Johnny Paycheck – Take This Job and Shove It – The Definitive Collection (Real Gone) review
Collection covers the highlights of a true outlaw
This two-disc set brings together 40 tracks summing up the hit-making years that Paycheck spent with Epic Records, from 1971’s pop/country “She’s All I Got” to 1982’s disturbing “D.O.A. (Drunk on Arrival),” with plenty of surprises along the way.
After a series of singles for his own Little Darlin’ Records that showcased the darker side of honky tonk, Paycheck inked a deal with Epic in the early Seventies. Producer Billy Sherrill went about remaking his rough character – softening his approach by adding strings and backup singers. The result was an immediate success. “Love” was the word with hits like “Someone to Give My Love To,” “Love is a Good Thing,” “Somebody Loves Me,” and “Something About You I Love,” all emphasizing Paycheck’s tender side and deep, resonating voice. “It’s Only a Matter of Wine” recalled his Little Darlin’ days, while “Let’s All Go Down to the River” was a great teaming with Jody Miller for a gospel rave-up.
As the Seventies wore on, Paycheck moved toward more controversial topics, like the anti-Women’s Lib anthem “All American Man,” and the unlikely duet with R&B singer Charnissa on “Gone At Last.” As the Outlaw Country movement gained in popularity, Paycheck was able be more himself on “11 Months 29 Days” (the amount of time he was sentenced for check fraud), “I’m the Only Hell (Mama Raised),” and the somewhat scandalous “Slide Off Your Satin Sheets.”
“Take This Job and Shove It” thrust Johnny Paycheck into the national spotlight, with the single topping the Country charts and spawning a movie of the same name. His songs had always echoed his troublesome personal affairs, and “Me and the I.R.S.” along with “Drinkin’ and Drivin’” were two examples of this continuation. But, as time went on, things got more dire – like the whoring “Thanks to the Cathouse (I’m in the Doghouse Again),” and desperate (the aforementioned “D.O.A”). The duets with George Jones are quite good – “Proud Mary” rocks, while “You Better Move On” manages to evoke a a more sinister emotion than Arthur Alexander’s original. Unfortunately, the teaming with Merle Haggard for “I Can’t Hold Myself in Line” sounds like they’re not even in the same room. The set ends off with the fitting “The Outlaw’s Prayer,” a spoken word track that sort of sums up Paycheck’s rough and tumble career.
Take This Job and Shove It gives us a chance to dig deeper into the career of one of country music’s true outlaws. —Tony Peters