Monday, 29 August 2011

"Tear Down The Walls/Bleecker & MacDougal" by VINCE MARTIN & FRED NEIL/FRED NEIL (2001 Elektra/Warner Brothers 2LPs onto 1CD Reissue) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…If I Should Leave You…Try To Remember The Good Times…"

This clever reissue series first turned up in late 2001 as part of the ‘2 Classic Elektra Albums’ Series of CD Reissues with each title usually featuring the first 2 albums by an American Folk artist on the Elektra Label (with some Blues and Country Rock acts included too). Almost all of the LPs featured on these single disc reissues were Early to Mid Sixties vinyl rarities - most seeing the CD light-of-day for the first time anywhere. The ‘2 Classic Elektra Albums’ CD Series continued into August 2004 with releases by diverse American Country and Folk artists such as Paul Siebel, Harry Chapin and Earth Opera. This Fred Neil/Vince Martin set (from the first vanguard) is one of those 2LPs on 1CD gems...

Released October 2001 - "Tear Down The Walls/Bleecker & MacDougal" by VINCE MARTIN & FRED NEIL and FRED NEIL on Elektra/Warner Strategic Marketing 8122 73563-2 (Barcode 081227356323) offers 2LPs on 1CD and plays out as follows (74:35 minutes):

1. I Know You Rider
2. Red Flowers
3. Tear Down The Walls
4. Weary Blues
5. Toy Balloon
6. Baby
7. Morning Dew
8. I’m A Drifter
9. Linin’ Track
10. Wild Child In A World Of Trouble
11. Dade County Jail
12. I Got ‘Em
13. Lonesome Valley
Tracks 1 to 13 are the album "Tear Down The Walls" by VINCE MARTIN and FRED NEIL issued 1964 in the USA on Elektra Records EKL-248 [Mono] and EKS-7248 [Stereo] - Stereo Mix Used

14. Bleecker And MacDougal
15. Blues On The Ceiling
16. Sweet Mama
17. Little Bit Of Rain
18. Country Boy
19. Other Side Of This Life
20. Mississippi Train
21. Travellin’ Shoes
22. Water Is Wide
23. Yonder Comes The Blues
24. Candy Man
25. Handful Of Gimme
26. Gone Again
Tracks 14 to 26 are the album "Bleecker & MacDougal" by FRED NEIL issued June 1965 in the USA on Elektra Records EKL-293 [Mono] and EKS-7293 [Stereo] - Stereo Mix Used

By the time Florida-born Fred Neil had teamed up with folky Vince Martin (real name Vincent Marcellino) to record their debut album in 1964, Neil was 27 and had been on the New York folk scene for 3 years. In 1961 in Greenwich Village he'd sparred with many players who would later shape American music to an almost ludicrous degree - Karen Dalton, David Crosby, Stephen Stills and a young whippersnapper from Minnesota called Bob Dylan. Dylan later recounted his memories of Neil's deep tonal voice and cited him as a major influence - while Stills openly called him a 'hero' and has name-checked his guitar tunings. Neil had tasted minor chart success with a tune he'd co-written with Brill-building veteran Beverly Ross called "Candy Man" - it was a Top Twenty hit for Roy Orbison on Monument Records in late 1961. Which history lesson brings us to what's on offer here...

Both albums are firmly in the USA Folk vein with some Bluesy acoustic elements thrown in. "Tear Down The Walls" features an impressive six originals by Neil (2, 3, 6, 10, 11 and 12) with "Toy Balloon" by Martin and the six others being covers of contemporary artists and Old Time Traditionals. Martin and Neil played 6 and 12-string guitars alongside each other and shared the vocals on almost all the songs. Guests included Felix Pappalardi on an instrument called a 'Guitarron' (sounds like an Acoustic Bass) while John Sebastian providing Mouth Harp on certain tracks and guitar on "I Got 'Em". Pappalardi later produced and featured on Cream's "Disraeli Gears" and went on to be in Mountain - while Sebastian of course formed The Lovin' Spoonful.

"Bleecker & MacDougal" was 'all' Fred Neil except the aforementioned "Candy Man" and a cover of the lovely Gospel standard "The Water is Wide". In fact the title of the album name-checks the intersection of two New York streets - in particular the "Café Wha?" on MacDougal Street where he played for so many nights in the early Sixties.

The sound quality on both albums is gorgeous –Stereo remasters by Rhino's long-time engineer and tape handler DAN HERSCH (the Mono mixes remain unreleased on CD). The superb and hugely informative liner notes are written by PETER DOGGETT - a long time contributor to England's famous 'Record Collector' magazine and author of the acclaimed books - "There's A Riot Going On: Revolutionaries, Rock Stars and The Rise and Fall of the 60's Counter Culture", "You Never Give Me Your Money - The Battle For The Soul Of The Beatles" and "The Man Who Sold The World - David Bowie And The 1970's".

Highlights on the first album include the Traditional "Weary Blues", the lovely Vince Martin original "Toy Balloon" and two excellent cover versions - a rendition of Bonnie Dobson's slightly sinister "Morning Dew" and Travis Edmonson's country tune "I'm A Drifter".  The "Wild Child..." track in particular is powerfully emotive Folk with Sebastian expertly warbling on the harmonica alongside the acoustic guitar and deep voice of Neil. "I Got 'Em" and "Lonesome Valley" end the album on a high too.

If "Tear Down The Walls" was a four-star starter, then "Bleecker & MacDougal" was the 5-star next step. The track "Little Bit Of Rain" in particular showed Fred Neil's full potential - pretty as anything - his voice deep and monumental (lyrics above). It was later used as the title to "Bleecker & MacDougal" when it was reissued in 1970 with different artwork on the back of Neil's success with Nilsson covering his gorgeous "Everybody's Talkin'" in the movie "Midnight Cowboy". The album once again benefited from John Sebastian and Felix Pappalardi on Harmonica and Bass - they shine on the lyrically pissed-off "Travelin' Shoes" and "Handful Of Gimme". The slide guitar on the album finisher "Gone Again" always sends me - the strings cleverly being made to warble like his vocals. Brilliant stuff indeed...

Neil famously withdrew from the music business in the early Seventies to take care of Dolphins - creatures he spent the next 35 years loving and nurturing. He died in Florida after a long battle with cancer in 2001 - an enigma to the end - leaving reviewers and music lovers like me reaching for adjectives to do him and his lovely musical legacy justice.

At less than a fiver online - this is one of those bargains that beggar's belief and cries out for your credit card.

Answer the call - lovers of music and musical heroes... 

PS: collectors should note there are also beautiful Sundazed remasters of each album on HIGH-QUALITY VINYL - "Tear Down The Walls" on Sundazed LP 5142 (issued 2006) and "Bleecker & MacDougal" on Sundazed LP 5107 (issued 2001)

PPS: other titles listed in the '2 Classic Elektra Albums' CD series are:
1. David Blue (1966) / Singer Songwriter Project (1965) - DAVID BLUE
2. Tim Buckley (1966) / Goodbye And Hello (1967) - TIM BUCKLEY
3. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (1965) / East West (1967) - THE BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND
4. The Resurrection Of Pigboy Crabshaw (January 1968) / In My Own Dream (August 1968) - THE BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND
5. Heads & Tails (March 1972) / Sniper And Other Love Songs (October 1972) – HARRY CHAPIN
6. A Maid Of Constant Sorrow (1961) / Golden Apples Of The Sun (1962) - JUDY COLLINS
7. Judy Collins No. 3 (1963) / The Judy Collins Concert (1964) - JUDY COLLINS
8. Wildflowers (1967) / Who Knows Where The Time Goes (1968) - JUDY COLLINS
9. Back Porch Bluegrass (1963) / Live!!!! Almost!!!! (1964) - THE DILLARDS
10. Earth Opera (1968) / The Great American Eagle Tragedy (1969) – EARTH OPERA
11. Judy Henske [Live] (1963) / High Flying Bird (1964) - JUDY HENSKE
12. The Incredible String Band (1966) / The 5000 Spirits Or The Layers Of Onions (1967) – THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND
13. Blues, Rags & Hollers (1963) / Lots More Blues, Rags & Hollers (1964) – "SPIDER" JOHN KOERNER, DAVE "SNAKE" RAY & TONY "LITTLE SON" GLOVER
14. All The News That's Fit To Sing (1964) / I Ain't Marching Anymore (1965) - PHIL OCHS
15. Ramblin' Boy (1964) / Ain't That News (1965) - TOM PAXTON
16. Outward Bound (1966) / Morning Again (1968) - TOM PAXTON
17. Tom Rush (1965) / Talk A Little Walk With Me (1966) - TOM RUSH
18. Woodsmoke And Oranges (1970) / Jack-Knife Gypsy (1971) - PAUL SIEBEL

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