on 2 August 2003
The reissue of this album has been delayed for so long I was beginning to think it would never appear ! It was the one missing piece in the selction of Townes' work released on the Charly label. You could argue with some justification that his best stuff was released on this label.
As for live albums, Townes is a little inconsistent, I'm afraid. This one makes a mockery of this inconsistency. The Texas Old Quarter is a minscule brick venue. Good on atmosphere but probably lacking in accoustics, especially when full to the brim on a hot summer night.
Not so ! Here Townes rattles through a superb accoustic set which includes some of his very best songs (Pancho & Lefty, Kathleen and Tecumseh Valley to name but 3). The recording quality is actually stunning, considerinf the limitations of age and venue. The performance is stirring and passionate. You really get a feel for the myriad of emotion and feelings that went into making this man the troubled genius that he clearly was.
Townes Van Zandt is, in the words of Bob Dylan, the finest songwriter ever to live and this is the closest that you will get to experiencing those songs the way that the man himself would have wanted.
on 14 November 2009
I started my Townes van Zandt initiation with the live at the old quarter double CD. If you're reading this review it probably means that you're lucky, because you haven't listened to the CD (or probably don't know him, because as far as I am concerned, if/when you start, you're hooked)
I am not a folk music specialist at all, so I will compare him to Ray Davies (of the Kinks) for lyrics' intelligence, fun and spirituality, or the best of Dylan or Springsteen for his moody pieces. the music and singing in unique "raconteur" style are deceptively simple but v sophisticated: in short a true master.
As for the concert, it takes about 1/2 second to be immersed in a one of a kind atmosphere, from the hosts's announcements/crowd reactions to Townes's bawdy jokes. You feel like you're there(and wish you could)
The Old Quarter concert shows Townes in full form as the incredible composer, lyricist, guitar player("picker") alternating moody, spiritual and v. funny songs (taking the mickey out of fraternities or telling tall tales of his alcohol-fueled evenings).
Be ware though, this is highly addictive stuff: I was soon buying the 4-CD Texas Troubadour and alternating in frantic fashion between them (with some rare sanity breaks for classic Dylan)
Go buy it, download it steal it or get your friends to offer it to you and share it, you won't regret it (unless you're deaf of course)
on 21 October 2003
Townes is an excellent songwriter. His material has been covered by Doc Watson, Steve Earle, Guy Clark, Emmy Lou Harris and many others. So there's anough said on that subject elsewhere. But what has frustrated me is that many of his recordings are pretty variable. Listening to this collection, it becomes clear that this is how the songs were meant to be: Townes with a guitar on stage and that's it. There's a rawness to the music which gets lost when he goes into a studio and too much production gets added. On too many of his recordings the songs are prettyfied and in that process they loose their real soul. So that's the real strength of the recording. It's the songs as they were meant to be, warts and all. So if you're looking for a Townes recording, I'd suggest forgetting all the studio albums and the other live ones and go for this. This is the best collection of Townes songs I've heard. If you're already a Townes fan and have a good collection of his recording then, with apologies to your bank balance, this really is worth adding.
on 25 October 2009
I am still very new to Townes music. I heard of him through Steve Earle's cover album.
Clean, clear, immediately accessible songs. They all hold a depth of emotion which is more than the tunes and lyrics should add up to. Amazing stuff.
On a July evening in 1973, long before Townes Van Zandt`s death on New Year`s Day `97 at the tragically young age of 52, the sublime singer-songwriter gave a live concert at a seedy, sweaty dive atmospherically named The Old Quarter in Houston, Texas. Here it is, over two discs. It includes many of his best, and best-known, songs, including If I Needed You, Pancho & Lefty, To Live Is To Fly, She Came And She Touched Me, No Place To Fall, Waiting `round To Die, the incredible For The Sake Of The Song, and two songs to ladies, Loretta and Kathleen, the latter a heartbreaking ballad.
Townes did heartbreak as poignantly as anyone. He had one of those rare bittersweet voices I love (Jackson Browne and Sandy Denny have the same melancholy grain to their voices that gets me every time) and he was a songwriter whose compositions will be played and sung as long as there are ears to hear and throats to sing.
There are even a couple of Dylanesque talking blues here, as well as a very funny, delightfully rude joke!
Townes was and is held in high esteem by his fellow folk/country singers - in particular perhaps Steve Earle, who named his first son Justin Townes Earle in tribute to his friend. It`s a damn shame that this massively talented man wasn`t more lauded in his lifetime. Like Nick Drake or Tim Hardin, he`s missed now...now it`s too late for him to know about it. But what a legacy of great songs, sung in an almost apologetic, downbeat baritone, an unaffected voice which insinuates itself into your life the more you listen to it.
This is, as far as I know, the only live album by The Late Great Townes Van Zandt, as one of his studio albums was ironically, and presciently, called. As such it`s a precious memorial to a unique songwriter, shy singer and much-missed artist.
Essential, though the one to get first is Texas Troubadour, a magnificent, lavish four-disc box set including extensive booklet with excellent text and many photos of the man himself. It`s all there.
Much of it is here too, live and `in the flesh`.
on 29 July 2007
I've been a Townes Van Zandt admirer for over 20 years now and I've lost more cassettes and cd's of him than I care to remember. So when I decided to begin collecting his music again I fortunately begun here. There's all the Townes that I've always admired (I nearly used the word love) on one cd. If you buy no other of the unique Townes , then this one is a must as it's the songwriter/poet at his natural best. I was fortunate to see him perform live once and will never forget that evening. The same genius and humanity shines through here too.
on 25 October 2010
Never seen this man at a live concert but the sound of this disc is if you are sitting in front of him listening to all his great songs. A must for every TvZ fan. I could comment every song here but you better buy the disc, take a chair and a drink and enjoy!
on 17 February 2015
The best live albums are a moment in time captured forever, this is one.
TVZ captured at his peak, sounding great in a venue which captures the imagination - you don't need a video, your mind's eye will put you in the front row, sat at a table with a beer, laughing at his jokes and listening to his sublime guitar playing and often-great lyrics.
Not every TVZ song you'd want is on this collection, I'd suggest buying "Our Mother The Mountain" as well, but it's a great introduction.
I like the way the songs are stripped down to their bare bones, just guitar and his voice, some of his albums are a bit over-produced to my ears and I love to hear a well-played acoustic guitar.
Of course he's pigeon-holed as a country artist, which isn't a genre I'm really into, I only heard of him through the wonderful Laura Marling who has played a couple of his songs live.
I like to think of Townes more as an American folk artist or singer-songwriter, same as Dylan.
on 7 September 2011
If you have any interest in the Texas Troubadour archetype, then Townes is surely your man; and if Townes is your man, then "Live At The Old Quarter" is surely your album. A man and his guitar, live in a pokey upstairs room in Houston on a hot night when the air conditioning has failed. Let's be honest now: not really a singer, not really a guitar player; but what he could do was write songs: fabulous songs. (Now this album was recorded in 1973: if you want to argue that he wrote nothing near as good after that date, I might not disagree ... but that's a moot point.) Look at what you get: "Pancho & Lefty"; "Lungs"; "She Came And She Touched Me"; "If I Needed You"; "Kathleen"; laugh-out-loud talking blues in "Fraternity Blues" and "Talking Thunderbird Blues". And so on and so forth. 27 tunes, all fab: so you really need to buy it. At Amazon's current price (£7.50 or so on 07-Sep-2011) it's the best VFM purchase you'll make this year. It's all songs, it's all heart: just like Kate Wolf. Hey, go and buy some Kate Wolf as well.
on 13 June 2001
Hard to believe that this album is still for sale here. Many a fan has been looking high and low for this one. This is Townes Van Zandt at his best, alone with an acoustic guitar in front of an audience of rowdy Texans in the venue owned by his good friend Rex Bell. This album is timeless and contains almost all of Townes' best songs recorded when he was in his prime. Townes never hit the big time, maybe it was his voice, maybe it was because he didn't care enought. One thing is for sure, it wasn't because the songs were not good enough. Just listen to this album and you'll know that's true.