I'm in Need of LoveLou Courtney, I'm in Need of Love (Epic, 1974). Courtney bounced around throughout the '60s and early '70s, releasing singles for Imperial, Philips, Riverside, Verve, and Buddah. A few of the A-sides became Northern soul favorites, but when he delivered one of the finest smooth soul albums in 1974, you really had to be on your game to know about it. Not given much of a push, two of its songs were picked as singles, neither of which did much more than crack the Black Singles chart. I'm in Need of Love is a modest, mellow album draped in arrangements from Jerry Ragovoy and Leon Pendarvis that are lush yet not ostentatious, and Courtney makes optimal use of a rich, soothing voice that can hold your attention all day and all night, or as long as it takes to involuntarily spin this album from front to back several times without pause. (Issued on CD by Soul Brother in 1999.)

  • "Since I First Laid Eyes on You"

  • "Somebody New Is Lovin' on You"

Ain't It Good Feeling GoodEloise Laws, Ain't It Good Feeling Good (Invictus, 1977). Another drifter, Eloise Laws (sister of Ronnie, Hubert, and Debra) started in the late '60s with Columbia prior to being picked up by Holland-Dozier-Holland's Music Merchant, and she later shifted to the Hollands' briefly reactivated mothership Invictus, the label that released her first album in 1977. Backed by New York Port Authority, who would record the last Invictus album, Ain't It Good Feeling Good boasts a couple gale force soul-funk blasts as muscular and charged as anything Brass Construction or the Pointer Sisters were releasing at the time. The relatively understated songs are nothing to sniff at, either. (Issued in 1999 as part of the Love Factory compilation on Sequel. The album has been issued on CD in Japan as well.)

  • "Love Goes Deeper Than That"

  • "Put a Little Love Into It (When You Do It)"

Nice and SoulfulCaroline Crawford, Nice and Soulful (Mercury, 1977). Crawford scored a 1964 Top 40 R&B single for Motown (as Carolyn Crawford) with "My Smile Is Just a Frown (Turned Upside Down)." When she hooked up with Bohannon for the funk classics "Let's Start the Dance" and "Me and the Gang," her range had practically quadrupled to incorporate a throaty belt setting. Bohannon returned the favor by producing two albums for Crawford, and though neither one is an outright classic by any stretch, the later release opens with two jaw droppers: the gorgeous, bittersweet "I'll Be Here for You" (featuring strings orchestrated by Johnny Allen, who did the same for Isaac Hayes' "Shaft") and the gritty, grinding "Can't Hold Me Back."

  • "I'll Be Here for You"

  • "Can't Hold Me Back"