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About Transacord - The History

1981-2007 - ASV-Transacord

There was a short pause for breath whilst Argo’s founder, Harley Usill, and long-time Argo and Decca producer, Kevin Daly, wondered ‘what now’. The pair, joined by Jack Boyce, decided to start another record company, which they named Academy Sound and Vision, or ASV, as it was more conveniently known.

Peter Handford had retained copyright on the master tapes of all the material released on Argo so there was no hindrance to ASV re-releasing this material along with several new releases, which had presumably been originally planned for release in Decca’s World Of series. The first eight ASV Transacord records were issued in June 1981 and further issues continued until 1989 when Steam from A to V became the final LP issue. In all, 37 ASV Transacord LPs were issued in the Sounds of the Steam Age series and most of these were also made available on cassette, now that this format had started to seriously challenge LP sales in the UK.

In 1988 ASV issued the first Transacord CD but there was a hiatus before the next CD issues. Things had not been going as smoothly at ASV as had been hoped. Of the company’s founders, Kevin Daly had emigrated to Australia in the early 1980s and ceased his involvement with ASV in the latter half of the decade, and in 1991 Harley Usill died. This left only Jack Boyce, whose main area of interest was in ASV’s classical releases. However, the Transacord records had been popular (indeed, many were still available on LP and cassette well into the 1990s) and in 1992 two further Transacord CDs were issued. However, there was a definite shift in strategy with the second of these, Steam Railway Sound Eflects, which seemed to be pointed directly at the mainstream sound effects market, complete with the inlay booklet pointing out how to gain permission to use the recordings for commercial purposes. The next clutch of CDs, released in 1993, was geared completely to the sound effects market.

In 1994 and 1995 a retum was made to railway-specific releases with the issue of four CDs, one to commemorate each of the Big Four railway companies. In 1996, Trains in the Night appeared before the label again reverted to the mainstream sound effects market.

Russell Hedges has the following to say on the provenance of the non-railway recordings:

Peter had a vast library of sound effects, many of them from his work as a film sound recordist, and we think most of the sound effects used on the records were either his or he oversaw them and his name appears as ‘producer’, eg. on the CDs A World of Water (ATR705l) and The World of Sound Effects (ATR 7050).

The purists will no doubt decry the dilution of the Transacord ‘brand’ by branching into the general sound effects market, though this has doubtless introduced a new generation of audio enthusiasts to Peter Handford’s work when they may otherwise have steered well clear of CDs of ‘train noises’.

The Sanctuary group bought ASV in 1999, but already ASV seems to have made it known that they did not want to issue any further railway material. They were happy, however, to continue to sell the general sound effects CDs as well as any remaining railway stock.

What appears to be a one-off Transacord CD, Diesels through the Decades, was issued by Cinerail/Marston Rail Productions in 1998, after which Kent-based company, Steam Powered Video (SPV), which had distributed ASV-Transacord CDs in the mid-l 990s, now issued Transacord CDs under the SPV Transacord banner between 1999 and 2005. An SPV promotional flyer from 2005 suggests that the company continued to distribute the ASV Transacord general sound effects CDs even while putting out new Transacord CDs on their own label. This would appear to be corroborated by Russell Hedges, who says, “I think some Transacord CDs were still available until Sanctuary were taken over by Universal who almost immediately deleted everything.”

Universal bought Sanctuary in 2007. Although at time of writing Transacord’s CDs appear as available on the Sanctuary Classics website, none can actually be bought from there - which would tend to explain why certain of the CDs regularly sell on eBay for between £15 and £35. Universal licensed 75 minutes-worth of Transacord material to the Yesteryear label, which was released as Steam Glorious Steam, though not under the Transacord banner.

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