This debut marked a milestone for New Orleans music as it was one of the first major-label records from a Mardi Gras Indian tribe; this was soon to be followed by another great tribe band, the Wild Tchoupitoulas. Not to be confused with Native American tribes, the Mardi Gras Indians are part of an African-American gangland tradition dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. What began as street confrontations resulting in brawls developed into something more formal, with elaborate handmade costumes and song contests. Beginning as a practice group formed by leader Big Chief Theodore "Bo" Dollis and Joseph "Monk" Boudreaux of the Golden Eagles tribe, the Wild Magnolias caught the eye of local promoters and were recorded in 1973 with the New Orleans Project. The tribe consisted of Dollis and Boudreaux on lead vocals, with the former on tambourine and the latter on congas; with James "Gator June" Smothers or "Gate" Johnson, Jr., "Crip" Adams, and "Bubba" Scott all on background vocals and percussion instruments. They were backed by the New Orleans Project, which featured some of the cream of the studio crop in the Crescent City: guitarist Snooks Eaglin, Earl Turbinton, Jr. on reeds and winds, Willie Tee on keyboards, percussion, and background vocals, bassist Julius Farmer , drummer Larry Panna, conguero Alfred "Uganda" Roberts, and Norwood "Gitchie" Johnson on bass drum. Dollis and Boudreaux lead the group through the Indians' street call and response chants, which become mantra atop a series of furiously funky, extended New Orleans grooves. Along with inspired originals like "Handa Wanda," the traditional numbers such as "Two Way Pak E Way," and historical numbers such as "Saints" ("When the Saints Come Marching In") and "Shoo Fly" ("Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me") are radically and steamily re-arranged to provide maximum party flavor. This is an exciting non-stop dancefest and an excellent introduction for anyone interested in the music of the Big Easy.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek