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


Don Bradshaw-Leather



3.68 | 15 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Add my voice to the slowly growing chorus of mystified admirers belatedly discovering this unique artifact: an epic monument to self-indulgence, which ought to be reason enough to enshrine it in a temple of Progressive Rock.

The twin LP was obscure even when it was fresh in 1972, self-produced and self-released by 24-year old Essex native Donald Bradshaw (the Leather-suffix was presumably a stage affectation), after somehow managing to secure a cash advance from CBS Records for this homemade, one-man project. The label then backed away (quickly, I'm guessing) from the finished product, and I have to wonder how deep into the recording they got before pulling the corporate plug. Any five-minute stretch would be enough to trigger cardiac arrest in a career A&R flunky; the full hour-and-a-half experience is best approached as sweet torture to an avant-rock masochist. The album doesn't exactly win fans; it attracts willing victims, and as a glutton for punishment I speak from experience.

The artwork alone is eye-catching, without even considering the rear cover photo of the same paint-blackened primitive (the elusive Bradshaw?) mauling a naked woman, like two contestants in a Celtic mud-wrestling competition. And then there's the music itself, a multi-tracked collision of classical piano, atonal organ, and tribal percussion, played as if for a ritual gathering of headhunters: rhythmic spice for the missionary stew to follow. But the album's pièce de résistance is a wildly hyperbolic Mellotron, sounding like an entire string section staggering across the orchestra pit after a weekend bacchanal.

Bradshaw was clearly a virtuoso talent, blessed with an amateur's lack of inhibition or boundaries. But an unfortunate side effect to that same creative vigor was a likeminded scarcity of structure and direction, evident throughout his magnum opus. Occasionally a groove is located and (briefly) followed, but for much of its length the album flails about in a chaotic frenzy almost guaranteed to make you drop your jaw, shake your head, and wonder where all your houseguests have suddenly gone. Rural Essex is a long way from Germany, but where else except in the Krautrock column would you list such a glorious racket?

A more polished production (and a little editing) might have found a lasting classic of Outsider Rock expressionism, and kept Bradshaw from having to pawn copies of his album around local London record shops (mine is a secondhand digital bootleg, preserving every snap, crackle and vinyl pop). But a professional effort would also have denied us the opportunity to hear such a bizarre, blue moon curio, always a privilege in our current age of devitalized cookie-cutter entertainment.

He might have believed he was making a hit record, instead of what it ultimately became: a crowd-pleaser for an audience of one, arguably the goal for any true artist. In which case I applaud his illusions. The music world desperately needs visionary nut-cases like Mr. Bradshaw-Leather, a hopeless dreamer eager to pursue his muse into the darker alleys of his imagination, and ravish her.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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