The eager to please Little Darlin' outfit put together this collection of Johnny Paycheck recordings from 1965-1968; eight out of these 14 songs were later included in the Country Music Foundation's The Real Mr. Heartache compact disc retrospective from 1996. It would be nice to say that the best songs from these years were assembled for this album but, as is the norm with this company, there isn't much rhyme or reason to the choice of tracks or the sequencing. Nonetheless, it is hard to find much fault with the material or performances included, and much has been written about the high quality of playing from a group of session regulars that includes fiddler Buddy Spicher and pedal steel whiz Lloyd Green, the latter providing big old buckets of fat, distorted lead runs. In point of fact, an experimental distortion unit was invented for some of these sides by the engineer, Glenn Snoddy. Fans of country & western at its most miserable probably can't do better than Paycheck from this period, with one song beginning "Lately life with you has been unbearable." And of course there should be mention of "The Cave," a rare country & western song about a nuclear holocaust and one of the finest protest songs ever recorded. And here it is on an album with "Ballad of the Green Berets." Truly something for everybody.
AllMusic Review by Eugene Chadbourne