo debut — now out on Motown. Cuba Gooding feels positive about his future, as he tells David Nathan.
THE last time you probably heard the distinctive sound of Mr. Cuba Gooding was on one of the many fine albums that The Main Ingredient recorded for R.C.A. Records — and if you were one of the many folks who dug the Main's sound, you probably bought at least one of those fine albums!
Since Cuba left the group towards the end of 1976, there has been a marked silence from the group and the man himself, recording-wise, and when we last spoke with Cuba — shortly after the split — he was readying himself for a prospective solo deal with R.C.A.
As so often happens in the music business, everything didn't go quite according to plan and in consequence, it's only now, eighteen months later that you can hear the fruits of Cuba's first solo album, with production chores handled effectively and efficiently by the hit-producing team of Lambert & Potter, on Motown Records.
Cuba was naturally anxious to explain to everyone the reasons for his apparent absence from the recording scene and we caught up with him in Los Angeles just prior to the beginning of a nationwide tour of selected venues at which Cuba showcased material from his new album.
"What happened is really pretty straight forward," Cuba states, "Initially, R.C.A. offered me a deal but I really didn't consider it was what I wanted — in fact, it didn't come anywhere near to what we were looking for. In the meantime, I'd started talking with Lambert and Potter about us working together and everything seemed pretty set for me to join their Haven label, which was changing distribution from Capitol to Arista.
"Anyway, they ran into some problems with Clive Davis over at Arista which kinda left everything hanging in the air, because we'd actually started working on the album."
With the demise of Haven, the team began negotiating with R.C.A. again "but they still didn't come through with what we needed so we started shopping around.
"The closest we came to signing was with Warner Brothers and I'd done a special showcase. It looked again as if everything was set but we had to wait for Mo Ostin to come back from Europe — he's the company president — to complete the deal. It just so happened that someone was in the audience at the showcase from Motown as was my new manager, Danny Moss.
"That was back in August of last year and naturally, we were all anxious to complete work on the album and when Motown offered us what looked and felt like the right thing for everyone concerned, we decided to go with it. And I must say I'm very happy with the fact that we did because the company has been very supportive with this first album.
"They seem to have the right structure and organization to deal with me," Cuba explains, "and it seems that the company is going through certain major restructuring right now which is definitely going to give that extra strength in all areas.
"Another factor that particularly endeared me to Motown was the fact that they really don't have any other artists like me on the label and that helps because I can get the kind of concentration I need as a solo performer."
Cuba comments that actually completing the album with Lambert and Potter was a great experience too.
"They are totally professional in everything they do and I really learned a great deal from working with the guys. In fact, I think it's the best overall project I've ever done and naturally, I'm more than happy about that.
"We finished it off in October of last year and as you can see, there are seven of the team's songs on the album. I chose the Patti Austin song, "We're In Love" and "As Long As There's You" and "Somewhere To Go Home To" but, basically, it was a collaborative effort selecting the material."
Naturally, after having been away from the stage for close to eighteen months — aside from his showcase appearance in August last year — Cuba is more than anxious to get right back into the swing of things.
"We anticipate that after this current promotional tour, we'll be doing some kind of major national jaunt. Right now, I'm using six musicians and two background singers and we've really prepared something different from everyone. One of the features of the act will have the singers miming to some of the lyrics on the tunes so we intend to offer a visual kind of show to people."
Cuba states categorically that one of his main aims is to gain international acceptance and that's something he will definitely be working hard towards in the future.
"I remember from whenever we went over to Europe with The Main Ingredient that audiences were always very receptive and open to our music. Plus I feel that establishing yourself on a worldwide basis is essential these days because the world is getting so much smaller. Then of course, you can only play places in the States but so many times and then you've got to start expanding your horizons and looking overseas.
"So you can expect me to be making that first trip as a solo artist to Europe pretty soon — plus we want to start exploring the possibilities of making another trek to Latin America. After all, with a name like Cuba, it would make a lot of sense, right."
Mr Gooding concludes that he sees his future in the music business in several different areas.
"Motown has the right kind of organization to allow for me to branch off into producing and songwriting and as you know, I was pretty actively involved with production on some of the Main's records.
"As for songwriting, I probably have at least twenty to thirty songs already finished and we were going to include some of them on the first album but we decided to wait for the second one. So I think you'll find I'm going to be involved in many different facets of my career from now on."
All of which bodes well for the future — it looks as if Mr. Gooding can look forward to a flourishing and successful solo career if his first solo album is anything to go by.
About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.