Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Johnny Paycheck: “Take This Job And Shove It: The Definitive Collection” (2016) CD Review

“Take This Job And Shove It” is one of those songs I think I knew before I ever actually heard it. It was just a part of the world of my childhood. People referred to it a lot. I would sing its chorus long before I ever had my first job. It was a number one hit on the country chart, but had plenty of mainstream appeal. It was written by David Allen Coe, but it was Johnny Paycheck who first recorded it and had a hit with it. The song was so popular that a film was later named after it (with both Johnny Paycheck and David Allen Coe having small parts). Johnny Paycheck (whose real name was Donald Eugene Lytle) had several other hits during his career, and many of them are included on the new two-disc compilation, Take This Job And Shove It: The Definitive Collection, which covers his years with Epic Records, from 1971 to 1982. Sure, a few of these tunes are a bit on the cheesy side, like “Somebody Loves Me” and “Mr. Lovemaker,” but overall these songs are such a delight, and some are even kind of beautiful, such as “My Part Of Forever.” This compilation includes liner notes by Chris Morris.

Johnny Paycheck recorded a lot of love songs early in his career at Epic. In fact, seven of the first thirteen tracks have some form of the word “love” in the title (compared to only one of the remaining twenty-seven tracks). Several of these were written by Jerry Foster and Bill Rice. The CD opens, however, with “She’s All I Got,” a song written by Jerry Williams Jr. and Gary U.S. Bonds. Freddie North was the first to record this song, but this version by Johnny Paycheck reached #2 on the country chart. In this song, Johnny begs his friend, “Please don’t take her love away from me,” adding, “She’s all I got.” (By the way, this song was recently covered by The Bo-Keys on Heartaches By The Number.) It’s followed by one of the Foster/Rice numbers, “Someone To Give My Love To,” a good song that reached #4 on the country chart in 1972. “I will follow you to the ends of the earth/For my place will be with you/I have taken you for better or worse/Someone to give my love to.”

“It’s Only A Matter Of Wine” is one of those glorious sad country songs about trying to forget a woman, when of course the very act of singing it keeps her in mind. Johnny introduces it by saying, “Here’s one for the boys.” “While inside I’m washing her memory away/’Cause it’s only a matter of wine.” And yes, I love the song’s playful title. This was written by Larry Kingston and Frank Dycus, and is one of my favorite tracks. Johnny then turns to gospel for “Let’s All Go Down To The River,” a track that becomes a rousing number.

“Song And Dance Man” is kind of goofy, but is also fun. It’s about singing for money and alcohol, and has some playful lyrics, like these lines: “Just name your pleasure, then dig down in your jeans/My body needs a beverage and my guitar needs some strings.” “Song And Dance Man” was written by Jerry Foster and Bill Rice, and reached #8 on the country chart. Another fun tune is Johnny Paycheck’s rendition of Paul Simon’s “Gone At Last.” This is a song that Paul Simon included on his Still Crazy After All These Years album, and also released as a single, having a hit with it in 1975. Johnny Paycheck released his version as a single in 1976, and had a minor hit. This song has a bit of a “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” vibe, and this version features some nice work on harmonica, as well as some great vocals by Charnissa. “I’ve had a long streak of bad luck/But I pray it’s gone at last.”

Fun in its own way is “All-American Man,” a song that is very much of its time, a reaction to the Women’s Liberation movement, with lines like “American woman, why can’t you agree/God made man for himself, and he made you for me/American woman, why can’t you understand/That all you’ve got to do is love your all-American man” and “Well, I’ve tried my best to understand/Why you want to replace man/And give up all the luxuries we give you/We work our fingers to the bone/And all we want is you at home/And you’re gonna go too far to forgive you.” Wow.

Johnny Paycheck dips into the blues with “11 Months And 29 Days,” a song about being in jail and looking forward to his release. “Keep your hands off my woman/I ain’t gonna be gone that long.” It’s a very cool tune, and I love the way it mixes blues and country. This one was written by Johnny Paycheck and Billy Sherrill. Another song I like a whole lot is “Slide Off Your Satin Sheets,” in which he sings, “Slide off of your satin sheets/Slip into your long, soft mink.” Oh yes!

The second disc has lots of drinking songs, more tunes fitting that famous outlaw personality of his. And it opens with his most famous recording, “Take This Job And Shove It.” This song still works so well, and it’s hard to keep from singing along with it, regardless of how you feel about your current employment. “I’d give the shirt right off of my back/If I had the guts to say/Take this job and shove it/I ain’t working here no more/My woman done left and took all the reasons/I was working for.” This tune reached #1 on the chart. It’s followed by “Me And The I.R.S.,” a great tune about how working folks get screwed over by the government. “You know, the I.R.S./Ain’t gonna rest/’Til they think they’ve got it all.” And addressing the I.R.S. directly, he tells them to take his name off their list. I love these lines: “Well, it’s hard to keep my hands on my woman with Uncle Sam’s hand in my pants/And if I can’t afford the music, how the hell am I going to dance?

Like “It’s Only A Matter Of Wine,” “The Spirits Of St. Louis” has a nice, playful title. And like that other song, it’s about drinking to get a woman off of his mind. “Drank every bar dry in this city/But all the spirits of St. Louis can’t get you off of my mind.” It’s followed by another drinking song, “Colorado Cool-Aid,” which tells a story that is delivered as spoken word. This is actually a drinking-and-fighting song, and includes someone cutting off another guy’s ear. But there is an odd sense of humor to this song, as Johnny says, “But he was a gentleman about it/Bent over, and with a halfway grin/Picked it up and handed it back to him.”

“You Can Have Her” is fun and delightful, with great groove and some wonderful backing vocals. Here the man is looking for a real love, but finds a woman who is just looking to play. “Drinkin’ And Drivin’” is another song about drinking a woman off of his mind, but this one adds driving to the mix. “Five dollars’ worth of regular/Three dollars’ worth of wine/Just hand me a road map/Show me the state line.” “(Stay Away From) The Cocaine Train” is another of the second disc’s highlights. “Lord, it’s hard to get off the old white train.”

Johnny Paycheck covers three Merle Haggard songs on the second disc. He opens the first one, “Someone Told My Story,” by saying, “You know, for fifteen years I’ve been listening to songs that Merle Haggard wrote. They’ve helped me make it through many a night.” In 1981, Johnny Paycheck released an album of Merle Haggard’s material titled Mr. Hag Told My Story. The second song is “I Can’t Hold Myself In Line,” and features Merle Haggard on vocals. It was released as a single, reaching #41 on the country chart. The third is “Yesterday’s News (Just Hit Home Today),” and it includes a spoken word introduction.

“In Memory Of A Memory” is a really wonderful and emotionally engaging song, and one of my favorites. “Oh sure, you think I’m crazy/And hell, I just might be/But as for tonight/I’m here in memory of a memory.”

CD Track List

Disc One
  1. She’s All I Got
  2. Someone To Give My Love To
  3. It’s Only A Matter Of Wine
  4. Let’s All Go Down To The River
  5. Love Is A Good Thing
  6. Somebody Loves Me
  7. Something About You I Love
  8. Mr. Lovemaker
  9. Song And Dance Man
  10. For A Minute There
  11. My Part Of Forever
  12. Loving You Beats All I Ever Seen
  13. Keep On Lovin’ Me
  14. Gone At Last
  15. All-American Man
  16. 11 Months And 29 Days
  17. I’m The Only Hell (Mama Ever Raised)
  18. Slide Off Your Satin Sheets
  19. Hank (You Tried To Tell Me)
  20. The Man From Bowling Green
Disc Two
  1. Take This Job And Shove It
  2. Me And The I.R.S.
  3. Georgia In A Jug
  4. The Spirits Of St. Louis
  5. Colorado Cool-Aid
  6. Proud Mary
  7. Friend, Lover, Wife
  8. Thanks To The Cathouse (I’m In The Doghouse With You)
  9. Look What The Dog Drug In
  10. You Can Have Her
  11. Drinkin’ And Drivin’
  12. Fifteen Beers
  13. (Stay Away From) The Cocaine Train
  14. You Better Move On
  15. Someone Told My Story
  16. I Can’t Hold Myself In Line
  17. Yesterday’s News (Just Hit Home Today)
  18. D.O.A. (Drunk On Arrival)
  19. In Memory Of A Memory
  20. The Outlaw’s Prayer
Take This Job And Shove It: The Definitive Collection was released on May 6, 2016 through Real Gone Music.

No comments:

Post a Comment