Jackie Ross: Selfish One
On 7″ (Chess, 1964) and Full Bloom (Chess, 1964)

Bobby Bland: Two Steps From the Blues
On Two Steps From the Blues (Duke, 1961)

Willie Mitchell: Take Five
On 7″ (Ace, 1968) and On Top (Hi, 1969)

O.V. Wright: Eight Men, Four Women
On 7″ (Back Beat, 1967) and Eight Men, Four Women (MCA, 1967)

Clarence Reid: Ten Tons of Dynamite
From 7″ (Alston, 1971)

The Platters: I Love You 1,000 Times
From 7″ (Musicor, 1966) and I Love You 1,000 Times (Musicor, 1966)

Call me crazy, but I hear the melody of the ballad “Tenderly” running underneath the beginning of this hit by Chicago vocalist, Jackie Ross (a Sam Cooke discovery). This has all the elements of great mid-60s soul; a little swing in its step, lush production and Ross, while not as passionate as other vocalists, has a pleasant sweetness in her tone. If you want to talk about great voices though, it’s hard to do better than bluesman Bobby Bland who is blessed with one of the warmest baritones you’ll ever get to enjoy. “Two Steps From the Blues” is one of those late-night ballads that you listen to at some dive bar, nursing one drink too many. Not that I’d know anything about that personally…

Staying in Bland’s native Tennessee, it’s Hi Records’ legend Willie Mitchell…best known for producing Al Green, but also a competent musician and bandleader in his own right. This is his cover of Dave Brubeck’s smash, “Take Five,” but unlike the smooth stylings of Brubeck’s version, Mitchell sasses his up on a jazzy soul tip.

Clarence Reid‘s “Ten Tons of Dynamite” is an obscure B-side from the man-otherwise-known-as-Blowfly (luckily, this song is a lot more PG-rated than his alter ego’s fare. Not quite as explosive a song as you’d assume from its title, but it’s still a solid soul groover (ok, his songwriting is just a little hokey though). Last, we have the honeyed harmonies of The Platters, with the title song from their mid-60s album, I Love You 1,000 Times (that’s a lot of love). Nice arrangement on this one, especially that downward chord progression which gives the song an expectedly bluesy quality.