Steady Earnest

Take It, Take It, TAKE IT!

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Going from strength to strength, Steady Earnest had released their excellent self-titled debut EP in 1993, followed by a full-length the same year, and then returned in 1994 with their sophomore set, Take It, Take It, TAKE IT! Even though Earnest had begun as a side project for all involved, albeit an ever more successful one, the group was obviously expending time on its music, as evidenced by the new album's extremely tight sound. But that may have come at the expense of songwriting; three-fifths of Take It, Take It, TAKE IT! was covers, including a live version of "Take It Easy," one of the two covers featured on Out of Line. Then again, "Easy" was fast becoming the band's signature song, its lyrics rejigged to include the group's name within. Regardless, Steady Earnest had now penned their own rocksteady classic, "Skin It Up" -- its steady, swinging pace, skinhead references, sweet melody, flashy guitar work, and lush brass created an instant fan fave. In contrast to "Skin"'s languorous arrangement, their take on another rocksteady classic, the Paragons' "Wear You to the Ball," is flush with rockabilly-styled guitar and an emphatic rhythm, giving an old favorite a distinctly new sound. Equally creative is their version of the Heptones' "Party Time," another Studio One masterpiece from the rocksteady era, here thoroughly transformed by a dubby roots arrangement. As for Aretha Franklin's "Rock Steady," that too gets a new do, not remade in Jamaican fashion, but dragged down so deep into funk that it's as if Earth, Wind & Fire themselves were performing it. In utter contrast, Arthur Cohen shows off his flashiest country guitar while the brass simultaneously scatters Latin passages on the band's own penned "I Don't Know." Everybody gets to swing their "Junco Partner" on this big-band-flavored cover, then slow down into modern and atmospheric urban R&B on "All Your Love," and then skank the night away till you're "Talking Gibberish." Cover-heavy it may be, but the album fizzes with creativity regardless, and with a tighter sound and ingenuous arrangements, Take It! is in its own way an even stronger set than its predecessor.

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