For The Sake Of The Song
Townes Van Zandt’s tentative debut album doesn’t do his emotional, humane songs any favours, stacking arrangements with backing vocals and strings. The studio based approach leaves Van Zandt’s singing style less relaxed and with less personality. But on For The Sake Of The Song, Van Zandt’s already a skilled songwriter – ‘Tecumseh Valley’ and ‘Waitin’ Around To Die’ are two of Van Zandt’s best songs – and he’s already a brilliant lyricist.
The jaunty take on ‘Tecumseh Valley’, with its hackneyed country bass line, is nowhere near as affecting as the darker version on Our Mother The Mountain, while ‘Waitin’ Around To Die’ almost gets a Phil Spector orchestrated treatment. ‘Many A Fine Lady’ even sounds more like an orchestrated Bee Gees ballad than normal Van Zandt fare, even though its pretty melody suits the arrangement. Some of the songs, such as the mournful ‘Sad Cinderella’ and the dry humour of ‘Talkin’ Karate Blues’ are left acoustic and work nicely.
More than half of these songs would be re-recorded on following albums: a bunch would turn up again of Van Zandt’s eponymous 1970 record, while ‘Sad Cinderella’ would be reused on 1972’s The Late Great Townes Van Zandt, but there are a couple of strong tracks, the amusing ‘Talkin’ Karate Blues’ and the tragic ‘Sixteen Summers, Fifteen Falls’, that are unavailable elsewhere.
Strong writing means that For The Sake Of The Song is serviceable, but it’s far from Van Zandt’s best work, especially since a lot of its key songs can be found in superior versions elsewhere.