Various Artists

R&B Confidential, Vol. 1: The Flair Label

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Compilations don't get much better than this -- 22 of some of the best songs ever made for Joe Bihari's Flair label, founded in 1953 as a subsidiary of Modern Records. Flair was only in existence for two years, mostly as a means of handling overflow from the sister labels Modern, Meteor, etc. The artists featured include a pair of Joe Turner-style rockers, "Romp & Stomp Blues" by pianist Mercy Dee Walton; the Roy Brown-influenced "Baby Beat It" and "Hey Doctor Kinsey" (which manages to be both amazingly raunchy and topical at the same time, and which could only have come out of R&B at the time) by Big Duke Henderson and His Orchestra; the naturally searing guitar-dominated workout "Please Find My Baby," by Elmore James & His Broomdusters; and, representing the fairer sex, "Send Him Back" by Shirley Gunther with Montroe Tucker & His Orchestra (Gunther has three more numbers here, fronting the singing group the Queens). Richard Berry, a mainstay for Flair in his pre-"Louie Louie" days, is officially represented by "Next Time," although he also shows up on upward of a third of the records included here, working within several backing groups. The otherwise unknown Dixie Blues Boys' "My Baby Left Town" borrows a bit from the old blues chestnut "Down In the Bottom." Future Sugar Pie DeSanto sideman Pee Wee Parham gets a superb vocal and guitar workout on "People Are Wonderin'." Ex-jazz guitarist Saunders King provides some smoother R&B on "Quit Hangin' Around Me." And Ike Turner, mainstay of the label's Memphis operation, turns up on the sultry yet brittle guitar instrumental "Cuban Getaway," plays behind Billy Gale on "Night Howler," and leads the band behind Matt Cockrell on "Baby Please." The sound quality is excellent, and the notes are extremely informative.

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