On April 27, 2004, Cuba Gooding Sr. celebrated his 60th birthday. At that point, Gooding was about 30 years past his commercial peak, but the veteran soul-pop singer still has his share of hardcore admirers -- people who fondly remember his performances on "Everybody Plays the Fool," "I Just Don't Want to Be Lonely," "Happiness Is Just Around the Bend," and other major hits that he enjoyed with the Main Ingredient in the early or mid-'70s. And those hardcore admirers will be happy to know that after all these years, Gooding's smooth voice is holding up nicely on this 2004 release. Begin With the Family sounds like the title of a gospel album, and in fact, a few of the songs on this CD have Christian overtones -- most notably, the title track and an interesting remake of "Everybody Plays the Fool" (which Gooding reworks in a semi-gospel fashion). But more often than not, Begin With the Family favors secular material, and romantic love is the album's dominant theme. Once you get past the high-tech, urban contemporary-style production, Begin With the Family isn't radically different from Gooding's '70s work (which included not only his contributions to the Main Ingredient, but also the solo albums he recorded for Motown at the end of the decade). At 60, Gooding isn't trying to reinvent the wheel, and that's just as well because classic Northern soul is his strong point. Begin With the Family isn't Gooding's best or most essential solo album, but it's a respectable, satisfying effort that longtime followers should be aware of.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson