This double-disc reissue of the pair of mid-'70s albums by the mesmerizingly funky New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian tribe is more like a threefer than a twofer. That's because the Wild Magnolias'first, self-titled album, from 1974, is abetted by a half-dozen bonus tracks that groove every bit as hard as the six songs that constitute the original album — and the original album is an all-time classic.
The tribe — not Native American but African-American, part of the Mardi Gras tradition of dressing up and battling with music and dance — was the first to hit the studio, and many of the songs are staples of the area, and when lead singers Theodore “Bo” Dollis and Joseph “Monk” Boudreaux dig into the chants of “Two-Way-Pak-E-Way” (also known as the N.O. standard “Hey Pocky a-Way”) and “(Somebody Got) Soul, Soul, Soul,” it's impossible to get out of their way, or want to. A cappella, this would be stirring stuff, but the real prize is hearing Dollis and Boudreaux and company ride the deep, friendly, unrelenting grooves laid down by keyboardist Willie Tee (his clavinet comping makes “Corey Died on the Battlefield”), guitarist Snooks Eaglin (check his soloing all over “Smoke My Peace Pipe”) and drummer Larry Panna. Amazingly, the bonus track “Shoo Fly (Don't Bother Me)” might be the most hellacious groove on the package, taking off from a chant as old as the city itself (well, close enough) and building on itself for nine hypnotic minutes.
They Call Us Wild, the follow-up from 1975, doesn't quite reach the debut's peaks, but though the songs are shorter and less hooky-chanty it still bubbles plenty. When the Magnolias start in on the songs titled “We're Gonna Party” and “New Kinda Groove,” they're not kidding — and you should join them.