Because of the renown achieved in later years by Fred Neil, it is easy to forget that his partner was much better known at the time Martin & Neil released their sole album in 1964. "Vince Martin With the Tarriers," as they were billed, had scored a Top Ten hit with "Cindy, Oh Cindy" in 1956. Martin possessed the sort of forceful tenor that enabled Glenn Yarbrough to lead the Limeliters to success, and he used it in a similarly dramatic way. It also provided a striking contrast to Neil's bass-baritone. Martin & Neil came along at a time when commercial folk was showing a distinct social consciousness, and their style drew heavily on that of the massively popular Peter, Paul & Mary, particularly on the Neil-composed title song, with its stirring utopian tone ("one world in harmony"), and even Martin's "Red Balloon," a children's song in the tradition of "Puff the Magic Dragon" with some lyrics that later turned up in Jefferson Airplane's "Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil." Accompanied by Felix Pappalardi on the bass-like guitarron and John Sebastian on harmonica, the duo strummed 12-string acoustic guitars and used their strikingly different voices to reinvent traditional songs like "I Know You Rider" and "Lonesome Valley," popular covers like Bonnie Dobson's "Morning Dew," and some originals. Neil's "Wild Child in a World of Trouble," which he sang alone, looked forward to his career as a solo singer/songwriter, which commenced not long after this album was released. After decades out of print, Tear Down the Walls reappeared in two configurations, as a European two-fer with Neil's first solo album, Bleecker and MacDougal, credited to Neil alone and issued in the fall of 2001, and as a straight reissue from the mail order firm Collectors' Choice Music in early 2002. ~ William Ruhlmann
Mojo (Publisher) (1/02, p.69) - Included in Mojo's "Best Reissues of 2001".
Mojo (Publisher) (3/02, p.120) - "Anyone with even the remotest interest in the development of folk and singer-songwriter music should snap up this treasure..."
Mojo (Electronic) (p.67) - "[T]hey combined best on tough old songs like Satchmo's 'Weary Blues' and Woody Guthrie's 'Lonesome Valley,' and equally rugged compositions of their own."