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Don Bradshaw-Leather - Distance Between Us  CD (album) cover


Don Bradshaw-Leather



3.68 | 15 ratings

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4 stars A Left-Field Classic

This is one of the more mystifying obscurities I've ever come across. Not much is known about this American one-shot who released this highly accomplished album on a small vanity label in the early 1970s and then disappeared. As I understand it, Bradshaw impressed some major label with his demos, and was given an advance to record an album. Bradshaw took the money and customized a studio full of a variety of keyboards and percussion and god knows what else, and recorded a double album of four sidelong instrumentals of highly experimental music. The record company wasn't thrilled at what they heard, but Bradshaw put the album out anyway on his own label in 1972. Still out of print, the album has slowly been gaining some much deserved visibility thanks to the internet, and one can only stand back in awe at what Bradshaw accomplished here.

The dominant instruments are piano, Mellotron, and a variety of percussion. It sounds at times like a very early Tangerine Dream album, but with a classical compositional sense. One gets the impression that Bradshaw intended to create one-man symphony of sorts. The first two tracks form parts one and two of the title track, both of which are anchored by a staccato piano theme that sets the tense mood. Later on, tribal percussion over Mellotrons appear, reminding me of the warped avant garde of the early Residents - at least until a subdued but insistent organ melody comes in. The piece flows organically for about 40 minutes, each section shifting the timbral colors just enough to create a hallucinogenic mood, but not jarring enough to be unpleasant. Given the crazed album cover, you would almost be justified in assuming this album contains the incoherent ramblings of a stoned madman set loose in the studio. But it's really well composed, more subtle than you would expect, and reveals a rather accomplished composer behind the wacko exterior.

Sides three ("Dance of the Goblins") and four ("Autumn Mist") continue in the same fashion; in fact, I'd be hard pressed to come up with any descriptions of the music that don't apply to sides one and two - side three seems "scarier" and side four seems "quieter", but those are just quick generalizations. But like the first two sides, the music is engaging, mystical, and creates a hazy mood that is further enhanced by its home-made nature and rough production methods. The inspiration and passion of the composer is felt in every hissy Mellotron chord, every muffled drum beat, every wandering piano melody.

This is an absolute must for "outsider music" fans. Easily a four star album even ignoring its fascinating back-story; of course, that back-story and the sheer unlikelihood of records like this even existing at all tempts me to raise this to a five. But it's not Close to the Edge; it's perched on the edge, looking into infinity.

HolyMoly | 4/5 |


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