We take a look at the new BGO Records quadruple re-release box set of mid-1970s Jonny Paycheck albums.
This set begins with Mr Lovemaker from 1973, after Billy Sherrill had begun contemporizing Paycheck’s output. It sets off with a fairly smooth vibe, as one would expect with acclaimed producer Sherrill at the helm. This feels like 1973 country music, when it had found its way almost into the mainstream. Although Paycheck’s delivery is still very much in his own style, the arrangements and overall sound has any rootsy edges knocked off.
Any previous listener of output from the likes of Tammy Wynette or this era of George Jones will recognise the production immediately. It puts Paycheck alongside any charting country artist of the era. This is due in no small part to the direction and vision of Billy Sherrill, who produced hit after hit for Tammy Wynette in the first phase of her career, alongside many others. As an aside, Paycheck co-wrote her first hit, Apartment #9.
The second album, Loving You Beats All I’ve Ever Seen, brings more of the same. The pace and flow are a little better though. It is surer of itself, bringing back all that was good from the previous album in higher quantity. A slight change of pace halfway through this album comes with Rhythm Guitar, a gospel-tinged number which is quite unexpected among the more romantic offerings. Though it is not unwelcome, breaking up what could otherwise be a little too much sentimentality. Loving You Beats All I’ve Ever Seen positions itself in the very centre of what was current with a cover of Charlie Rich’s The Most Beautiful Girl.
When we come to the second disc and 11 Months and 29 Days, we find ourselves more firmly rooted in the burgeoning outlaw scene. Paycheck had begun getting into legal scrapes by this time, and his musical offerings reflected this. Sherrill engineered his entry into the same company as Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. We have moved out of the smooth, romantic, almost pop territory and into a dirtier place.
Having said that, there is still an abundance of shine and perfect balance in the production which keeps this from feeling completely alien to Paycheck’s previous material. There are still fun numbers here such as a rousing version of Gone at Last alongside the overt That’s What The Outlaws in Texas Want to Hear.
The second half of disc two offers us perhaps Paycheck’s most widely known album. This features the title track Take This Job and Shove It in the top position of opening number. Again, this reinforces the outlaw image and runs along very similar lines to the previous album. Sherrill had, by this, time emphasised the cheeky outlaw image in Paycheck’s music. There are several drinking songs here and everything begins to sound a little more obvious in terms of content.
Once again the musicianship and production cannot be faulted. Neither can Paycheck’s performance and delivery. However, this album has less subtlety and as such feels a little less clever. It is clearly as closely considered as previous albums, while the intention and target audience is perhaps more conspicuous.
A Little Something Extra…
The booklet included in this release is fairly extensive. It contains a reproduction of the testimonial from the original album sleeve of Mr Lovemaker. There are also photographs which were featured in the original album artwork, which is a nice touch. Personally I would like to have seen the session information for each album, where available. There is so much that is familiar in the musicianship, that it is always nice to attribute certain session artists’ names to their distinctive work.
However, the front cover of the booklet and CD set is comprised of all four original album covers, which leads us in from the get-go. Having those visual representations is transporting and begins the whole listening experience well. BGO Records have certainly perfected these 4-album sets.
The first disc is unlikely to contain much that is beloved by the majority of Paycheck followers. However, it has much to offer those who ear is tuned to mid-70s contemporary country. It is disc two which epitomizes this artist’s image and overall output more thoroughly, representing his most popular period.
Disc one may appeal more broadly to fans of early 1970s country music as a whole, while disc two definitely seems to cater more for Paycheck devotees.
Overall the quality of production is absolutely faultless and impeccable. With Billy Sherrill’s name on the credits, there can be no doubt that the listener will enjoy what is within. The reproduction here from digital remasters makes this collection sound like the day it was recorded. This 4-album Johnny Paycheck re-release set is an enjoyable listen which offers something for Paycheck devotees and wider country listeners alike.
- Mr. Lovemaker
- Walk With Me, Girl
- If Love Gets Any Better
- I’m Just Tired Of Hurting You
- Love Is A Strange And Wonderful Thing
- Something About You I Love
- If You Just Win One Time
- I Won’t Ever Love Again
- Once You’ve Had The Best
- All In The Name Of Love
- She’ll Unwine Me
Loving You Beats All I’ve Ever Seen
- Loving You Beats All I’ve Ever Seen
- Don’t Take My Sunshine Away
- If You Were A Place (You Would Be Heaven)
- Ain’t She Something Else
- Rhythm Guitar
- I Don’t Love Her Anymore
- My Lovin’ Time With You
- The Most Beautiful Girl
- Loving You Is All I Thought It Would Be
- The Touch Of The Master’s Hand
11 Months And 29 Days
- 11 Months And 29 Days
- The Woman Who Put Me Here
- The Feminine Touch
- I Sleep With Her Memory Every Night
- I Can See Me Lovin’ You Again
- Gone At Last
- Closer Than I’ve Ever Been Before
- I’ve Seen Better Days
- Live With Me (‘Til I Can Learn To Live Again)
- That’s What The Outlaws In Texas Want To Here
Take This Job And Shove It
- Take This Job And Shove It
- From Cotton To Satin (From Birmingham To Manhattan)
- The Spirit Of St. Louis
- The 4 “F” Blues
- Barstool Mountain
- Georgia In A Jug
- The Fool Strikes Again
- The Man From Bowling Green
- When I Had A Home To Go To
- Colorado Kool-Aid