The final album of Van Zandt's early period, 1973's LATE GREAT is one of his most accomplished efforts, both in terms of production and songwriting. It builds on HIGH, LOW AND IN BETWEEN's arrangement and song structure advances the way REVOLVER built on RUBBER SOUL. It features Van Zandt's first recording of other writers' work (including his pal Guy Clark's transcendent "Don't Let the Sunshine Fool Ya" and Hank Williams' classic "Honky Tonkin'"), but Townes' own writing was rarely sharper.
The complex outlaw narrative "Pancho & Lefty" and the beautifully spare ballad "If I Needed You" are probably his two best-loved and most widely covered songs. "The Silver Ships of Andilar" is an ominous, timeless sea-faring tale marked by both its literacy and adventurous orchestration. Townes' trademark folk-country style is well represented on the genial, wise "No Lonesome Tune" and the ironic faux-Gospel "Heavenly Houseboat Blues."