Miss Lorraine Ellison
“Listen – Try (Just A Little Bit Harder) MP3″
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.
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