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The Wild Magnolias
Title: Soul Soul Soul
Album: The Wild Magnolias

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Bead-work by Joseph 'Monk' Boudreaux

"(Somebody Got) Soul, Soul, Soul" (The Wild Magnolias)
from The Wild Magnolias, Polydor 6026, 1974)

Taken from that first LP, The Wild Magnolias, recorded at Studio In the County, Bogalusa, LA, in 1973 and originally released in France on the Barclay label in 1974 and then in the US by Polydor later that year, "(Somebody Got) Soul, Soul, Soul" begins with a deceptively slow and bluesy lead-in from guitarist Snooks Eaglin and keyboardist Willie Tee, who also arranged all the music, and wrote several of the tunes. Once the intro fades, the bass and percussion establish the groove before the song breaks into a fully funk-infested, unrelenting run downtown and all around. It is to the credit of Tee and Dollis that the spirit of the MG Indians' traditional percussion and vocal music could be integrated so well with the full instrumentation of a funk ensemble, creating a compelling new hybrid that changed and enriched the local musical language and still influences it to this day. And they made it seem easy. Props, too, to the musicians Tee assembled, who the Wild Magnolias' manager, Quint Davis, dubbed the New Orleans Project - a name Tee did not especially appreciate. The hometown players were totally down with the concept of the sessions and provided incredible support, as evidenced on "Soul, Soul, Soul". Listen to drummer Larry Panna, who played with Tee in the Gaturs, and main conga man, Alfred 'Uganda' Roberts, and the interwoven polyrhythmic energy they establish along with the many MG Indian percussionists on tambourines, cowbells, and drums of their own. Bassist Julius Farmer's increasingly intricate runs are simultaneously in-the-pocket and wild. Tee layers in his organ and clavinet for flavor and rhythmic reinforcement, while the legendary Snooks Eaglin propulsively chops on wa-wah rhythm guitar and burns through some intense soloing. It all makes for an intoxicating combination.

As related in the notes to the exemplary 2007 CD re-issue of the two Wild Magnolia LPs which were originally produced by Philippe Rault, "Soul, Soul, Soul" was derived from an earlier Indian song, ("Somebody Got To) Sew, Sew, Sew", which referred to the Indians' yearlong creation and preparation of their resplendent Mardi Gras regalia, sewing in intricate, elaborate bead-work, feather-craft and the like. From the beginning, Bo Dollis has been wise and savvy in his ability to popularize the Wild Magnolias for commercial consumption while saving at least some of their bedrock authenticity for showdowns on hometown streets come Carnival Day and Super Sunday, around St. Joseph's Day. With the compositional help of Willie Tee , he had fresh MG Indian songs and re-interpretations of old ones for public performance with, as one song put it, "a new kinda groove". Yet, the Wild Magnolias did not break into popular culture overnight, by any means. It took until the early 1990s with a comeback CD for Rounder Records, "I'm Back...At Carnival Time", and then the first CD re-issue of their LPs in 1994 for things to really start to come around for them, allowing them to tour and record more. Outside of New Orleans, Mardi Gras Indians are still not widely appreciated or understood. But it's safe to say that the influence of the early Wild Magnolias recordings on the local music scene was immediate, profound, and long-lasting. What Dollis and his collaborators have contributed to the soul and celebration of Mardi Gras and New Orleans music in general cannot be denied. So, this one's for them.

Photo by Dan Phillips - Bo Dollis, Sr. at Best of the Beat, 2009

* Charles 'Honeyman' Otis has claimed that he contributed percussion to this track as well.

** For more about the Wild Magnolias 45s, see my posts on "Handa Wanda", "Fire Water", and "New Suit".

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