uReview: Townes Van Zandt

For The Sake Of The Song

12345678910 (29 votes, average: 8.62 out of 10)

Sometimes when I listen to Townes, it makes me feel like nothing else could ever reach his level.
But does the production on this debut truly take the steam out of the songs?
And if this isn’t his best record, which one is?

:) Vinyl Search | ebay ]
:D CD Reissue | 2007 | Fat Possum | amazon ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

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  • The songs are too good for that, but just think what it could have been…
    Maybe that┬┤s why the solo acoustic Live At The Old Quarter is probably his best. But the self-titled third album, Delta Momma Blues and Flying Shoes are highlights too.

  • My favorite TVZ album is the self-titled third album. It’s got four of the best songs from “For The Sake Of The Song” re-done with much better production. In addition to the albums mentioned in the first comment, I also really like “A Gentle Evening With Townes Van Zandt,” which is a 1969 show at Carnegie Hall featuring Towne’s great version of The Ballad of Ira Hayes.

  • David Snusgrop

    Ramone666 is correct: Live At The Old Quarter is the best one.

  • Is it possible to have a “correct” answer in matters of taste?

  • Stranger

    my fave TVZ record is probably the collection of early demos on In The Beginning – and then Our Mother the Mountain. But this album is still great…i kind of like the backing vocals etc at times – they’re so out of place here that it almost creates a strange, surreal effect….

  • This is a great one, but his self-titled is what really does it for me.

  • Jeff

    Our Mother the Mountain is a personal favorite. What about The Late Great? Isn’t that amazing too? I should just list all his LPs – TVZ is untouchable – maybe the best book of songs yet written – should be mandatory listening!!!

  • Concrete Cowboy

    Man, I swear I am the only guy on the planet that feels old Townes was an over-rated hack. Yes, the production is bad on this record, but I wouldn’t know what to do with that thin, maudlin voice either! In terms of songwriters from that generation, for me he does not come even close to guys like Billy Joe Shaver (whose early records also sound like crap) or Kris Kristoferson. Too many times, his stuff dissolves into the same baroque weirdness of guys like Tim Buckley or later Phil Ochs. My favorite thing he ever did was “Dead Flowers” which was not even his song, but it did make a great closer for the movie “The Big Lebowski”.

  • I never really understood the production knocks on this album… What’s the deal? It sounds excellent to me, and atmospheric. But I could do w/o “Talkin’ Karate Blues” – I generally skip over that one. Among my favorite TVZ albums. Thanks for posting!

  • ss

    flyin shoes is my personal favorite. despite production flaws, i think it has the most character.

  • I love TVZ, but don’t think his voice is really that good. I think the production actually helps.

  • It’s like a spaghetti western score sweetly mixed with a soft orchestra, which has been recorded simataneously, but in another room, perhaps several rooms away.

    what’s not too like?

    I find this LP to be a rather fine companion to Leon Cohen’s “Songs From a Room” LP.

  • No one mentions Flyin’ Shoes?!?!?! That’s a great, amazing album. Maybe even his best no-filler LP.

  • Jason

    I just bought a copy of Flyin’ Shoes today!!!

  • “No Deeper Blue” and “At My Window” anyone? Not as good as the 70’s albums but still worth the ride.

    Great blog.

  • Len Liechti

    OK, I also don’t think the production does Townes any favours here but that’s the way it was done back in ’68 in singer-songwriter-land. On the later stuff the rawer 70s production values suit his voice and the lyrics better. “Thin maudlin voice”? Perhaps, but would you really want these songs done in a basso profundo? I recently scored the box set Texas Troubadour which offers the first seven studio albums plus a concert recording on 4 CDs, all for thirteen English Pounds. There’s enough magic in those grooves to keep me going for a time yet. “Pancho & Lefty” is already in my Open Mic set and I’ve had more than one punter come up and congratulate me just for knowing TVZ. He must be the best kept secret in quality rock at this moment. I love the quote in the box set booklet where Steve Earle says “Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter ever, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that”. TVZ apparently responded, “I’ve seen Bob Dylan’s minders, and you wouldn’t get near his coffee table”. Typical of the man’s unassuming manner. Whatever the pluses and minuses of his first album , I’d recommend his body of work overall to anyone.

  • aquaMat

    Am I the only one who actually LOVES the early “baroque” production flourishes on Townes first few albums? I especially like the warmth (tube-equipment-related I would think) and fullness of the vocal recordings and most of the instrumental arrangements, too.
    Just compare the first version of “Quicksilver Daydreams of Maria” on this album to the later one (from his self-titled 3rd LP) and it’s obvious IMHO: the early one is actually better, especially the vocals (both performance-wise and recording-wise).

    Being an avid fan of all things Townes since the 1980s, and having seen him play live at least 4 times, I also never subscribed to the view that “Live at the Old Quarter” is his best album, as much as I love that record….(and believe me, there was a time in my life, when it was practically on ‘permanent rotation’). In my book, both, “Flyin’ Shoes” and “Our Mother The Mountain” qualify for the top spot, depending in what mood I’m in.

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