Most listeners know Johnny Paycheck from "Take This Job and Shove It" -- a song so popular and so iconic that it overshadows everything else Paycheck did, not just for pop fans but for country listeners. Couple that with a reputation for being a roughneck hellion and you have somebody who is known as a persona, not as a musician. And that's a real shame, as Epic/Legacy's The Soul & the Edge: The Best of Johnny Paycheck proves. As the first comprehensive CD collection of Paycheck's hit-making peak years of the '70s and '80s -- his early years are documented on the stellar The Real Mr. Heartache collection -- this collection is a revelation, offering definitive proof that he was one of the very greatest hardcore country singers. He could do it all: blue-collar rage ("Take This Job and Shove It," "Me and the IRS"), barroom weepers ("Slide Off of Your Satin Sheets," "I Did the Right Thing") and barroom ravers ("Fifteen Beers"), lush country-pop (the Billy Sherrill-produced "She's All I Got") and gritty country-soul (a George Jones duet on "You Better Move On"), tough-guy laments ("I'm the Only Hell (My Mama Ever Raised)") and tough-guy bravado ("Ragged Old Truck," "The Outlaw's Prayer"). Plus, there's a wicked, bizarre sense of humor, evidenced clearly on the neo-talking blues "Colorado Cool-Aid," illustrating that he didn't tame his wildness even at his popular peak. Then there's that voice -- a resonant baritone with impeccable phrasing that some claim was an inspiration for George Jones' style (and listening to this and Mr. Heartache makes those claims quite credible). It all adds up to a collection that not only captures Paycheck at his peak, but also lays claim as one of the great country albums of its era, if not all time. It's the kind of collection an artist the stature of Johnny Paycheck deserves.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: George Jones
feat: George Jones