The life of a compiler/annotator is an enjoyable one, filled with great projects that almost originate themselves and as many more again that require a greater degree of TLC on their way to realisation. There are projects for which the track listings almost pick themselves, and there are others that require a greater degree of audio assessment as they slowly, painstakingly come together. For me, an example of the former would be my recent King Floyd project, while into the latter category falls the much acclaimed “Beating The Petrillo Ban” 2CD set.
As well as real, concrete projects I also maintain – and I’m sure I’m not alone in this – a list of ideas that fall into the category of I know I’ll get round to this eventually. Some of these stay on the list for a short time, others hang about for years. I’m not going to confirm what category “Dust My Rhythm And Blues – The Flair R&B Story” falls into, but I will admit that I didn’t just come up with it yesterday.
However, now that it’s finally arrived “The Flair R&B Story” will be the first in a series of comprehensive histories devoted to the assorted subsidiaries of Modern Records. Flair did not last as long as some of the Bihari brothers’ imprints, but its value as a label cannot be overestimated – particularly as it featured both Elmore James and Richard Berry frequently during its two year run.
The Biharis started Flair as a hillbilly imprint, but changed its focus almost exclusively to R&B after 10 straight country releases found their way to nowhere in short order. No disrespect to the men in cowboy boots and western shirts, but for this collection we’ve ignored those – many of which are anyway featured on our “Swingbillies” CD - and kept it 100% rhythm and bluesy.
Every major name who recorded for Flair is featured here at least once and – wherever possible – with an alternate take, if the master take is already out on Ace. Where an artist released a number of Flair 45s and 78s, tracks have been carefully chosen to represent the full spectrum of their repertoire (so Elmore’s tracks, for example, are not simply 1001 variations on the ‘Dust My Broom’ riff). We’ve also freshly re-dubbed and re-mastered any tracks that had to be taken from 78s due to the disappearance of the original tapes. And it will be a pleasant surprise to many to find that a healthy percentage of the tracks here have either never been reissued by Ace before or, in some cases, not in the CD era.
Now that I’ve “got round to it eventually”, this chronicling of the Flair label will be followed by 2CD sets on the Crown and RPM labels plus two separate 2CD sets on Kent to cover earlier and later years of the label.
by Tony Rounce