In October, members of Vinyl Me, Please Essentials will receive a brand new 50th-anniversary reissue of For the Sake of the Song, the 1968 debut album from legendary alt-country songwriter Townes Van Zandt. The album has been newly remastered from the original tapes, and comes on heavyweight midnight blue vinyl. You can sign up to receive it here.
Below, read why we decided to do a Townes Van Zandt album, our first ever country Record of the Month.
**Andrew Winistorfer: So, why did we pick Townes Van Zandt?
Cameron Schaefer: In the last few years, Fat Possum has done a great job reissuing his catalog and I think that his debut, For the Sake of the Song, for whatever reason, you just don’t see that one at stores as much, and people just don’t talk about it as much. And what’s interesting is it has such a different sound than his later work that was much more stripped-down and raw, and this was much more of like a bigger studio album with a full band. And that’s interesting as a Townes fan to hear. A lot of these songs show up throughout his career, but it’s cool to hear them in their first form, which, normally as you progress in a career it feels like you start out with something that's like real raw and basic and then by the end if you mess with it and then it’s the bigger, whole-band studio sound, and in some ways Townes went the opposite way.
I think this record gives you a weird portal into an alternative reality where Townes Van Zandt makes late-’60s, early ’70s ornate country records, like the countrypolitan sound that was big back then. I think it’s like this weird path-not-traveled by Townes Van Zandt that people don’t work their way back to, and that feels like the Vinyl Me, Please MO to a tee. We’re not necessarily just going to give you the repress of the most famous record; we want you to have a deeper relationship with Townes Van Zandt, and this is an opportunity to do that.
It’s the 50th-anniversary edition, too, so I feel like that was part of the opportunity to do this record instead of the other ones is that this is celebrating this anniversary. And this feels like the Vinyl Me, Please release from Townes that we should do because it’s this record that I don’t think people necessarily work their way back to. Like, they get the self-titled one and it has “Waiting Around to Die” on it and they’re like, “This is the most famous Townes song, this is where I need to go.”
I think that’ll be the thing that’ll be most interesting, for people who maybe have an album like Our Mother the Mountain, or self-titled, or Delta Momma Blues, this will come as a shock because it feels like in some ways his voice and him are kind of more in the background with this big band sound. I think it’s, like you said, if you’re going to know Townes, you’ve gotta know this part of the story, too, and I just think it’s an interesting contrast with where he ended up, which was just so stripped down and raw. He’s such a pivotal artist for so many current artists and influential, so it’s like, again, and we feel this way all the time, but you just want to get it right. You’re trying to create the package in a way that highlights but doesn't in any way distract or overshadow, and I feel like that’s what this package feels like to me across the board. It's just that we were able to kind of bring out the best and not get in the way with anything too fancy or over the top. I don’t feel like you can really understand him as an artist without having this part of his career in your collection.
We had this remastered, right? What are the other specs?
We were able to get it remastered by Jason Ward at Chicago Mastering, and we hadn’t done any work with him personally up until this project, but he was someone that Fat Possum really respects and has worked with before. It sounds really dang good.
From a packaging perspective, again, heavy-weight, tip-on jacket, got the metallic foil on the jacket and it just looks really stunning. And we wanted to do color vinyl, but lots of times an album that feels classic like this, you don’t want to come in with like tie-dye vinyl for Townes Van Zandt or splatter vinyl. We wanted to try to find something that was super subtle and we ended up with this super, super dark midnight blue that, if you weren’t paying attention and you caught it not in the correct light, you’d think it’s black. To me, it’s cool because the minute you pick it up and kind of hold it up you realize, “Oh, no, it’s this really deep blue.” There’s something about it aesthetically — I’m not a creative director, we have a really good one — but there’s something about it aesthetically that feels so perfect for this album and for him as an artist.
And, it’s our first country record, finally. We are finally doing a Country Me, Please, man. I’ve been at VMP almost three years and I’ve been pulling for this basically since I got here, so this feels like a Storf victory dance. I’m gonna like spike this one when it comes in or something.
Andrew Winistorfer is VMP’s Classics & Country Director, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need In Your Collection and The Best Record Stores In The United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 20 VMP releases, and co-produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Philadelphia International Records, The Story of Quincy Jones, The Story of Impulse and the VMP Classics release of Nat Turner Rebellion's Laugh to Keep From Crying, and executive produced the VMP Anthology The Story of Vanguard. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
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