Lorraine Ellison – Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)

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Miss Lorraine Ellison

Example

Listen – Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)  MP3″

Hey, y’all…wazzup?

Allow to begin todays entry by stating that I am, in a word, tired.

Remember that “second wind” I was talking about last week?

It blew away….

If I should nod off while writing this, someone poke me with a sharp stick.

Zzzzzzzzzzz….

Ouch!

Thank you.

See?

It’s one of those days where I stagger out of bed and prop myself up against the shower wall, hoping that the water will wake me up just enough so that I don’t tip over and crack my head open on the towel rack.

It was my turn to get up and feed the little guy last night. I was tired when I went to bed, tired-er yet when I got up to get the bottle, and zombie-esque when I “woke up” at 6:30 this morning. For a child that weighs in the neighborhood of 9 pounds, he’s a ravenous beastie, insistent on upping his formula rations on an almost daily basis. I’m starting to believe that it’s going to end up like that old childrens book about the kid who overfeeds his goldfish so much, that the fish ends up the size of a whale and has to be moved to a swimming pool. One night the little guy is going to leap from his bassinet, grab me by my shirt, slam me up against the wall and demand the keys to the car so he can go get a steak, some mashed potatoes and a steaming pot of black coffee.

I know….it’s not so bad. I’ll have plenty of time to sleep… some day.

Enough of my whining (for now).

When I was pulling out records to add to the “to be blogged” pile, I grabbed some funk, a couple of tasty Northern Soul-ish items, an organ burner or two and a couple of records that can only be described as solid, grade-A, vitamin fortified SOUL. The kind of stuff that’ll put a glide in your stride and some pep in your step, even when your eyelids weigh sixteen pounds apiece and you realize that that weird noise you keep hearing is your bones creaking every time you move.

One such record is today’s selection ‘Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)’ by Lorraine Ellison. Ellison was one of the truly great soul singers of the 1960’s. She was also, like the mighty Howard Tate, the beneficiary of the songwriting and production talents of the legendary Jerry Ragavoy. It was Ragavoy who brought her to Mercury Records where she would record the of-covered ‘Stay With Me’ and the anthemic ‘Call Me Anytime You Need Some Loving’ (which recently got a nice write up over at the ‘Number One Songs In Heaven’ blog).

Between 1966 and the early 70’s Ellison would record a bunch of singles (and a few LPs) for Warner Brothers and their Loma subsidiary.

Today’s selection is best remembered – by those that have heard it at all – for the cover version by Janis Joplin from her 1970 LP “I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!”. Joplin would revisit the Ragavoy catalogue again (via Garnett Mimms and Howard Tate) with ‘Cry Baby’ and ‘Get It While You Can’ on her final LP ‘Pearl’. While I have expressed my distaste for Joplin’s soul coverage in the past, I have to say that her cover of ‘Try…’ is by far her least offensive effort, and probably the best fit for her style of the three tunes mentioned.

That said, to paraphrase the late Senator Lloyd Bentsen, Janis Joplin was no Lorraine Ellison, and a single listen to today’s selection should make that abundantly clear. Ellison had – to say the very least – a powerful set of pipes, and was capable of using that gift skillfully. The great thing is that she starts off ‘Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)’* by sliding into the lyric sensually, winding in and out of the beat and around the backing vocals. Before long, however she’s turning up the heat, leaping into the high end of her range and displaying quite a bit of power. The arrangement, with a subtle but muscular rhythm section, and a tight horn section is fantastic (the side was produced by Ragavoy), and ought to be required listening for an example of state of the art, late 60’s soul perfection.

Ellison left recording after 1973 and returned to her gospel singing roots, where she would remain until her untimely death in 1983. Rhino Records Handmade division, recently put together a limited edition boxed set of Ellison’s Warner Brothers recordings as well as a bunch of rarities. I’d like to get my mitts on a copy, but for now the 45’s I already have will have to suffice.

* Interestingly enough, the song was co-written by Ragavoy and Chip Taylor, who had some notable soul successes with Billy Vera & Judy Clay, as well as Evie Sands

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12 Responses to “Lorraine Ellison – Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)”

  1. cosmoprim Says:

    Great post (as usual).
    I have a request, if you would be so kind – could you re-post Lee Dorsey’s 4 Corners (pts 1 & 2)?
    I have had no luck finding it and I know you posted it last year (and I missed it). Heavy thanks.

  2. The Stepfather of Soul! Says:

    Great post. This was one of the highlights of the Loma boxed set from awhile back and I fell in love with it on its first hearing. There’s something about the way Jerry Ragovoy set up his chords to create little pockets of drama and suspense in the great Howard Tate / Ellison / etc. sides.

  3. whiteray Says:

    Great stuff (as usual)! Thanks so much!

  4. darcy Says:

    What a great track. I have never really explored Lorraine’s catalogue, beyond the obvious. I must put that right.

    In the light of your increased family responsibilities your dedication to the art of blog is impressive.
    Thanks!

  5. Niel Wright Says:

    I’m very pleased to hear yet another original later covered by Janis Joplin. Thanks!

    On the other hand, I was just watching, on YouTube, a video of Janis singing “Maybe” on the Ed Sullivan show in 1971 or ’72. It blew me away today just as it did when I saw the original broadcast.

    Everybody’s entitled to their own tastes, of course. But just so long as I don’t have to listen to “Me and Bobby McGee” again, I can’t help but note a gentle disagreement about your view of Ms. Joplin.

  6. D.J.P. Says:

    Larry –

    Thanks for upgrading the bit rate on your new recordings. It really does make a big difference in the listening quality.

    Now when I visit your site and check out one of your tracks, instead of sounding like a long distance phone call, it sounds more like I’m kickin it in your living room with you watching the record is spinning right in front of my eyes.

    You’ve sure got a funky living room…

  7. Dan Says:

    Hadn’t heard that one in a long time, Larry. Thanks. And I didn’t know Chip Taylor co-wote it, either. Interesting songwriter, Chip – wrote in a lot of diverse styles. For example, “Wild Thing” and “Angel Of The Morning” are his, too, strange as it seems. Took those to the bank. Why are you reading this? Get some sleep!

  8. jon Says:

    Man, that’s good. I heard Janis’ version of “Cry Baby” in a restaurant yesterday and was reminded of how badly she butchered the original. I agree that her version of this song wasn’t bad, but this original is definitely better.

  9. LoRezSky Says:

    my daily dose of of soul. awesome, man. truly good.

  10. Alaimo Says:

    I don’t visit here often enough and it’s a shame. I miss out on regular doses of solid solid, such as this gem by Lorraine Ellison. I’m too sheltered to know her at all, but now my eyes (and ears) are opened. Thanks for this great site!!!

  11. Lorraine Ellison - Call Me Anytime You Need Some Lovin' « Funky16Corners Says:

    [...] became a new fave of mine (thanks Lee!). While you can pick up a little background info in a previous Funky16Corners post on Ellison (here), I can try to do justice to this truly amazing record. I suppose I should start by referencing – [...]

  12. j Says:

    i have to say that Janis was far superior to this gal, janis had the soul sound behind her, never sounding too prety for the blues, alot more personal too

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