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DUST MY RHYTHM & BLUES - THE FLAIR R&B STORY 1953-1955 (2CD)

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Ace (CDTOP2 1382)

You have to take your hat off to Ace. Not only are they the best around in researching, re-mastering, compiling and packaging great music, they also have a keen eye for a concept. The exemplary and ongoing By The Bayou series of Louisiana rock ‘n roll, R&B and blues being a case in point.

Now here's another excellent concept, the first in series of comprehensive compilations focussed around the various subsidiary labels of Modern Records, the influential Los Angeles-based musical empire of the Biharis Brothers. Flair Records was not the biggest, most successful or longest-lasting of subsidiaries but, as these 50 tracks show, they did release a load of excellent blues, rhythm & blues and doo-wop during their two years of operation.

Originally intended as an imprint for Modern's roster of hillbilly artists, a prompt shift was made when early releases failed to make any commercial impact. Luckily, this change of direction made an immediate difference, by luck or judgement the first non-hillbilly artist signed was the truly great Elmore James, who went on to release some of his very best sides for Flair; seven of which are featured here, including the definitive Dust My Blues, loose-limbed Can't Stop Lovin' and emotionally-charged Sho' Nuff I Do. Other big names featured include Johnny Ace, Richard Berry, Clarence Garlow, Mercy Dee Walton, Little Johnny Jones and Johnny Fuller. The most influential involvement however is that of Ike Turner, who was the Biharis  go-to-guy for supplying booked sessions with artists, supporting musicians, arrangements and songs. Ike only appears once here as a featured artist but he casts a giant shadow over most of these sides (especially those recorded for Flair rather than licensed).

There are also lots of fine little-known artists featured, many now on CD for the first time. I am particularly taken by Anna Marie's An Angel Cried heart-breaker and Bobby Relf's softly-sung vocal harmonies on Farewell.

So a great start to what will undoubtedly be a highly-prized series. Not sure when the next will appear but it can't come soon enough for me.

Review Date: January 2014

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