Friday, August 20, 2010

OOPs: Iron Horse Rambles (Ralbar, 1962)

Ralbar (now Semaphore) was the first label ever commissioned by a Class 1 American railroad (Reading) to make recordings of a steam locomotive. And Iron Horse Rambles is the first record, which is strictly for the hardcore train nerds. Or weird record collectors such as ourselves.

This isn't just steam engines, although there's plenty of that, but there's also some tracks where you hear the towerman lining up track switches, the dispatcher making reports, a field of crickets or excited children ("Daddy! Here it comes!") as the field recorder waits for trains to approach. The liner notes are filled with old photos and absolutely packed with superfluous details.

"#2102 has her work clearly cut out for her as we hear the train climb slowly on winding track, on the last lap of the eight-mile grade hitting over 1.5% at the top."

"From behind #2124's tender, on the last trip of the '61' season, the microphones pick up the rhythmic stack exhaust. The engineer notches the throttle, and the huge 70-inch drivers get the 16-car train rolling out of Shamokin yards following a water stop."

You're probably thinking, "Alright dude, I know what trains sound like." But seriously, the sounds on this LP are so fucking cool when taken out of context. The steam stacks make the most amazing ebb & flow beats, the whistles on two trains that shriek back & forth, the sweet industrial drone when they're flying past, and a hundred other sounds I never thought to associate with trains. Totally fucking cool.

It doesn't get any more legit than this folks. Don't squash your curiosity. Unleash the Iron Horse upon thine speakers.


No comments: